Supplying the Light Station
It took many supplies to keep a light station running: coal, gasoline, kerosene, lumber, paint, food, and more. Keeping Split Rock supplied was no easy task before the highway was built.
The station was one of the most remote on the Great Lakes when it was commissioned in 1910. The U.S. Lighthouse Service had a long history of supplying remote stations and at Split Rock they adapted the steam powered hoist & derrick used for raising construction supplies. It was left at its post overlooking the lake, and was used to hoist freight from the supply boats (called tenders by the Lighthouse Service).
Often, however, the system did not work well. Delays because of wind and waves made it hard for the tenders to use the system and keep their busy schedules. They needed a new method that didn't require calm weather.
In 1915, the Lighthouse Service solved the problem by building a tramway at the southern end of the station. The elevated railway, completed in 1916, hauled supplies on a flat car from the tenders at the dock up the hill. An extended spur of the rail system allowed the keepers to push the carload of supplies right to the oil house and storage barns, where the supplies were stored until used.
When the Lake Superior International Highway was built near the lighthouse in 1924, everyone knew that the days of getting supplies by water and using the tramway were coming to an end. In 1934, the station began using a flatbed pickup truck for supply deliveries and the second assistant keeper added "truck driver" to his resume.