The Manistee & North Eastern Railroad

The Manistee & North Eastern Railroad was a short-line railroad operating in the northern Lower Michigan peninsula between Traverse City and Manistee, MI.

Image: "Manistee & Northeastern engine No. 2 and the two coaches which inaugurated passenger service from this Buckley and Douglas mill site on January 6, 1889." (Manistee News)

Additionally, the line had several branches, most notably from the mainline to Platte River Jct. (abandoned 1924) and Lake Leelanu, MI (abandoned 1944). It was incorporated in 1887, with the first operations beginning in January of 1889.

At its peak, the mainline was over 62 miles in length. (Right of Way)

Via the Leelanau Transit Company, it also traveled north to Northport, MI.

Map of the M&NE Railroad and Branches, 1933. Via TrainWeb

Like most of the rail lines in the region, it was built primarily to haul timber, but also carried passengers and other commodities.

It was consolidated into the Chesapeake & Ohio in 1955, with much of the right of way being abandoned. Part of the M&N's right of way is now the Leelanau Trail

This is a view of M&NE No. 1 looking north, just north of the Manistee Yard. It was taken about 1907. [Charles Showalter collection] via Michigan Railroads

The Manistee Democrat on January 10th, 1889 described the trip of the first passenger train as follows. 

“The first passenger train was run over the Manistee & Northeastern Railroad on Sunday last. The train consisted of the new engine and tender, a combination and baggage car, and one coach. The engine and coach arrived from the east on Thursday, this being the second of the company’s engines to arrive. The cars have been used for a few months on the eastern road but have been thoroughly overhauled and refurbished and could not now be told from new coaches. They are handsomely painted a dark wine color, the seats are upholstered in red and green plush, and the aisles are covered with matting. They are well lighted and are supplied with automatic air brakes and other modern appliances.

“The train left the foot of Third Street at 2:15 with about 70 persons on board. The cars were full but not crowded. The train was in charge of Conductor Cyrus Adams, while engineer John Halter handled the throttle and Fireman George Rich kept the steam up to the required point Edward Buckley and Wm. Douglas were on board and looked carefully after the comfort of their guests and the safety of the train and both appeared happy and satisfied.

“Just north of the city the road runs through some fine farming land, with numerous improved farms along the entire line. Before many miles are passed the timber becomes mixed with hardwood, and up toward the end of the line pine trees become quite scarce and a thick growth of beech, maple, oak, ash, etc., is seen. The road runs three miles east of Onekama, and a branch has been built into that pretty village. As the train backed into town the natives flocked out to witness the novel sight, astonishment and pleasure depicted on their features.

“At Bear Creek another branch runs east some distance into a fine piece of timber. The road is ironed five miles past this point, but this was as far as the train went. Stops of about ten minutes were made at Onekama and Bear Creek and then the return trip began, the run back to the city, 20 miles, being made in 48 minutes, and the trip taking just an hour and half, no effort being made for speed. Every person on board expressed themselves as highly pleased with the ride, the road, the coaches, and in fact everything.

“The road bed is in particularly fine shape for a new work and considering the frequent freezing and thawing of the past few weeks. It will average very well with (other) northern Michigan roads. There are several heavy grades on the route, particularly on the Onekama branch. About 28 miles of road are now finished and grading is being pushed rapidly.

“Neat depots are being constructed at Onekama and Bear Creek and work will soon be commenced on those at other points. The location of the depot grounds in this city has not yet been decided on, but for the present, trains will start from the east end of Third Street. An effort should be made by the citizens to have the company located the depot near the River Street crossing. Regular trains will commence running on Monday, and it is probable that a paying passenger business will be done from the start.”

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