MANISTIQUE, Mich. (WLUC) - The Haywire Grade runs 34 miles from Manistique to Shingleton. It's one of the main north-south corridors for the snowmobile network in the Upper Peninsula and it's the grand-daddy of Michigan’s trail system according to Dan Spegel, Heritage Trail Coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
"The Haywire Grade is the state's very first rail trail. It's the backbone trail in the U-P. It laid the ground work for the path the Michigan took to become this premier world class trail destination,” Spegel stated.
The grade was originally constructed in 1897 so locomotives could haul timber to the port of Manistique, according to President of the Schoolcraft County Motorized Trail Association, Winch Diller.
"This particular area was huge in the logging era, huge. They harvested the white pine to rebuild Chicago after the great Chicago fire,” Diller declared.
The old line was repurposed in 1970 after the Manistique and Lake Superior Railroad went bankrupt. While things move a little faster these days, preserving that history remains a primary goal of the volunteers, the DNR and the forest Service, Schoolcraft Historical Society.
"Well in the past year I would say between $50,000 and $60,000 worth of work has been done on the trail," Diller reasoned.
As part of the 50 year anniversary celebration, various trail improvement projects, new signage, mile markers are all meant to preserve the trail for future generations. 11 new interpretive kiosks are also being installed at various weigh points along the trail.
"And we will explore the history of this area, the natural and cultural heritage, beginning with how this landscape was formed after the glaciers receded over 11,000 years ago,” Spegel announced.
Other kiosks will look at the Anishinaabe people and how they lived in the area. Of course several kiosks will be dedicated to the mining and logging heritage in the area.
"They’re going to explain why it’s called the Haywire Grade and how it got its name and the locomotives that ran it and the guys that worked on it there's a lot of personal history,” Diller asserted.
And the new kiosks will explain how several of those stops grew into camps which can still be found today.
"They were old depots or whistle-stops or water stops for the locomotives. They just stuck and settlements grew up there like Stueben and Singleton," Diller said.
As part of the 50 year anniversary celebration, the Haywire Grade will also be home to four commemorative rides in 2020.
Click here to learn more abut the upcoming celebrations.