Submitted by Nute Chapman
From Onaway Outlook April 20, 2012
Caption: Here is a historic photo of the former Onaway Limestone Company's Quarry at Black Lake
As I make notes to pen some history of the railroads in and around Onaway, I find many conflicting articles and dates.
One article has the D & M (Detroit & Mackinac Railroad Co.) coming through Onaway and three miles past Tower in 1901. The Cheboygan Democrat had the first freight train arriving March 28, 1898.
Another article had the D & M being extended through Onaway in 1899. I have a 1902 Michigan railroad map that shows the D & M Railroad going through Onaway and Tower and ending northwest of Tower near settlement of Waveland.
The same map shows the Onaway and Northern Michigan Railroad, going to Onaway Limestone Company at Black Lake.
We know the Lobdell and Bailey Company also had about ten miles of dinky line in the Onaway area.
Let's talk about the Onaway and Northern Michigan Railroad first. We can still see the grade where it crosses Twin School Road, Hutchinson Highway, passed the Allis Township post office or Conover's (later the Arva Post Office) across North Allis Highway, Stewart Beach Highway and Bonz Beach Highway and arrived at the settlement of Potters on Cheboygan or Black Lake, it depends on which map you are looking at.
The Onaway Limestone Company was located here. The main line turned east at the foot of the hill and went northeast across the Rainey River, behind grandpa Wes Chapman's home, and turned east and ended up at Fowlerville in Section 1 of Allis Township.
If my love for the woods has put me in the location of Fowlerville, I didn't realize it. Back to the Quarry.
One can still see the pilings and some of the structure that made up the ferry docks where the steamer Queen Eva picked up passengers from the Onaway and Northern Michigan Railroad.
This dock is all under water now. Passengers could cross Black Lake and board a stage coach at the Taylor place and go to Cheboygan, or coming from Cheboygan and board the train to Onaway.
At this time, John Clark and Lime Kilns were located at the quarry. Many loads of crystal clear ice were cut from Black Lake and shipped to the big cities in the south.
Many loads of hardwood logs were hauled from the Black Lake area on the railroad to the Lobdell Factory.
The Onaway and Northern Michigan Railroad became less needed when the limestone started to leave Rogers City by freighters. This was both good and bad. The good part is we still have a beautiful park and some very nice homes overlooking Black Lake. Had they continued the operation at the quarry, it would have leveled the limestone cliff.
The bad part was the loss of employment and the end of Onaway and Northern Michigan Railroad.
When our children were teens, Pat would wrap our lunch in tin foil and put it in a backpack. Our mission that winter was to take our children all the way to Black Lake, on the Onaway and North Michigan Railroad Grade. We would stop and build a fire and cook our lunch.
My Dad would walk in and meet us from the county line or one of the cross roads, which ever was the closest. I had permission from all of the property owners along the way.
If one drives to the west end of the Industrial Park, and walks through the cedars you are at the intersection where Lobdell's Onaway and Northern Michigan Railway connected with the D & M.
You can also refresh yourself with an ice cold drink of spring water that bubbles from the hillside.
The old granite that hung there for years is gone but the spring is as good as ever.
The D & M had five spurs that went to different factories. One came south at the end of Seventh Street, through the intersection of Spruce and Sixth streets alongside of Tuff's Pond to Shaw Street. This spur came here to pick up cars from the Veneer Works Factory that stretched from Elsden Street to Shaw on the west side of Tuff's Pond.
Another spur came north in behind the Mahoney Shingle Mills, that sat across the road from our now present ambulance building.
Another spur came across M-95 (now M-211) to the west and ended up at the Hoop Mill, which would be west of Northern Michigan Batteries.
A fifth spur came off on the north side and ended up at the Stave Mill, which had five large buildings. The Stave Mill was behind Standard Heating where the hundreds of propane tanks are now.
In our next coverage we will talk about our many miles of Lobdell's dinky lines around Onaway and Tower.
We will then go back to the D & M and talk about handcars, section crews, loading pulp by hand and follow a D & M spur from Hawks to Clear Lake before M-33 came to life.
Maybe we can invite Dean Storms to jump aboard and take a tour of pack siding with us.
-Onaway Outlook, April 20, 2012, p.3. Retyped by J. Anderson.