Station: Ontonagon, MI

Copper Range Train in Ontonagon MILW Ontonagon MI Depot MILW Ontonagon MI Depot MILW Ontonagon MI Depot MILW diesels at Ontonagon MILW Ontonagon MI Enginehouse Ontonagon MI railroad bridge Ontonagon MI railroad bridgeOntonagon is the county seat of Ontonagon County and was founded about 1843. The village was platted about 1854 and was incorporated as a village in 1885. [MPN]

Early on, this was the only significant port on the south end of the copper range and the town prospered until around 1870 when mining declined.

Photo Info: Top, reported as a Copper Range passenger train leaving the MILW Ontonagon depot in the early 1900's. Downtown buildings are nearby. The COPR had a regular train from Ontonagon to Houghton in the early days. 2nd image, a large crowd has assembled to greet the Milwaukee Road passenger train at Ontonagon. Visitor dress and vehicles suggest this photo was taken around 1920.  Someone important must have been arriving to draw such a large and interested crowd. [Alan Loftis Collection]. 3rd photo, the former Milwaukee Road Depot at Ontonagon, Michigan. The branch line (which was called by it's former name, the O&B (Ontonagon & Brule River Railroad) ends about 200 yards north of the depot near the shipyard. 2003. [Dale Berry]. 4th photo, a 1972 view of the Milwaukee Road Ontonagon, Michigan depot. 5th photo, Milwaukee Road diesels parked at Ontonagon in 1975. [Bob Wilheim photo]. 6th photo, a view of their 2-stall engine house at the same location and year. [Both, Charles Gelezke, Jr.] 7th photo, the Ontonagon River bridge looking towards the paper mill at the west end of the bridge.  8th photo, looking towards the paper mill from the west leg of the wye.  2008. [Both, Greg Bunce]


The MILW had a water tower in Ontonagon.

Time Line

1882. Leaders in Ontonagon pushed for the State Board of Control to order the Marquette, Houghton & Ontonagon to complete their route from approximately L'Anse to Ontonagon as required by their land grant. Apparently the entire land grant has been sold by the MH&O even though the line has not been completed. [PHTH-1882-0420]

1882. The Ontonagon & Brule River railroad is built from Ontonagon east to Mass.. [MRL]

1896. The village of Ontonagon is completely destroyed by fire in August. The fire was started about noon from brands carried from the swamps south of town by a gale into the dry lumber piles of the Diamond Match company, which contained about 50,000,000 feet of seasoned lumber. The DSS&A agrees to bring supplies at no charge to Sidnaw and askes the MILW to do the same to Ontonagon. [CN-0826-1896]

1899The railroad bridge over the Ontonagon River was fabricated in 1899 by the Lassig Bridge and Iron Works of Chicago. It is 15' wide and 470' long overall. There are four distinct segments: a southern approach 130' long consisting of five steel deck girder spans; a northern approach timber trestle 156' long; and two steel Pratt through trusses, each 100' long, resting on concrete piers. [UPM]

1900.  The MILW station and roundhouse was built about 1900. The roundhouse was on Steel Street. [UPM]

1904. The Ontonagon Railroad begins to build southwest from Ontonagon reaching Green, 7.5 miles. This was primarily a logging line. The line was removed in 1931. [MRL]

1918. MILW had a station agent here on the day shift and a 1st and 2nd shift telegraph operator. [TRT]

1939. A motion was passed at the village council requesting the cooperation of the Michigan state highway department and the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad company to install a wigwag safety signal on US-45 at Spellman crossing. [IDG-1939-0425]

1943. There was a railroad telephone available for crews in the waiting room of the depot. [ETT-1943]

2011. The railroad line between Rockland and Ontonagon was abandoned by the Escanaba & Lake Superior and the track removed. This was the former O&B branch of the Milwaukee Road. In 2014, the right of way was sold to the Michigan DNR to establish a key trail connection. [Village of Ontonagon]


The following sources are utilized in this website. [SOURCE-YEAR-MMDD-PG]:

  • [AAB| = All Aboard!, by Willis Dunbar, Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids ©1969.
  • [AAN] = Alpena Argus newspaper.
  • [AARQJ] = American Association of Railroads Quiz Jr. pamphlet. © 1956
  • [AATHA] = Ann Arbor Railroad Technical and Historical Association newsletter "The Double A"
  • [AB] = Information provided at Michigan History Conference from Andrew Bailey, Port Huron, MI

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