There’s an old, abandoned railroad deep in the U.P. wilderness. It was cut though a solid rock mountain in order to transport ore from the town of Champion to Skanee, approximately 30 miles northwest. It has been nicknamed “The Rock Cut” and is a trek destination for the adventurous. It is not an easy journey to accomplish, but there are a good handful of people who made the haul. But first, some info on The Rock Cut…

It was in 1890 when Detroit businessmen thought it was a good investment to throw their funds into an ore transport railroad that cut a shortcut through the mountains in Baraga County. The ore would be loaded from the Champion Mine and sent to Skanee; from there it would be loaded onto a docked freighter in the nearby skinny Huron Bay and sent to the Soo Locks, where it would be transferred.

Two million dollars and 1,500 laborers were invested in this prestigious project. Can you imagine the hardships these men endured? Cutting, dynamiting, digging, pounding through tons of solid rock – day after day, month after month, sweating, terrible living quarters, fending off bugs and hungry mosquitoes, snakes, bears, ravenous wolves, poison ivy breakouts, deaths, typhoid…this was not tea time at the bistro.

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Around 1893, this slab of the Iron Range & Huron Bay Railroad was finally completed, much to the relief of the men. However, their relief turned to dismay when they learned the Champion Mine stopped producing ore, and therefore, the railroad they toiled so hard to complete WOULD NEVER BE USED.

A few thousand curse words later, it was decided to sell the railroad. It sold for $100,000, most of the tracks were ripped up, and sold in lower Michigan. Parts of this track have turned into a creek, with what appear to be old ties popping through.

There were some shady dealings by the original contractors and investors, and the whole thing turned out to be one dismal cluster. However, for the curious Michigander, it is like a fantasy place out of Middle Earth. This hunk of history just screams for your visit. May I suggest the fall season to make your attempt? Summer is the worst time, thanks to the humidity, mosquitoes, and thick underbrush. Spring is too muddy. Wintertime at the Rock Cut is absolutely breathtaking, and if you don’t mind the cold, go for it…you will love the view! Otherwise, make your visit in the fall.

Now take a look at the photos below!

The Michigan Railroad That Was Never Used

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