Our Railways - great romantic escape

Some cities and towns at a glance

As I've driven around the state, I've seen rail lines all over and noticed the history and importance these lines had for our people, towns, and businesses. This is a compendium of photos that little boys like me will always love, and I hope little girls too! I'm 70-something, holding at six!


Abbotsford is an interesting place.  The population is only about 2,300 as of 2010, but multiple businesses have packed a lot of companies into a small amount of real estate. That is partly because it has a pretty good rail system running through town and is close to Hwy 29.

I was there in May 2010, and there was quite a bit of equipment around, most notably ties and rails.

Quite close to the rail was this building.  I think it is known as a “Packing Shed..” These sheds have been located along rail lines. Farmers would put their products in the sheds, awaiting rail transport.  Those doors are probably truck doors.



This mural painted on the side of a building in Algoma in Kewaunee County reflects the Ahnnapee & Western (A&W) Railway located at one time in Algoma, then known as Ahnnapee. The Don Ross Group has written, " The road was quite successful in connecting with marine traffic at both Algoma and Sturgeon Bay. The bountiful Door County cherry crop moved by A&W. Passenger service was heavy to the resort country."



The old Ashland ore dock. It's now torn down. But in its day, the trains filled with ore used the bridge and dumped their ore into an awaiting lake ship.

After considerable opposition, the powers in charge tore her down in 2011-2013.



A beautiful engine at the old Wausau Paper mill in Brokaw. Decals on the side said it belonged to the mill and had “remote control equipment.” Not exactly sure what that meant.  Much of the mill still stands, but some are being torn down. The Village of Maine has taken over the Village of Brokaw.



This mural by Richard F. Dipping is on the side of a building in Cazenovia. There was a rail line called the Cazenovia and Sauk City Railroad. It connected Cazenovia with La Valle, some seven miles away. It was but in 1909. The idea was to connect the Chicago and North Western mainline at La Valle. The railroad was renamed the Cazenovia Southern Railroad in 1913. In July 1935, floods damaged several bridges along the route and severed the rail line. It was too expensive to rebuild, so that was the end. Locals nicknamed the Railroad the "Puckety-Chute," saying that the small engine made a sound like that when pulling a consist on the right-of-way. Mail between Cazenovia, Ironton, and LaValle was often carried on a gandy-dancer, a hand-powered cart. Sometimes the Puckety Chute would jump the track, but the crew could get her back on.



The Colfax Railroad Museum writes this:

“The Colfax Railroad Museum currently has a growing collection of railroad equipment from railroads servicing western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. The collection includes Soo Line caboose number 273, Barney & Smith Soo Line coach number 991, Soo Line GP-30 number 703, and other cars. Our newest addition is a Porter 2-6-2T steam engine.

“The depot houses the largest public display of dining car china in the country, an extensive collection of lanterns and signals, uniforms, and the nation's largest railroad paper-weight collection. The primary purpose of these artifacts is to show what people encountered on day-to-day activities with the railroads and how the technology changed throughout time.”


Genessee Depot


Eau Claire

An old Northwestern Railroad bridge crossing the Chippewa River in Eau Claire. She’s no longer in use.



This is an old Chicago & Northwestern Railway Bay Window Caboose at a park in the Village of Fairchild, Eau Claire County. It is located at the Fairchild Historical Tribute Park on Hwy 12.



This is the Fennimore Railroad Historical Society Museum. It features memorabilia from Fennimore’s railroad past, and the unique narrow gauge train, affectionately known as the Dinky, which operated from 1878 to 1926. Children enjoy riding on the operational 15 gauge rail with 700 feet of track south of the railroad museum. Scale buildings and a water tower complete the miniature layout.



If you want to have real fun, go to Fifield when the trains are coming to pick up the logging stacks. There is great choreography between the machines moving the logs onto the trains from either their stacks on the ground or from waiting trucks.  I’ll show you in this gallery.



Here she comes along the Mississippi River near Lock Dam #8.

And there she goes, heading south.



This is a Green Bay and Wisconsin Railroad track crossing in front of the Hatfield Hydro Dam that forms Lake Arbutus in northern Jackson County, northeast of Black River Falls.


Maiden Rock

I was sitting in the Six String Saloon in Maiden Rock and it seemed like every 30 minutes or so a train would come by, right outside the Saloon’s rear window. It would rock the place. I loved it. I went outside and caught one coming.



In her day, when the logging industry was strong, Ladysmith was a booming rail center. This station was built by the Soo Line and now is used by Canadian National for offices.

This is “Old Smokey,” a Soo Line steam engine SOO 1011 Model 2-8-2. The Soo Line had several engines with this number, but the engine in Ladysmith is arguably the most famous.

Soo Line 500A on display.



Laona is a town in Forest County.  There is a train known as the Lumberjack  Steam Train that takes visitors over bridges through the woods to the original logging camp now called Camp 5 Museum Complex. It’s about a 15 minute ride and the train will take you back to the depot. There is all manner of fun to be had on this trip and at the museum.

Laona was once a sawmill town that in its day became the largest hardwood sawmill in the US. By 1920, some 20 trains a day were operating in and out of Laona. So trains are an important part of the town’s history. One is shown here on the side of the Clubhouse Cafe in town.



early industries included a foundry, brick manufacturer, harness shop, meat market, mercantile shop, woolen mill, grist mill, hotels and diners. Agriculture and farming were also key in Neshkoro's early history. The completion of the railroad in 1901 accounted for the continuing progress in Neshkoro's economy and growth.



Loyal is in Clark County, well known for its annual August Corn Fest.  This is a replica of the Soo Line Depot, built by the Wisconsin Central Ltd. in about 1891.  This replica depot is on Hwy 98, in the original site of the first depot. The depot was on a branch of the Soo Line from Marshfield to Greenwood. The Irban and Leona Aumann family constructed this replica in 2000 and donated it to the Loyal Area Historical Society.

The Clark County History Buffs have written:

“A reduced scale replica of the water tower that stood next to the depot has also been built. A collection of SOO station signs, most from northern WI, adorns the water tower.”



This is the Pepin Depot Museum, a restored rail depot filled with railroad and steamboat memorabilia. Pepin sits on the shore of the Mississippi River at a location known as Lake Pepin. Lake Pepin is a naturally occurring lake on the river carved by an outflow of a large glacial lake at the end of the Ice Age. Indeed the lake came before the river! The rail line was built in 1886. The trains stopped running in the 1960s. There was a move to demolish the depot building but local citizens won the day to preserve it. It is now located on Hwy 35 in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park.



This is the BNNSF Railroad Bridge  located in Prescott. It spans the St. Croix River but is located at the point where the St. Croix empties into the Mississippi River. Minnesota is on the far side. It is a lift bridge. The mechanisms on the bridge lift the center rail section upward to allow boats passing through to squeeze under. Fascinating.



Schofield is a suburb of Wausau.

I was kayaking on the Eau Claire River above Schofield and came upon a rail crossing listed as the Columbia, Newberry and Laurens Railroad, formerly of South Carolina, later merged with CSX Railroad. A train led by a GT (Grand Trunk) Railway with a Canadian National engine behind it. GT merged with Canadian National (CN).

I go whacko over bridges, especially ones that serve the rails. To me the architecture is neat.


Two Rivers

The Two Rivers Swing Bridge was built in 1899 for the Chicago & North Western  Railway. Its job was to cross the West Twin River on a pivot. The design is complex. The bridge had to balance perfectly on the center pier in order to swing. The swing span uses a Warren Through Truss span with riveted connections. The truss contains nine panels. The bridge is approached on either side by trestle approaches.

The bridge is historic but abandoned, facing an uncertain future. It is currently locked into open position.



This is the Waupaca Railroad Museum. If you have kids, I urge you to visit. I’m including a gallery to show you what’s inside, and outside! What fun.

The gentlemen hosting the museum on the day I was there in July 2017 really treated me to a treat — They took me downstairs and fired up all the model trains they had. I was worse than a kid in the candy store!  It was great fun. My dad built me a nice setup in the basement when I was a kid, and I felt like I was back there.



I visited Wabeno on May 25, 2013. The town was unveiling a statue of Larry the Logroller. Everyone was there for the event. I noted this old steam engine engine on display. Apparently it once pulled lumber for the C.W. Jones Lumber Co. which was in Wabeno in the day. She uses round steel wheels in the front and a track mechanism to the rear when going on dry land. Historical photos show skids attached to the front to slide along the snow.



I call this "Gateway." It is located between the Memorial Bridge (E. Stewart Ave) and Slough Bridge (Hwy 52) downtown. It flies over the beginning of a white water canal. The  Wausau Center for Visual Arts liked this photo enough to put it on display in its gallery.



The Village of Weyerhaeuser in Rusk County was named after Frederick Weyerhaeuser, a lumberman who built a timber industry that dominated it for 30 years. W.D. Washburn and Charles Pilsbury, flour mill owners and investors, sought a railway path to the East that bypassed Chicago. They incorporated the Minneapolis, Sault Ste Marie & Atlantic Railway in Wisconsin in 1883. It became known as the Son Line. The Ladysmith News” has a wonderful article about their work and Weyerhaeuser Village. Weyerhaeuser is one of the seven stations on the original Soo Line.