IRONWOOD — All it took was a badge for local resident Bruce Cox to be inspired by something from the past.
For more than 30 years, Cox has researched streetcars on the Gogebic Range. It started after Cox received a couple of copper badges once used by streetcar line operators from the Twin City General Electric Company.
“I wrote a story for the ‘Junk Box,’ an official publication of the Michigan Token and Medal Society in 1982,” Cox said. “I was also interested in the celluloid tokens used by the Twin City Railway Company.”
In the late 1800s, a streetcar line ran from Jessieville (Ironwood) to Gile, Wis. In 1912, the line was extended to Clayberg Street in Bessemer, and in 1916, it was extended west to Saxon Road in Montreal, Wis.
“A timetable from 1928 lists 10 stops from Ironwood to Bessemer, and nine stops from Jessieville to Montreal,” Cox said.
While the trip was convenient for some local residents, it was not timely by today’s standards.
“They say it took one hour and 40 minutes to ride from Bessemer to Montreal,” Cox said.
The streetcars ran from September 1891 to September 1932. According to Cox, all of the cars operated on electricity and the last ones had 140-horsepower engines. There were four engines with 35-horsepower in each to run each pair of wheels.
The streetcar trestle ran from the intersection of May and Ayer streets to just below the intersection of Sutherland and Lowell streets. The tracks then continued across into the Monticello addition and up into Jessieville, Cox said.
Despite all of the information he has found, Cox is still searching for two streetcars.
DOUBLE-TRUCK streetcars like this one were used from 1923 to 1932 in the Gogebic Range.
“This subject became very interesting the more I dug into it last fall and since,” Cox said. “I would like to know what happened to the two streetcars that were hauled down to Wilson Lake near Mercer in 1935-’36.”
With hundreds of hours spent researching and learning more about the streetcars, Cox found information from a variety of sources, including newspaper reports, manufacturers’ publications, maps and James Rouse, of Bessemer.
“I don’t have too much trouble finding information, as long as I have enough time to dig,” Cox said. “Most of the photos are from my own collection and the Ironwood Area Historical Society, but I would always like to find more.”