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 - it is no longer in Traverse City :-(
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 (as of the summer of 2017, when can change that too HAD).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Grade crossing on the south side of town at the 72/131 junction.
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!
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.