Story: Manistee & North Eastern Railway, Description of

From the Manistee Daily News - May, 1899

The Manistee & North Eastern Railroad was originally projected for the purpose of bringing into Manistee a large amount of timber which must come in by rail. Its projectors foresaw that it would probably do considerable business outside of logging operations and wisely concluded to construct a standard gauge road.

Many wiseacres prophesied ruin and failure for the enterprise, but the owners went calmly on with the work, yearly extending the line from one terminus at some "hold in the woods" to another of the same kind, until Traverse City was reached. The grading was always thoroughly done and the construction was first class, heavy rails being used from the first. As the first rails began to show wear, they were replaced with still heavier ones, and now a good portion of the road is laid with 63 pound rail.

The rolling stock for freight work was the best that could be had, and while the passenger cars used at first were second hand affairs, they were soon succeeded by modern coaches which were fully equal to those run on much larger lines for day service. The local depots along the road were made commodious and far more comfortable that the average country station. The depot at Traverse City is one of the best and handsomest structures of its kind in this part of the state, but Manistee is still waiting to see what its promised new station is to look like. There is a strong probability that the M&NE and F&PM lines will soon construct a union station which will be without doubt a credit to the roads and to the city.

The Manistee & North Eastern Railroad is something unique in its way, at it is believed to be the only one of anything like its size, standard gauge, thoroughly built and equipped and operated after the manner of the larger lines with freight and passenger trains, express, mail, train dispatchers, own telegraph line, etc. which is owned solely by individuals. It has never issued a bond, and not a dollar's worth of stock is held outside of the original incorporators.

It required nerve and courage for two men to undertake the construction of a road of such a kind through a new country with not a single town on its projected route, hardly even a hamlet of a dozen houses, but the result has shown that they knew what they were doing. Business came to the new line from the beginning. Passengers came from no one knew where and made the earliest passenger trains pay. Saw mills, shingle mills, ham factories and cooperage factories went up here and there and around them grew little villages. The farmer began to appear among the blackened stumps in the choppings and ere long the passer's eye was occasionally rested by the sight of a homestead and waving fields of grain amid the desolation left by the woodsman's axe and cross-cut saw.  These multiplied year by year. Much of the land contiguous to the road is favorable for fruit growing and soon young orchards began to appear upon the hillsides. The road has proved itself a blessing to the country between Manistee and Traverse City, opening it up and enabling the farmer to get his produce to market.

The general freight agent, Mr. F. A. Mitchell, who assumed his position in 1891, has kindly given us some statistics which show the increase of farm products carried by the road.  Outgoing shipments only are considered, comparing the business of 1892 with that of 1898:

  1892 1898
Potatoes 45,000 bushels 475,000 bushels
Fruit 2 carloads 57 carloads
Grain 5 carloads 53 carloads


Here is a substantial increase, but it must be remembered that the country is still new and far from being well settled up. Potatoes can be grown among the stumps but wheat and rye and oats require well cleared fields.  And it requires time to grow orchards and get them into bearing.

Another thing that has contributed to the prosperity of the M&NE road is the growth of the rail shipments of lumber from Manistee. Had any man predicted, then years ago, that before 1900 some of the Manistee mills would be shipping more than half their product by rail he would have been considered a lunatic yet it has come to that already. In 1892, this road hauled out of Manistee just five carloads of lumber, in 1889 it hauled 2,056 carloads, more than 42 million feet of lumber, besides lath and shingles.  Salt, also, is now going by rail, something like a thousand carloads per year being hauled by this road.

The M&NE being owned and operated by home men, its officers and most of the men in the train service living here, it follows that it is looked upon as a home institution, just as a mill or factory is a home institution, and our people rejoice in its success up to the present time and in the promise of still greater success in the future.

It has always been the practice of the company to conduct its business on the "live and let live" policy believing that the shippers must make a profit on his shipments in order to continue his operations. This policy, carried out at local stations as well as at competing points, has had the effect of stimulating the industries along the line and of encouraging the farmer to take up and clear the stump lands. All classes of people who use the road having nothing but good words for it, which explains its wonderful success.

In January of this year the company opened up its Platte River branch, running from Sherman's Mill to Honor, about 12 miles. Honor is a thriving little town which is bound to grow and there is tributary to this branch over 100 millions of hardwood and hemlock timber, most of which is owned by Manistee parties. Two passenger trains are run over this branch each way daily, connecting with all main line trains. Counting trains on branches the road is now running eight passenger trains daily, requiring the use of four engines and train crews. Freight trains run as fast as they can be got over the road, and yet daylight service is not enough for handling the vast amount of logs to be moved from the banking grounds to its various mills, and trains have been running nights since late in the winter. Ten locomotives, all worked to the utmost on this short road, shows the volume of business that it is doing.

The officers of the company are: Edward Buckley, president and general manager; William Douglas, vice president and superintendent; F. A. Mitchell, general freight and passenger agent; Robert Porteous, auditor;  J. J. Hubbell, chief engineer;  W. H. Nuttall, superintendent of motive power;  J. M Peterson, purchasing agent; Edward McFadden, assistant superintendent.