Along the south shore of Lake Erie about halfway between Toledo and Cleveland, there is a small peninsula of land that juts northeastward, interrupting the otherwise smooth contour of the coast. This land is called the Marblehead Peninsula.
The Peninsula's land is quite fertile and has served several generations of farmers and fruitgrowers quite admirably. But just underneath the rich topsoil lies another gift: limestone. Limestone can be used for agriculture, in steel production, and for building structures and foundations. And there is lots of it.
It didn't take long for early Peninsula pioneers to begin taking advantage of their land's geological treasures. Alexander Clemons, one of the earliest settlers, got his small quarry underway by 1834. He was joined over the next few decades by many others. More than ten outfits were going at it by the 1880's.
But as nice as the quarrying was on the Peninsula, there was still a large problem: how to get the stone away from the place. The only method amounting to anything was shipping it by water. But that worked only when the lake wasn't iced over–about eight or nine months per year most of the time. When the water froze, quarrying stopped.
Fortunately, railroad construction was in vogue in the 1800's, and in 1872, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad rebuilt its northern Toledo-to-Cleveland mainline. This track touched the southern base of the Marblehead Peninsula just before crossing Sandusky Bay on its approach to Sandusky. And thus was born the possibility of building a short railroad from the LS&MS up to quarries on the eastern part of the Peninsula.
The rail line eventually built was called The Lakeside & Marblehead Railroad (L&M), taking its name from the two principal communities it served. Built in 1886, exactly 6.88 miles long, it was soon purchased by the large Kelley Island Lime & Transport Company, an acquisitive conglomeration that consolidated all of the area quarries into one huge operation by the middle 1890's.
In all, the L&M served the KIL&T Company and its home towns for 78 years–till 1964. And along the way, it utilized a rich variety of equipment: converted narrow gauge passenger cars, 0-6-0 switch engines, Fairbanks-Morse and McKeen gasoline motor cars, and first generation diesel switchers.
Our book, The Lakeside & Marblehead Railroad, tells you the interesting particulars about this limestone line. It was written by Dean K. Fick as part of a collaboration of three railfans with more than 75 years of collective experience with the L&M. Their years of intimate knowledge of the line add up to a story worth telling and a book worth owning.