RAILFAN GUIDES of the U.S.
Todd's Railfan Guide to
TRAVERSE CITY MI
Including Suttons Bay and Kalkaska
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I'm going to take a stab in the dark and say that most railfans won't come to Traverse City for the rail activity. Just a guess. While Traverse City has a lot to offer in both the summer and winter seasons, trains just isn't a big clincher here.
However, there are
four depots in the area worth checking out, five if you count the one in
Cadillac (which is closer to TC than Grayling):
Info on the Traverse Steam train is below.
The area is also the largest producer of cherries, although the grape industry for making wines is catching up and may surpass the cherry business. The town's Cherry Festival is the first weekend in July.
The only reason I started coming to Traverse City is because my Aunt (and Uncle) have a summer home here.
On the eastern side of the state, such as Detroit or Ann Arbor, you can come up I-75, and jump off at Grayling, heading west on 72 into TC via Kalkaska. Grayling is roughly 50 miles from TC. Out of Ann Arbor, you should head north US23 till it joins up with I75 in Flint.
On the western side of the state, from Grand Rapids for instance, head north on US131 till you're just south of Cadillac, then head north (NW) on 115 (but make sure you stop in Cadillac for the depot). Hop on 37 north at Mesmick, and your only 25 miles from TC.
From the center of the state, as in Lansing, head north on US127. When you hit Clare / Grant Township, you have a decision to make, for you can stay on 127 till it joins up with I-75, and then do the Grayling and route 72 thing. Or, you can US10 west a shorts ways till you cross 115, and take that up to TC via Cadillac.
Obviously, coming from the U.P, there is really only one choice of coming down I-75 and again, getting off at Grayling for route 72.
Click here for the map in PDF format
1 The Traverse City Depot
One of the few remaining railroad items around, outside of the two depots in Traverse City and Suttons Bay, is this girder bridge between the two cities. It goes over Co Rd 633, just south of East Bingham Rd.
2 The Spirit of Traverse City "Zoo" Train
As of 2007 or so, the Traverse Zoo Train no longer had a zoo
to run around, as PETA had a hand in shutting the zoo down. Then, in 2012,
the Northwest Michigan Engine & Thresher Club
obtained the engine, moved it to their place one mile west of Buckley MI.
More info can be found at:
The September/October issue of Live Steam & Outdoor Railroading Magazine, page 5
From the Railaroadfan page, by Jeff Post 6/3/2011: The Spirit of Traverse City will stop running after the summer of 2011. She is a 3” scale Atlantic (4-4-2 wheel arrangement) built by Lawrence Witherill of Boston, Massachusetts. She started running around Clinch Park Zoo (now just Clinch Park) since 1982 and had a brief brake in 2002 during the marina construction. Now the Bay Front Planning committee has removed the train from their plans for Clinch Park and construction will start this fall.
I worked on the Spirit of Traverse City from 2004-2006. My dad and I led a rebuild of the locomotive, tender and train and fabricated new parts and made several improvements to the locomotive. We can save about 2-3 gallons of fuel and about 15 gallons of water per day, compared to 2004, while running more trips. The wheels (which were too big for our machines) were machined by Grand Traverse Machine (at a very good price) so the money stayed in the local economy.
The Bay Front Planning committee removed the train from the Clinch Park plans with little or no discussion according to commissioner Jim Carruthers and Gary Howe. No one else on the Bay Front (T. Michael Jackson, Jennifer Jaffee, Nate Elkins, Michael Borer, and Rick Shimmel) has responded to any of my 5 inquiries about the train.
The Bay Front Planning committee decided it did not fit their idea of a multi-generational park and have not said why they don’t want the train. The steam train is a large draw, unique to the area and Clinch Park is the best place for it and many families enjoy riding and seeing it.
The Record Eagle, the local paper, ran a front page article on May 28, 2011 saying that the train will no longer operate at Clinch Park after this year and “may be moved” elsewhere. But that is what the city said about the zoo that is no longer in existence. The reaction from the public has been more or less a shocked expression that the city is getting rid of the train, which is a favorite ride for kids and adults and is a draw to the area, without the public being involved in the decision.
Where it's moved to:
3 The Sutton's Bay Depot
The depot was built by the Leelanau Transit Company in 1920. Tracks going north were removed in the 1960's. Over the years, the railroad was operated by the Leelanau Transit Co, then later leased to the Manistee and Northeastern, the Pere Marquette, and finally the C&O. The last operator was the Leelanau Scenic RR between 1989 and 1995, when an accident caused a lot of local opposition and subsequent closing of the operations. An architect currently uses the building.
Main street in Suttons Bay with an approaching storm at sunset.
One of the more interesting places to shop in Suttons Bay.
4 The Kalkaska Depot
Grade crossing on the south side of town at the 72/131
5 Village Press
Village Press is one of the few remaining publishers of railroad friendly publications, including Live Steam and Outdoor Railroading, the Home Shop Machinist and Machinist's Workshop magazines. Village Press got it's start in 1967 printing food service material, and then got into printing the "Live Steam" magazine in the early 70's. Today they print over 30 publications catering to specific markets including aviation, live steam railroading, and machining. They do all of the writing, editing, printing, and mailing of the periodicals on site. I'd like to thank Clover McKinley, former editor of the Live Steam magazine for a great tour of the facility back in 2009!
High tension pole made to look like a light house... pretty cool.
A couple of sunsets over Lake Leelanau from my Aunt's house.
On the way to Leelanau is this metal house, you either love it or hate it!
Your wife or girlfriend would probably love shopping in the downtown area with all of it's antique stores and speciality shops.
Moomer's is one of the local favorites for getting an ice cream, be prepared to wait for some of the best stuff around.
You cross the 45th parallel on the way to Suttons Bay from Traverse City....
Located at the junction of E Traverse Hwy (72) and Co Rd 616, is this windmill, the only one around.
I travelled 700 miles to see something from my own backyard! At Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, was this Hunt Valley Motor Coach bus on a week long tour of Michigan.
I'm always amazed with the size of the trucks Michigan allows on it's highways.
Historical USGS Maps
Courtesy of the University of Texas Library, click here for their index page.
2009-0723, 2009-0724, 2010-0906, 2010-0909, 2007-0919
Last Modified 06-Sep-2016