I’ve been out metal detecting the last week along some old logging railroad beds in Clare County and found a few railroad spikes, bolts and broken plates used to tie rails together. The objects were about 4 – 6 inches deep and were apparently left when the rails were torn up after the trees were logged and hauled away. Pulling up the rails and reusing the materials was a common practice from what I heard since saving money was important and leaving rails out in the middle of nowhere as a waste of it.
From what I’ve read, Clare County may have the most old logging railroad beds in the state so there were a lot of rails to pull up and reuse. The large number of RR beds is not surprising considering it was the first logging railroad in the country when Winfield Scott Gerrish built a railroad into woods to help haul out the timber. Although the initial investment was high (around $300 a mile), it made it easier to get out the lumber. Gerrish’s fellow lumberman laughed at his venture when he first started but when they saw the huge return in his investment…well, they couldn’t build their own railroads fast enough.
So although the tracks are gone the beds remain and underneath them are a few treasures. It’s interesting to hold in one’s hand a spike that was last handled by some unknown logger more than 125 years ago. It’s also interesting to take a walk in the woods and stumble on a bed out in the woods. They are quite common once one knows what to look for.
Anyway, among the items I found were a couple of UFOs–unknown found objects–I call them. The items are shown at left (click photo to enlarge) and are about an inch long. I originally thought they might be bullets but their shape is awfully strange for a bullet in that they would not be very aerodynamic. The bottoms, by the way, are flat but have a small circle in the center. If anyone knows what they are, please let me know. My plans are to donate the items to the Clare County Historical Museum for their display on the logging era. I also plan to hold a talk sometime this summer on logging railroads on one of the old railroad beds at Mid-Michigan Community College in Harrison. railroads and the logging era. (More information on that coming soon.)
While I am asking questions, I’d also be interested in finding out what the rules are about metal detecting on state land in Michigan. I found information on the DNR site about metal detecting in state parks but nothing so far about state land. While I know walking the rail beds is legal on state land I’m not sure about metal detecting, and want to know before I go.
Nice finds.I plan on doing the same on some on my property.I did years ago and found spikes as fast as you could dig them up.also found bullets too. Im thinking bullets is your mystery objects.I dont know what else if not.
I cant imagine any laws on metal detecting state land.
Dont take this wrong,not trying to sound like a jerk.I know alot of material claims Gerrishes railroad as the first but it wasnt,not in the country and not first in michigan.It was the first in this area.Cant remember where he got the idea exactly I think an expo in chicago? I’ll try to find it but there were trains specifically for this purpose and it was a new idea and he was on the forefront of a new way of logging but behind the pioneers in railroad logging.He invested hugely and that winter was one of the warmest,without the snow pack and ice needed to move logs.But that didnt matter to Gerrishes train.Worst year for everyone but him.I’ll try to find the info and get the details for you.Also on ebay,clare county michigan,vintage map1943……shows abandoned railways as best the could figure back then.I have one and it doesnt have them all but has a lot and doesnt have them all in their entirety but a lot of info there.Probably by far the best map available today for a railroad grade hunter.