Sault Ste. Marie moves to the Depot location

The Sault Ste. Marie was the first car that was brought to St. Johns in 2005. It was also in the weakest condition, having been built in 1902 and then having its steel undercarriage removed in 1938 when the rail company switched to all steel cars. It sat on cinder bricks in Mackinaw City for decades, and then served as a ticket office for the ferry, an antique shop in Alanson, and finally ended up in a field unattended in Traverse City.


On Sunday, September 16, 2018, volunteers from the Clinton County Arts Council spent the afternoon moving the Sault Ste. Marie rail car from its long-time location in a field south of Mt. Rest Cemetery to its permanent home at the restored Depot.​


The major obstacle in moving her was the need for the undercarriage. Our wonderful trucker friend, Mark Kalis, said he wouldn’t move it again before that was taken care of because he was sure she would have crumpled in the effort. So, Gary and Jenny McCampbell and Mark went to Wisconsin in 2016 to get an old undercarriage, which had to have many modifications, done expertly by a retired welder in Ovid, Dick Thornburg. They also took a trip to Wisconsin again in 2017 to get the 6-wheel trucks for Marie to sit on.

The last thing needed now is to arrange with North Side Towing to get Marie put up on her trucks with the other cars.

Bringing Home an Undercarriage

With the prospect of acquiring key pieces to an undercarriage needed for the Sault Ste. Marie, Jenny and Gary McCampbell, along with Mark and Dan Kalis took about a 7-hour trip from the Lansing area to Mid-Continent Railway (MCR) in center-west Wisconsin on January 19-21, 2017.

MCR had what was needed from a car they had scrapped: two 110 year-old steel bolsters, 10 x 15 feet, to go under each end of the railcar. These included 2 crossbars per bolster.

Unfortunately, the crossbars had to be removed so the load going home wouldn’t be so wide that we had to pay extra as we went through each of 4 states. The cross bars of the bolsters were bolted in place by 20 bolts each: 80 very tough bolts needed to be removed.

A lot of torching was required to cut through the nuts (1.25” square) so the bolts that were about a foot long could be pounded through – all of which took a lot of work.

One of the bolsters had to be turned over by the excavator that would later lift all pieces onto the truck that brought them back to St. Johns. It was exhausting and exciting all at once.

​On Monday, January 23, 2017 at 7:00 AM, the truck arrived and Olympian Tool generously lent a fork lift and driver to unload the steel on the grounds of St. Johns Florist and Greenhouse, which has been good enough to let us work on the Sault Ste. Marie on their property for about two years.Thanks to all the RR volunteers and the wide variety of support the St. Johns Community has given the Clinton Northern Railway Museum, a branch of Clinton County Arts Council. While CCAC is grateful to receive operational funding from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts, the individual branches of CCAC raise all of their own funds for materials and services.

Railway museum update