Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad

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Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad
Reporting mark LSI
Locale Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Dates of operation 1896–
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters Marquette, Michigan
Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad box car, built in 1901. On display at Mid-Continent Railway Museum.

The Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad (reporting mark LSI), a U.S. railroad offering service from Marquette, Michigan, to nearby locations in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, began operations in 1896. The LS&I continues to operate as an independent railroad from its headquarters in Marquette.

At the end of 1970, LS&I operated 117 miles of road on 241 miles of track (188 on 388 km); that year it reported 43 million revenue ton-miles (63 t·km) of freight.[citation needed] In 2011, LS&I had been reduced to 25 miles (40 km) of track.[1]


The Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railway was organized in 1893 as a subsidiary of Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company (now Cliffs Natural Resources), the iron ore mining company. From the start the railroad's primary business was the transport of iron ore from the Marquette Iron Range, west of Marquette, to docks on Lake Superior from which the ore could be shipped to steel mills on the lower Great Lakes. The primary towns on the iron range are Ishpeming and Negaunee, Michigan.

In 1904 the railroad carried over 1.2 million short tons (1.1 Mt) of freight, and over 1.1 million short tons (1.00 Mt) of that was iron ore. It had 489 ore cars, 14 locomotives, and 121 employees.[2]

In 1923 the LS&I Railway merged with the Munising, Marquette and Southeastern Railway (MM&SE), a short line running from Marquette 40 miles (64 km) east to Munising to form the LS&I Railroad. The LS&I's new spur ran through a section of the Upper Peninsula thickly forested with pulpwood, adding a second commodity to the LS&I's workload. The MM&SE/LS&I also operated a second spur from Marquette northwest to Big Bay.

Passenger operations were never major. In 1904 the railroad carried over 180,000 passenger-miles, compared to over 24 million ton-miles of freight. In 1931 two trains a day ran each way from Munising to Lawson, Marquette and Princeton. One train ran from Marquette to Big Bay and one on the east branch from Munising to Shingleton. By 1940 the Munising-to-Princeton and Lawton-to-Marquette service had been reduced to one train a day each way, and Big Bay service was operating three times a week. This level of service lasted at least to 1950. By 1955 the only passenger service remaining was a single daily train from Munising to Princeton; Marquette and Big Bay were no longer served. All passenger service had been discontinued by 1960. By 1962, diesel locomotives had replaced steam locomotives on the line.

The Big Bay spur was sold in the 1960s and Munising operations ended in the 1980s.[citation needed] A line between Humboldt and the Republic Mine was abandoned and railbanked in 2004.[3][4]

As of 2016, the Lake Superior & Ishpeming's primary remaining business continued to be the transport of iron ore over a 16-mile (26 km) short line from the Tilden Mine, operated by Cliffs Natural Resources, south of Ishpeming, to Lake Superior for transport. Tonnage was declining sharply due to the shutdown of the adjacent Empire Mine, also historically served by the LS&I.[5]


The Lake Superior & Ishpeming's historic main line operates on a relatively steep grade, called "The Hill", from Marquette to the iron mines. The steepest gradient is 1.63%.

Because of the location of the LS&I's Marquette docks, the railroad must cross the Dead River. The trestle is 565 feet (172 m) long and 104 feet (32 m) high.


As of 2011, the railroad operated a total of eight General Electric AC4400CW and four GE U30C locomotives.[6] The AC4400CWs, leased from CIT Group, typically operated unit iron ore trains and the U30Cs, purchased from Burlington Northern in the mid-90s, run in yard service at the Presque Isle yard in Marquette.[6] The road formerly operated primarily Alco power, including RS-3's and the famous RSD-15 "Alligators" purchased from the Santa Fe.


The LS&I's nicknames have included "Hayden's Scheme," "The Hook and Eye," "Little Sally and Imogene" (after the names of two daughters of H. R. Harris, its first general manager), and "Lazy, Slow, and Independent".[7]


  1. ^ HNTB Corporation. "Michigan State Rail Plan - Technical Memorandum #2 - Existing Conditions" (PDF). Michigan Department of Transportation. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  2. ^ Office of the Michigan Railroad Commissioner (1905). Annual Report of the Commissioner of Railroads of the State of Michigan, for the Year Ending 1905 (Report). Lansing, MI: Michigan Railroad Commission. OCLC 10091602. [page needed]
  3. ^ "69 FR 64632 - Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad Company-Abandonment Exemption-in Marquette County, MI". Federal Register. Government Publishing Office. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  4. ^ Part of the line was reactivated by the Mineral Range Railroad in 2012 for a new mine. "Mineral Range, Inc.-Acquisition and Operation Exemption-Rail Line of Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad Company". Federal Register. 23 August 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  5. ^ "CEO: Empire Mine in Upper Peninsula will close". Detroit Free Press. Detroit. March 25, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Lustig, David (January 2011). "For LS&I, a new look". Trains. 71 (1): 19. ISSN 0041-0934. 
  7. ^ Durocher, Aurele A. (April 1958). "The Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad Company". The Railway and Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin (98): 7. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 

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