A Haunting Experience
During the peak of the taconite industry in the 1950’s LTV Steel used a 72-mile railroad system to connect their Hoyt Lakes taconite plant with their Taconite Harbor shipping port located near Schroeder, MN. The most visible part of this system for most North Shore visitors are the three railroad overpasses that allowed trains to cross over Highway 61 to areas around Taconite Harbor. You will pass under these as you drive on Highway 61 near the border of Lake and Cook counties near Schroeder, MN.
In 2017, due to wear and tear damage on the overpasses, one of them began to dip slightly, causing a semi truck to collide with the center overpass. This caused enough damage that the Minnesota Department of Transportation made the decision to take it down, leaving just two. It was quite alright, however, as it had been nearly a decade since a train had utilized the overpass system. In October of 2008, the last train made the trek to Taconite Harbor. Along the way, it passed through the Cramer Tunnel.
The Cramer Tunnel is the longest railroad tunnel in the state of Minnesota, measuring 1,800 feet from entrance to exit. Now abandoned, this tunnel is an off-the-beaten-path gem that many locals aren’t even aware exists. Upon its closure, the steel doors to the entrance of the tunnels had been lowered, presumably to discourage entrance by pedestrians. However, both doors have since been raised, leaving both ends of the tunnel open and making the Cramer Tunnel available for visitors to explore.
The railroad tracks have become overgrown leading into the tunnel. Graffiti lines the wall at the entrance. Wind blows through the tunnel, making an eerie whistle. As you enter the tunnel you can see the light at the other end, but the further in you go, you find yourself encased in darkness, with only a hint of light leading the way to the exit. If that weren’t spooky enough, many visitors to the tunnel have reported a feeling of unease, as though they weren’t alone in the tunnel. Could the spirits of the railroad workers visit the tunnel as well?
Admittedly, I made the mistake of visiting the tunnel alone. I hadn’t yet heard of the haunting stories or the experiences of others when I parked my car, grabbed my gear, and started the short hike to the tunnel. I was excited to see a place I had heard so much about but had yet to visit myself. As I walked around the corner and the tunnel appeared, I was suddenly overcome with a feeling like I was being watched. I scanned the area looking for an animal, it was bear season after all, and after not seeing anything in the vicinity, I shrugged off the feeling and went to work. I snapped a few photos and then started my trek into the tunnel to get the video. At first, everything was fine. As I went further and further in that feeling of being watched got stronger and stronger. As the part of the tunnel I walked into moved further and further away, the other end never seemed to get much closer. I felt like I would look up at any moment and see the glowing eyes of a wolf or hear the distinct snort of a bear. Instead, I saw nothing but darkness (with a bit of light at the end) and heard nothing. It was suddenly silent in the tunnel- the only sounds were my breathing. Even the wind seemed to have stopped blowing through. It was this silence that I found so unnerving. I stopped, weighed my options, and decided I had gone far enough into the tunnel that you’d get an idea of what it’s like in the video. I turned and walked back out the way I came.
Even after leaving the tunnel that feeling of being watched remained while I finished snapping photos and thinking of how I could describe my experience there. Then, suddenly, I definitely was not alone anymore.
My apologies to the friendly couple who rounded the same corner I had just minutes before, probably expecting just an empty tunnel and, instead, seeing me with some strange camera equipment. You did scare me a bit, but I was already a bit on edge! As I wrapped up my work and went back down the trail to my car, leaving the two of you at the tunnel’s entrance, I wondered if you would have the same feeling of being watched that I experienced. I wonder if you managed to make it through the tunnel or if you gave up partway through, as well. Maybe not, since you had someone else with you. But as I went home and posted some pictures on my Facebook page and started hearing the experiences that others had had, even with larger groups of friends, it did make me wonder if I had truly been alone in the tunnel or not. Who knows.
I will say this, if you’re looking for a spooky place to visit on the North Shore this October, this is the place I’d recommend. If seeing the tunnel is on your North Shore Bucket List, I recommend doing it sooner rather than later. As with the Highway 61 overpass, the tunnel is no longer maintained. It may not be around forever. Enter at your own risk.
Getting to the tunnel requires a bit of a drive and a short hike.
From Lake County: Take Highway 61 north out of Silver Bay and turn left onto Highway 1. In the town of Finland turn right onto Highway 7/Cramer Road. Take Cramer Road for about 13 miles until you pass under a tall railroad trestle bridge (pictured).
From Cook County: Take Highway 61 to the town of Schroeder. Turn onto Highway 1/Cramer Road (left if you are coming from the Taconite Harbor area and right if you are coming from the Lutsen/Tofte area). Highway 1 will eventually turn into Highway 8. Stay on this road for about 10 miles until it ends. Turn Right onto Highway 7/Cramer Road. Soon after turning you will pass under a tall railroad trestle bridge (pictured).
After Passing Under the Trestle Bridge: About 0.1 mile after you pass under the bridge you will turn right into a gravel pit. Keep to the left of the first fork, staying on the well-traveled road, then curve to the right at the second fork. Park near the start of the hiking path leading up the hill. See map below for details.
The hike is short, going up the hill. You will pass under some electrical lines and be able to see the railroad in the distance. As soon as you hit the railroad, Cramer Tunnel will appear to your left. I do recommend having this map image open on your phone when trying to find your way there, it’s can be pretty easy to get lost on the back roads of the North Shore!