Wisconsin railroad history

Although most students of railroad history might not think of Wisconsin's railroad industry as a significant contributor to rail transport, many events that occurred in Wisconsin have affected railroading on a worldwide scale. Here is a timeline of significant events that have occurred in Wisconsin related to rail transport. This research is not a final document and will be added to (and periodically reposted to the front page) as more information becomes available. Because there is so much data to include in this timeline, it has been broken into sections by century. The first part covers 19th century railroad history in Wisconsin, events occurring between 1801 and 1900 (inclusive). The next part covers the 20th century, events occurring between 1901 and 2000, and the third part includes years that have elapsed so far since then and the present. Finally, the sources used for this research, both for data and for images, have all been listed in the bibliography.

List of Wisconsin railroads

Although the current number of railroad names that appear in Wisconsin is fairly slim, the complete list of railroads that have operated in wisconsin is vast. The list here is far from complete; as I have time, I plan to fill in a brief history of each railroad's operations in Wisconsin.  Note that were there are multiple section headings in a row on this page, it does not mean that they all apply to the adjacent text; each section heading represents a separate railroad company and in time each will eventually have a paragraph or two describing its history in Wisconsin.

In working through building this list, it has become apparent to me that the terms "railroad," "rail road" and "railway" are very much not synonymous when used in company names. Railroad companies are often reorganized where the only apparent change to historians is that the company name changes from "Foo & Bar Railroad" to "Foo & Bar Railway." For the purposes of this list, each iteration is a considered a separate company and therefore merits a separate listing.

Appleton & New London Railway

The Appleton & New London Railway was incorporated on April 9, 1866. (RLHS 1937, p 16) By the end of 1871, the A&NL was a subsidiary of the C&NW and had completed construction of 21.3 miles between Manitowoc and Brillion. In 1872, the A&NL completed construction of 20 miles of track between Brillion and a point one mile east of Appleton. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) On December 10, 1875, the A&NL sold a one-mile section of its line in Appleton to the organizers of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 16)

Baraboo Airline Railroad

The Baraboo Airline Railroad was incorporated on March 8, 1870. The company acquired the Madison, Lodi & Baraboo Railroad on September 9, 1870. The company was purchased by the C&NW on March 10, 1871. (RLHS 1937, p 18)

Beloit & Madison Rail Road

The Beloit & Madison Rail Road was incorporated on February 18, 1852. (RLHS 1937, p 15; Meyer 1898, p 298) By 1860 the B&M was a subsidiary of the C&NW and had completed construction of 16.1 miles of track between Beloit and Magnolia. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) The B&M was reorganized on September 18, 1862. (RLHS 1937, p 15) In 1864, the B&M completed construction of 31.8 miles of track between Magnolia and Madison. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) On January 10, 1871, the C&NW fully purchased the B&M. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)

Beloit & Taycheedah Railroad

The Beloit & Taycheedah Railroad was chartered on August 19, 1848, to connect its namesake towns by rail. (Meyer 1898, p 296)

Canadian Pacific Railroad

Cascade & Lake Michigan Railroad

The Cascade & Lake Michigan Railroad was chartered on March 23, 1852. (Meyer 1898, p 298)

Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad

The Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad was created on February 5, 1853, as the reorganization of the Illinois Parallel Railroad. On June 22, 1863, the C&M was merged with the Milwaukee & Chicago Railroad to form the Chicago & Milwaukee Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 15)

Chicago & Milwaukee Railway

The Chicago & Milwaukee Railway was formed on June 22, 1863, through the merger of the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad and the Milwaukee & Chicago Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 15)

Chicago & North Western Railway

The Chicago & North Western Railway, which was incorporated on March 9, 1859, (RLHS 1937, p 15) entered Wisconsin through a number of subsidiary railroads that it either created or acquired at various times. The subsidiaries included:

  • Appleton & New London Railway
  • Baraboo Airline Railroad (fully purchased by C&NW on March 10, 1871) (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • Beloit & Madison Rail Road (fully purchased by C&NW on January 10, 1871) (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)
  • Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road (fully consolidated into C&NW on July 1, 1859) (RLHS 1937, pp 14-15)
  • Dixon, Rockford & Kenosha Railway
  • Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railway (narrow gauge)
  • Green Bay, Chicago & Milwaukee Rail Road
  • Kenosha, Rockford & Rock Island Railroad
  • La Crosse, Trempeleau & Prescott Railroad (fully purchased by C&NW on September 6, 1877) (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad
  • Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway
  • Milwaukee, Manitowoc & Green Bay Railroad
  • Northwestern Union Railway
  • Rock River Valley Union Railroad
  • Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road
  • Sheboygan & Mississippi Rail Road
  • State Line & Union Railroad

By the end of 1859, C&NW completed construction on two new lines: 57 miles between Janesville and Minnesota Junction and 17 miles between Fond du Lac and Oshkosh. In 1861 C&NW extended the second of those lines 20 miles from Oshkosh to Appleton. Building northward, Chicago & North Western Railway tracks reached Green Bay in 1862 when the railway completed the 28.4 mile section from Appleton to Fort Howard. (RLHS 1937, p 8) The C&NW was reincorporated on June 20, 1864. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)

In 1871, C&NW completed construction of four lines in Wisconsin: 49.45 miles between Fort Howard (Green Bay) and Marinette, 35.4 miles from Fond du Lac to Princeton through subsidiary Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road, 8.7 miles from Genoa to Lake Geneva through subsidiary State Line & Union Railroad, and 21.3 miles between Manitowoc and Brillion through subsidiary Appleton & New London Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) The C&NW continued expanding in 1873 completing construction on 216.9 miles of track on three lines: 129.1 miles between Madison and Tower WJ (Winona Junction), 62.6 miles between Milwaukee and Fond du Lac through subsidiary Northwestern Union Railway, and 25.2 miles between Sheboygan and Manitowoc though subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) In 1873, C&NW also removed 3 miles of track from Syene to South Madison. (RLHS 1937, p 10) The next year in 1874, C&NW completed construction of three lines in Wisconsin: 21.2 miles between Galena, Illinois, and Platteville through subsidiary Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railway, 6.3 miles between Two Rivers Junction and Two Rivers through subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad, and the 1 mile segment from Appleton to the line from Brillion just to the east through subsidiary Appleton & New London Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) In 1874, the Potter Law was enacted in Wisconsin setting freight rates for shipments by rail; in protest, Albert Keep (president of Chicago & North Western Railway) sent a letter to governor Taylor that he intended to ignore the new law and continue charging the same rates as before. (Stover 1997, p 120) The C&NW continued its expansion through the state in 1874, completing construction of the "Airline" Subdivision, connecting Milwaukee to Tower NW in Fond du Lac. (Harnack, p 27) By 1887, CNW's trackage within the Wisconsin Division that it owned and operated directly, as opposed to owning and operating through subsidiary companies, measured 581 miles; E. J. Cuyler was the Wisconsin Division superintendent, W. A. Gardner the assistant superintendent and Clayton E. Srong the division trainmaster. The Madison Division measured 486 miles with officers as follows: C. A. Swineford, superintendent; R. A. Cowan, assistant superintendent; H. D. Page, master mechanic; John H. Hull, trainmaster; William A. Lawson, train dispatcher; John Montgomery, trainmaster; and F. E. Pearson, train dispatcher. (Poor's 1887, pp 41-42)

The C&NW operated independently until 1995 when it was fully absorbed into Union Pacific Railroad.

Chicago & Tomah Railway

The Chicago & Tomah Railway was incorporated on October 21, 1872. (RLHS 1937, p 17)

Chicago, Madison & Northern Railroad

Construction began from Chicago through Freeport toward Madison in 1886. According to Poor's 1887 directory, its headquarters were located at 78 Michigan Avenue, Chicago, and the officers included:

  • James C. Clarke, president
  • Stuyvesant Fish, vice president
  • Henry De Wolf, treasurer
  • John Dunn, secretary
  • Edward T. Jeffery, general manager
  • Isham Randolph, chief engineer

Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad

The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad was formed in 1874 through the reorganization of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, pp 12-13) In the same year, 1874, the Potter Law was enacted in Wisconsin setting freight rates for shipments by rail; in protest, Alexander Mitchell (president of Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad) sent a letter to governor Taylor that he intended to ignore the new law and continue charging the same rates as before. (Stover 1997, p 120) It was also in 1874 that the CM&StP completed construction of the pontoon bridge across the Mississippi River to connect Prairie du Chien and Marquette, Iowa. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, p 13) In 1876, the CM&StP completed its bridge across the Mississippi River at La Crosse. (Follmar 2008, p 25) By 1887, the railroad, now reorganized as the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, operated over the 420 miles between Chicago and St. Paul plus 4,781 miles of track in other divisions and branches. (Poor's 1887, p 39)

Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road

The Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road was a subsidiary of the Chicago & North Western Railway, formed on July 5, 1855, through the merger of Rock River Valley Union Railroad and the Illinois & Wisconsin Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 14) The consolidated railroad had construction of 21 miles of track completed between Carey, Illinois, and Janesville in 1855. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) The CStP&FdL was again reorganized on February 12, 1857. On April 13, 1857, it acquired and consolidated the Wisconsin & Superior Rail Road into the CStP&FdL, then on May 18, 1857, it also acquired and consolidated the Ontonagon & State Line Rail Road, and then the next day, acquired and consolidated the Marquette & State Line Rail Road as well. After these acquisitions, the CStP&FdL was reincorporated on May 21, 1857. The CStP&FdL was finally consolidated into the C&NW on July 1, 1859. (RLHS 1937, pp 14-15)

Chippewa Falls & Western Railroad

The Chippewa Falls & Western Railroad opened for service on December 17, 1874, between Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire. (Follmar 2008, p 23)

Delavan Railroad

The Delavan Railroad was chartered on March 17, 1851. (Meyer 1898, p 298)

Dixon, Rockford & Kenosha Railway

The Dixon, Rockford & Kenosha Railway was formed on January 19, 1864, through the merger of the Dixon, Rockford & State Line Railroad and the Kenosha & State Line Railroad. It was then deeded to the Chicago & North Western Railway on January 23, 1864. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)

Dixon, Rockford & State Line Railroad

The Dixon, Rockford & State Line Railroad was incorporated on January 8, 1864. It was then merged with the Kenosha & State Line Railroad on January 19, 1864, to form the Dixon, Rockford & Kenosha Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)

DuBuque & Belmont Railroad

The DuBuque & Belmont Railroad was among the first railroads of Wisconsin. It was chartered on December 7, 1836, to build a railroad connection from Belmont, then the territorial capital, to an as yet undetermined point on the Mississippi River. (Lanz 1998, p 3; Meyer 1898, p 294)

Dubuque, Platteville & Milwaukee Railroad

In 1868, the Dubuque, Platteville & Milwaukee Railroad completed construction of 9.6 miles of track from Calamine to Belmont. In 1870 the line was extended 7½ miles from Belmont to Platteville. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)

Fond du Lac & Beaver Dam Railroad

The Fond du Lac & Beaver Dam Railroad was chartered February 10, 1847, to build a railroad from an unspecified point in Fond du Lac County to a point near Beaver Dam. (Meyer 1898, p 295)

Fond du Lac & Whitewater Railway

The Fond du Lac & Whitewater Railway was incorporated in 1874. In 1875, the Fond du Lac, Amboy & Peoria Railway and the Fond du Lac & Whitewater Railway merge, keeping the former's name for the merged company. (Hilton 1990, p 557)

Fond du Lac, Amboy & Peoria Railway

The Fond du Lac, Amboy & Peoria Railway was incorporated in 1874. In 1875, the FdLA&P and the Fond du Lac & Whitewater Railway merge, keeping the former's name for the merged company. Construction began in 1876 but it was soon halted due to the railroad's failure to pay the construction contractors. (Hilton 1990, p 557)

Fond du Lac, Beaver Dam, Columbus & Madison Railroad

The Fond du Lac, Beaver Dam, Columbus & Madison Railroad was chartered on March 23, 1852, to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 298)

Fort Winnebago, Baraboo Valley & Minnesota Railroad

The Fort Winnebago, Baraboo Valley & Minnesota Railroad was chartered on March 13, 1851. (Meyer 1898, p 297)

Fox Lake Railroad

In 1866, the Fox Lake Railroad completed construction of 2.7 miles of track from Fox Lake Junction to Fox Lake. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)

Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railroad

The Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railroad was incorporated on March 2, 1857. (RLHS 1937, p 17) Operations began on the railroad's narrow gauge line between Galena, Illinois, and Platteville, Wisconsin, in 1874, when the railroad was a subsidiary of the C&NW. In 1877, the G&SW completed construction of 8.5 miles of track between Ipswitch and a point south of Rewey through subsidiary. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)

Green Bay & Lake Superior Railroad

The Green Bay & Lake Superior Railroad was chartered on March 24, 1852. (Meyer 1898, p 298)

Green Bay & Minnesota Railroad

The Green Bay & Minnesota Railroad was chartered on March 7, 1853. (Meyer 1898, p 300)

Green Bay, Chicago & Milwaukee Rail Road

The Green Bay, Chicago & Milwaukee Rail Road was a subsidiary of Chicago & North Western Railway, completing construction of 40.4 miles of track from Milwaukee to the Illinois border in 1855. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)

Green Bay, Milwaukee & Chicago Rail Road

The Green Bay, Milwaukee & Chicago Rail Road was incorporated on March 13, 1851. (RLHS 1937, p 15; Meyer 1898, p 297) It was reorganized on March 6, 1857, as the Milwaukee & Chicago Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 15)

Illinois & Wisconsin Railroad

The Illinois & Wisconsin Railroad was chartered in 1851. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 5) On July 5, 1855, it was merged with Chicago & North Western Railway's subsidiary Rock River Valley Union Railroad to form the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road, which itself continued as a C&NW subsidiary. (RLHS 1937, pp 8, 11 and 14)

Illinois Central Railroad

Illinois Parallel Railroad

The Illinois Parallel Railroad was incorporated on February 17, 1851, and incorporated on January 7, 1852. (RLHS 1937, pp 14-15) It was reorganized on February 5, 1853, as the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 15)

Kenosha & Beloit Railroad

The Kenosha & Beloit Railroad was chartered on March 4, 1853, to connect its namesake cities. (RLHS 1937, p 16; Meyer 1898, p 300) It was reorganized on February 14, 1857, as the Kenosha & Rockford Railroad; however, this was not the same company as the other railroad of the same name that was incorporated in January 1857. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)

Kenosha & Rockford Railroad (January 1857)

The Kenosha & Rockford Railroad was incorporated on January 20, 1857. On September 8, 1857, this and the other Kenosha & Rockford Railroad were both merged and consolidated into the Kenosha, Rockford & Rock Island Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, pp 15-16)

Kenosha & Rockford Railroad (February 1857)

The second railroad to hold the name Kenosha & Rockford Railroad was created from a reorganization of the Kenosha & Beloit Railroad on February 14, 1857, one month after the other railroad of the same name was incorporated. On September 8, 1857, this and the other Kenosha & Rockford Railroad were both merged and consolidated into the Kenosha, Rockford & Rock Island Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, pp 15-16)

Kenosha & State Line Railroad

The Kenosha & State Line Railroad was organized on January 15, 1864, by the same investors that purchased the Kenosha, Rockford & Rock Island Rail Road a week earlier. They then merged it with the Dixon, Rockford & State Line Railroad on January 19, 1864, to form the Dixon, Rockford & Kenosha Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)

Kenosha, Rocford & Rock Island Rail Road

The Kenosha, Rocford & Rock Island Rail Road was incorporated on March 5, 1857. On September 8, 1857, the KR&RI acquired, merged and consolidated both Kenosha & Rockford Railroad companies into the KR&RI. (RLHS 1937, pp 15-16) In 1862, the KR&RI, by then a subsidiary of the Chicago & North Western Railway, completed construction of 28 miles of track between Kenosha and Rockford, Illinois. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) On January 7, 1864, the KR&RI was sold to new owners. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)

La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad

The La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad was chartered on April 2, 1852, to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 298) Construction began at the eastern end of the proposed route with 8 miles of track from Chestnut St. in Milwaukee to North Milwaukee completed in 1854. By 1855, the line was extended 44.7 miles of from North Milwaukee to Horicon. The next year the LC&M completed 47.6 miles of track from Horicon to Portage. In 1857, construction continued on two lines, completing 43 miles of track from Portage to New Lisbon, and 18.8 miles from Watertown to Columbus. A year later in 1858, the LC&M completed 61.3 miles of track from New Lisbon to North La Crosse. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24) The whole line between Milwaukee and La Crosse was officially opened for traffic on October 14, 1858, with a dedication train carrying dignitaries that operated over the entire route from east to west. (Johnson, p 47) The line's opening wasn't enough to keep the railroad going, however, as the La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad filed for bankruptcy in 1859. The bondholders and principals in the La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad met on September 3, 1861, and established an agreement to reorganize the railroad through foreclosure. The reorganization plan for the La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad is officially adopted at the bondholders meeting on October 1, 1861, with the reorganized railroad renamed as the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad with trustees Francis Vose, Isaac Seymour, Horace Galpin, Mr. Dawson, D. M. Hughes and Mr. Gould. (NYT, 17 Sept 1863)

La Crosse Railroad

On October 1, 1857, the La Crosse Railroad was leased to Selah Chamberlain. A few months later, on January 26, 1858, a supplemental deed of trust was made for the La Crosse Railroad limiting the company's bond liability to $4 million. (NYT, 20 March 1861)

La Crosse, Trempeleau & Prescott Railroad

The La Crosse, Trempeleau & Prescott Railroad was incorporated on March 6, 1857. (RLHS 1937, p 16) By the end of 1870, the LCT&P was a C&NW subsidiary and had completed construction of 28.9 miles between Winona Junction (then known as Tower WJ) and Winona, Minnesota. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) The LCT&P was fully purchased by the C&NW on September 6, 1877. (RLHS 1937, p 15)

La Fontaine Rail Road

The La Fontaine Rail Road was one of the very first railroad names connected to Wisconsin. The railroad was chartered on December 3, 1836, to build a line between Winnebago and La Fontaine. (Meyer 1898, p 293)

Lake Michigan & Mississippi Railroad

The Lake Michigan & Mississippi Railroad was chartered on February 4, 1847, to connect the two waterways by rail. (Meyer 1898, p 295)

Madison & Beloit Railroad

The Madison & Beloit Railroad was incorporated on August 19, 1848, to build a railroad from Madison through Janesville to Beloit. (RLHS 1937, p 14; Meyer 1898, p 296) It was reorganized on February 9, 1850, as the Rock River Valley Union Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 14; Meyer 1898, p 296)

Madison & Portage Railroad

In 1870, the Madison & Portage Railroad completed construction of 33 miles of track between its namesake cities. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)

Madison & Prairie du Chien Railroad

The Madison & Prairie du Chien Railroad was chartered on March 24, 1852, to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 298)

Madison & Swan Lake Railroad

The Madison & Swan Lake Railroad was chartered on March 11, 1851. (Meyer 1898, p 297)

Madison, Ft. Atkinson & Whitewater Railroad

The Madison, Ft. Atkinson & Whitewater Railroad was chartered on April 14, 1852, to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 299)

Madison, Lodi & Baraboo Railroad

The Madison, Lodi & Baraboo Railroad was incorporated on March 9, 1864. It was acquired by the Baraboo Airline Railroad on September 9, 1870. (RLHS 1937, p 18)

Madison, Waterford & Kenosha Railroad

The Madison, Waterford & Kenosha Railroad was chartered on February 9, 1850, to build a railroad from Kenosha to an unspecified interchange with any railroad in Rock County. (Meyer 1898, p 296)

Manitowoc & Mississippi Railroad

The Manitowoc & Mississippi Railroad was chartered on March 15, 1851. (Meyer 1898, p 297)

Marquette & State Line Rail Road

The Marquette & State Line Rail Road was incorporated on January 16, 1857. On May 19, 1857, the M&SL was acquired by and consolidated into the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, p 14)

Menominee River Railroad

The Menominee River Railroad was organized on February 9, 1875. (RLHS 1937, p 17)

Michigan & Rock River Railroad

The Michigan & Rock River Railroad was chartered on January 8, 1840, to build a railroad from the intersection of the Rock River and the Illinois border to a Southport on Lake Michigan. (Meyer 1898, p 294)

Michigan & Wisconsin Transit Rail Road

The Michigan & Wisconsin Transit Rail Road was chartered on February 28, 1853, to build a railroad between Manitowoc and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. (Meyer 1898, p 274 and 300)

Milwaukee & Chicago Railroad

The Milwaukee & Chicago Railroad was formed on March 6, 1857, from the reorganization of the Green Bay, Milwaukee & Chicago Rail Road. On June 11, 1863, the M&C was merged with the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad to form the Chicago & Milwaukee Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 15)

Milwaukee & Cream City Traction Company

Milwaukee & Fond du Lac Railroad

The Milwaukee & Fond du Lac Railroad was chartered on February 21, 1851, to build a railroad from Milwaukee through Iron Ridge to Fond du Lac. (Meyer 1898, p 297)

Milwaukee & Horicon Rail Road

The Milwaukee & Horicon Rail Road was chartered on April 17, 1852, to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 299) By 1855, the M&H had completed construction of 14 miles of track from Horicon to Waupun. The next year the M&H extended its line 15 miles from Waupun to Ripon. In 1857 the line was again extended 12 miles from Ripon to Berlin. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24) On June 23, 1863, the M&H was purchased by the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway.

Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad

The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad was created in the late 1840s through a reorganization of the Milwaukee & Waukesha Railroad.  By 1850 it had completed construction of 10 miles of track from Milwaukee to Elm Grove via Wauwatosa (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24) and operated its first train to Wauwatosa. (WisDOT Timeline). This railroad is sometimes cited as the first operating railroad in Wisconsin. In 1851, the line was extended from Elm Grove to Waukesha, (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24) and the railroad finally operated its first passenger train on February 25, 1851. (Meyer 1898, p 216) The line was extended 41.5 miles further to reach Milton in 1852. It was again extended from Milton to Stoughton in 1853. The next year, in 1854, the line was extended again from Stoughton to Madison. In 1856 the M&M completed 71 miles of track from Madison to Boscobel. In 1857 the M&M was building two lines, completing construction of 28 miles of track from Boscobel to Prairie du Chien, and 34 miles from Janesville to Monroe. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24) The M&M completed its line to Prairie du Chien on April 15, 1857. In 1861 the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad was reorganized as the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien Railroad. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, p 12)

Milwaukee & Northern Railroad

The Milwaukee & Northern Railway was chartered in 1870 to build a railroad line from Milwaukee northerly to a point on the Fox River south of Appleton, and to eventually extend the line north to Lake Superior. (Harnack, p 31) Construction began in the same year and the company completed 13.7 miles of track from North Milwaukee to Cedarburg in November 1870. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24; Harnack, p 31) In 1871, the M&N completed construction of 79 miles of track from Cedarburg via Hilbert Junction to Menasha. (RLHS 1937, p 21 and 24) In 1873, the M&N completed 27 miles of track from Hilbert Junction to Green Bay. (RLHS 1937, p 21 and 24; Harnack p 31) In 1877, the M&N and the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad ended the trackage rights agreement that allowed the M&N to operate over S&FdL tracks to Sheboygan and also to Fond du Lac. (Harnack, p 31)

Chief officers in 1888 were: A. M. Hoyt, president; James C. Spencer, vice president; C. F. Dutton, general manager; H. M. Bell, superintendent; S. B. Fisher, chief engineer; Charles Ray, secretary and treasurer; John C. Spencer, assistant treasurer; Robert Toombs, auditor; W. B. Sheardown, general ticket agent; J. C. Forester, general freight agent; N. S. Kimball, master mechanic; H. M. Butts, foreman car painters; P. O'Connor and P. Neugent, roadmasters. (Official List 1888, p 121)

Milwaukee & Northwestern Railway

The Milwaukee & Northwestern Railway was incorporated on February 25, 1871. The M&NW was reorganized on May 3, 1872, as the Northwestern Union Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 16)

Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien Railroad

The Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien Railroad was formed in 1861 through the reorganization of the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad. In 1867 the M&PdC was fully incorporated into the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, p 12)

Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad

The Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad was formed on October 1, 1861 through the reorganization of the La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad. On October 3, 1861, the trustees of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad executed a trust deed to take over the former La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad, which at that time had a completed line between its namesake cities. On October 23, 1862, a suit was brought to Wisconsin Supreme Court to prevent the trustees of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad from dismissing Francis Vose as a trustee and to instead expel all trustees except Vose; the suit claims that Vose was excluded from company proceedings following the 1861 trust deed. (NYT 17 Sep 1863) On June 23, 1863, the M&SP purchased the Milwaukee & Horicon Railroad, then on October 30, 1863, purchased the Ripon & Wolf River Railroad. (Easton 2007, p 4) In 1864 the M&StP completed construction of three new lines: 28.2 miles between Columbus and Portage, 13 miles from Milwaukee via West Allis to Brookfield, and a 0.3 mile extension in Berlin. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24) On November 13, 1864, the M&StP reinaugurated regular train service from Omro to Milwaukee over the former Ripon & Wolf River Railroad line. (Easton 2007, p 5) In 1867 the M&StP fully incorporated the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien Railroad into its own holdings, which gave the railroad a second connection on the Mississippi River. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, p 12) At a meeting of the Board of Directors for the M&StP on November 4, 1867, a resolution was passed to extend the line from Omro to Oshkosh, based on Oshkosh's contribution of $50,000 and land for the right of way and station grounds in Oshkosh. (Easton 2007, p 6) In April 1868, the M&SP began work to upgrade the former R&WR line with construction on the swing bridge in Omro. (Easton 2007, p 8) Then on August 31, 1868, they completed construction of 5.3 miles of track from Omro to Winneconne and the Muskego Yard Cut-Off in Milwaukee, (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24) and the first train to Winneconne arrived and then departed the town with four carloads of lumber. Official opening ceremonies for the newly completed Winneconne branch were held on September 10, 1868. (Easton 2007, p 8) The M&StP closed the 1860s with the completion in 1869 of construction on 6.2 miles of track from Grand Avenue Junction to North Milwaukee and 12 miles of track from Sun Prairie to Madison. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)

The 1870s for the M&StP began with disaster. Fire destroyed the railway's depot in Winneconne on September 24, 1871. Newspaper reports at the time indicated that 25 tons of freight, three cars and all of the line's financial documents were also destroyed by the fire. A new depot was soon built and opened in November 1871. (Easton 2007, p 10-11) In 1874, the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad was reorganized as the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, pp 12-13)

Milwaukee & Watertown Railroad

The Milwaukee & Watertown Railroad was chartered on March 11, 1851. (Meyer 1898, p 297) In 1855, the M&W completed construction of 31.8 miles of track from Brookfield to Watertown. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)

Milwaukee & Waukesha Railroad

The Milwaukee & Waukesha Railroad was incorporated on February 11, 1847. It soon reorganized as the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad. (Meyer 1898, p 295-6)

Milwaukee, Dexterville & Northern Railroad
Wisconsin, Pittsville & Superior Railroad

Officers in 1888 were: George Hiles, president, general manager and purchasing agent; W. G. Collins, vice president; James Hiles, general superintendent; C. O. Baker, secretary and auditor; I. H. Germond, general ticket agent; E. Blaisdell, general freight agent; Lawrence Ward, tie and wood agent; George Dillon, master mechanic; John Lightner, roadmaster. (Official List 1888, p 121)

Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company

Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad

The Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad, a subsidiary of the C&NW, was created on June 1, 1872, through the reorganization of the Milwaukee, Manitowoc & Green Bay Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 16) By the end of 1873, the MLS&W completed construction of 25.2 miles of track between Sheboygan and Manitowoc. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)

Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway

On December 10, 1875, the organizers of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway, a subsidiary of the C&NW, purchased a one-mile segment of the Appleton & New London Railway in Appleton, and the following day, December 11, the MLS&W was incorporated. (RLHS 1937, pp 16-17) In 1876, the MLS&W completed construction of 19.9 miles of track between Appleton and New London. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)

Officers in 1888 were: F. W. Rhinelander, president; F. W. Rhinelander, Jr., assistant to president; Joseph R. Rusk, vice president; H. F. Whitcomb, general manager; Gordon Norrie, treasurer; Alfred L. Cary, general solicitor and secretary; E. H. Rummele, chief engineer; W. R. Hancock, auditor; George S. Marsh, general passenger and ticket agent; C. L. Wellington, general freight agent; E. J. Seymour, assistant general freight agent; J. O. Thayer, general land agent; Henry W. Reighley, purchasing agent; John Hickey, master mechanic; F. Laughren, foreman car painters; J. Donohue, superintendent of track, bridges and buildings; J. W. Sherwood, division superintendent, Ashland; W. H. Vandegrift, division superintendent, Kaukauna; H. C. Reed, superintendent telegraph; George L. Young, stationer; J. H. Coffman, roadmaster, Kaukauna; P. Plunkett, roadmaster, Clintonville; Frank Radall, roadmaster, Antigo; J. P. Blemer, roadmaster, Ashland. (Official List 1888, p 121)

Milwaukee, Manitowoc & Green Bay Railroad

The Milwaukee, Manitowoc & Green Bay Railroad was incorporated on March 10, 1870. (RLHS 1937, p 16) By the end of 1872, the MM&GB was a C&NW subsidiary and had completed construction of 48.5 miles of track between Lake Shore Junction and Sheboygan. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) On June 1, 1872, the MM&GB purchased a line of the Appleton & New London Railway that connected Manitowoc and Appleton; the railroad was then reorganized as the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 16)

Milwaukee Road

Mineral Point & Northern Railway

The Mineral Point & Northern Railway was incorporated on October 17, 1899, by the New Jersey Zinc Company (which had purchased the Mineral Point Zinc Company in 1897) to build a new line from Highland Junction (just south of Mineral Point) along the Pecatonica River to Linden and Highland. Construction on the MP&N line began in 1903, was completed on December 5, 1904, and the first train operated on December 18, 1904. The Milwaukee Road allowed the MP&N trackage rights from Highland Junction to Mineral Point. The MP&N maintained its offices in the second floor of the Mineral Point depot, a building which has been restored and now hosts a small railroad museum dedicated to the railways that served the town. Declining revenues forced the railroad to file for abandonment in 1929. The last run was on March 2, 1930, with the railroad subsequently sold for scrap. (Clark, 1st quarter 2008, p 13)

Mineral Point Railroad

The Mineral Point Railroad was chartered on April 17, 1852. (Meyer 1898, p 299)

Mineral Point Rail Road

In 1857, the Mineral Point Rail Road completed construction of 31¼ miles of track from the Illinois border to Mineral Point. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24) This was likely the same entity as the Mineral Point Railroad that is referenced in Meyer's 1898 work, but I'm keeping it separate until I have definitive evidence that they were in fact one.

North Wisconsin Railway

The North Wisconsin Railway opened between Hudson and New Richmond in 1872. (Follmar 2008, p 24)

Northwestern Railroad

The Northwestern Railroad was chartered on April 17, 1852. (Meyer 1898, p 299)

Northwestern Union Railway

The Northwestern Union Railway, a C&NW subsidiary, was created on May 3, 1872, through the reorganization of the Milwaukee & Northwestern Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 16) By the end of 1873, the NWU had completed construction of 62.6 of track miles between Milwaukee and Fond du Lac. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)

Ontonagon & State Line Rail Road

The Ontonagon & State Line Rail Road was incorporated on August 20, 1856. It was consolidated into the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road on May 18, 1857. (RLHS 1937, p 14)

Oshkosh & Mississippi River Railroad

In 1871, the Oshkosh & Mississippi River Railroad completes construction of 19 miles of track from Ripon to Oshkosh. (RLHS 1937, p 21 and 24)

Pekatonica & Mississippi Railroad

The Pekatonica (sic) & Mississippi Railroad was chartered on March 6, 1839, to build a railroad from Mineral Point to the Mississippi River at a point in Grant County. (Lanz 1998, p 3; Meyer 1898, 9 294)

Portage City, Stevens Point & Wausau Railroad

The Portage City, Stevens Point & Wausau Railroad was chartered on April 16, 1852, to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 299)

Potosi & Dodgeville Railroad

The Potosi & Dodgeville Railroad was chartered on February 10, 1851, to build a railroad between its namesake towns. (Meyer 1898, p 297)

Racine & Mississippi Rail Road

In 1855, the Racine & Mississippi Rail Road completed construction of 46¾ miles of track from Racine to Delevan. A year later, the R&M completed construction of 22.6 miles of track from Delevan to Beloit. It wasn't until 1859 that the R&M completed the last 0.27 miles of track from Beloit to the Illinois state line. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)

Racine, Janesville & Mississippi Railroad

The Racine, Janesville & Mississippi Railroad was chartered on April 17, 1852, to connect its namesake cities to the Mississippi River (Meye 1898, p 299)

Ripon & Wolf River Railroad

In 1860, the Ripon & Wolf River Railroad completed construction of 9.6 miles of track from Rush Lake Junction to Omro. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24) But in 1861 regular service was reduced to three times per week. The line's president, Chauncey Bigelow, and Seward Cady of Omro began meeting the evening train at Rush Lake with a handcar to get the daily mail and express deliveries for Omro. The R&WR was purchased by the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway on October 30, 1863. (Easton 2007, p 4)

Rock River Valley Union Railroad

The Rock River Valley Union Railroad was created on February 9, 1850, through the reorganization of the Madison & Beloit Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 14; Meyer 1898, p 296) By 1854 it was a subsidiary of the Chicago & North Western Railway and had completed a 29-mile line from Minnesota Junction to Fond du Lac. (RLHS 1937, p 8)

Root River Railroad

The Root River Railroad was chartered on January 11, 1838. (Meyer 1898, p 294)

Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road

Not to be confused with the entity of an almost identical name chartered in 1847, the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road was created on March 19, 1861, through the reorganization of the Sheboygan & Mississippi Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, pp 15-16)

Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad

The Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad was chartered on January 25, 1847, to build a railroad between its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 295) Construction began in 1866 on an extension from Glenbeulah to Fond du Lac. (Harnack, p 27) By the end of 1868, the S&FdL was a subsidiary of the C&NW and had completed construction of the 23.4 mile extension between Glenbeulah and Fond du Lac. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11; Harnack, p 27, asserts that this extension was completed in 1869) In 1871, the S&FdL completed construction on 35.4 miles from Fond du Lac to Princeton. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) In 1877, the S&FdL suspended the trackage rights agreement that allowed the Milwaukee & Northern Railway to operate over S&FdL tracks to Sheboygan and also to Fond du Lac. (Harnack, p 31)

Sheboygan & Mississippi Rail Road

The Sheboygan & Mississippi Rail Road was incorporated on March 8, 1852, to build a railroad to an unspecified point on the Mississippi River. (RLHS 1937, p 15; Meyer 1898, p 298) Construction began westward from Sheboygan in 1856. (Harnack, p 26) By 1859, the S&M was a subsidiary of the Chicago & North Western Railway and had completed construction of 13.9 miles between Sheboygan and Plymouth. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11; Harnack, p 26) In the next year it had completed construction of 5.7 miles of track between Plymouth and Glenbeulah. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) On March 2, 1861, the S&M was purchased by Samuel L. Benson; under his ownership, the railroad was reorganized on March 19, 1861, as the  (RLHS 1937, pp 15-16)

Shullsburg Branch Railroad

The Shullsburg Branch Railroad was chartered on February 9, 1850, to build a railroad from Shullsburg to an unspecified point on the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad. (Meyer 1898, p 296)

Southern Wisconsin Rail Road

The Southern Wisconsin Rail Road was chartered April 10, 1852, to connect to an unspecified point on the Mississippi River. (Meyer 1898, p 299) By 1853 it had connected Milton and Janesville. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)

State Line & Union Railroad

The State Line & Union Railroad was incorporated on March 2, 1871. (RLHS 1937, p 16) By the end of 1871, the SL&U was a C&NW subsidiary had completed construction of 8.7 miles from Genoa to Lake Geneva. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)

Tomah & Lake St. Croix Railroad

The Tomah & Lake St. Croix Railroad was organized in 1863. In 1866, control of the railroad was ceded to the West Wisconsin Railway, then finally began construction of its line in 1867. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 5)

Union Pacific Railroad

Watertown & Berlin Railroad

The Watertown & Berlin Railroad was chartered on February 11, 1853. (Meyer 1898, p 300)

Watertown & Madison Railroad

The Watertown & Madison Railroad completed construction of 24½ miles of track from Watertown to Sun Prairie in 1857. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)

West Wisconsin Railway

The West Wisconsin Railway was chartered in 1863. (Grant 1986, p 20) It assumed control of the Tomah & Lake St. Croix Railroad in 1866 (NPS HAER WI-13, p 5) and finally began operations in 1868. (Grant 1986, p 20) In October 1870, the WW completed the wooden high bridge over the Chippewa River. (Follmar 2008, p 22) The WW expanded its Eau Claire shops in 1871, and inaugurated passenger serivce to Eau Claire on January 19, 1871. (Follmar 2008, p 23) In August 1871, the WW purchased three new locomotives, raising the number of locomotives owned by the railway to five. They then purchased four more locomotives in the Fall. (Follmar 2008, p 26-27) The railway expanded its Eau Claire shops in 1872 for the second time since opening in 1870, (Follmar 2008, p 23) and the railroad's car construction shops are moved from Eau Claire to Hudson also in 1872. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 4) The WW again purchased five new locomotives in 1872, bringing its roster of locomotives to fourteen, (Follmar 2008, p 26-27) and in February 1872 opened a connection to the St. Paul, Stillwater & Taylors Falls Railroad, linking Eau Claire to St. Paul by rail. On January 1, 1875, the WW entered receivership after the company failed to pay the interest on bonds due that day. In 1877, two drunk brakemen for the West Wisconsin Railway took a locomotive from Eau Claire and used it to travel eastward one mile to visit a prostitute; when they returned with the locomotive to Eau Claire, they crashed into a caboose which in turn pushed a flat car through the door at the shops building. (Follmar 2008, p 23)

Western Union Rail Road

In 1870, the Western Union Rail Road completed construction of 16.6 miles of track from Elkhorn to Eagle. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)

Wisconsin & Calumet Railroad

Wisconsin & Lake Superior Railroad

Wisconsin & Southern Railroad

Wisconsin & Superior Rail Road

The Wisconsin & Superior Rail Road was incorporated on October 11, 1856. On April 13, 1857, it was consolidated into the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, p 14)

Wisconsin Central Railway

The Wisconsin Central Railway was chartered on March 4, 1853. (Meyer 1898, p 300) In 1877, the Wisconsin Central tracks reached Ashland.

In 1888, according to the Official List (pp 198-9), the Wisconsin Central was operating over 774.45 miles of 4 ft 8½ in gauge track; the company owned 132 locomotives, 117 passenger cars and 4,692 freight and miscellaneous cars.  Its officers included:

  • president and treasurer - Charles L. Colby
  • vice president and secretary - Edwin H. Abbot
  • general manager - William S. Mellen
  • general superintendent - A. A. Allen
  • chief engineer - F. W. Fratt
  • general passenger, ticket and baggage agent - James Barker
  • auditor and general accountant - T. J. Hyman
  • general freight agent - Henry C. Barlow
  • purchasing agent - Charles C. MacLeod
  • timber agent - W. Peck
  • superintendent motive power - John Player
  • master car builder - William Cormack
  • foreman locomoive repairs - Alva Mitchell
  • foreman car painter - J. A. Putz
  • division superintendents - W. A. Gardner (Chicago), C. F. Waldo (Stevens Point), T. C. Clifford (St. Paul)
  • roadmasters - F. C. Baker (Stevens Point), J. H. Adolfs (Abbotsford), John Dunnigan (Ashland), William Hancock (Waukesha), A. A. O'Rourke (Chippewa Falls), J. Scanlan (Fond du Lac)
  • superintendent building and bridges - P. Walling

Wisconsin Union Railroad

In 1871, the Wisconsin Union Railroad completes construction of two lines: 37.6 miles from Reed Street in Milwaukee to the Illinois border, and the Bay View Spur in Milwaukee. (RLHS 1937, p 21 and 24)

Wisconsin Valley Railroad

In 1873, the Wisconsin Valley Railroad completed construction of 45 miles of track from Tomah to Wisconsin Rapids. (RLHS 1937, p 21 and 24)

Wisconsin railroad timeline: 19th century

Railroad history in Wisconsin begins in earnest in the 1830s, not long after the first railroads were chartered and built on the East Coast. The century saw rapid expansion throughout the state with a large number of railroads chartered and building new lines to a majority of the towns in the state. This period is also marked with a number of mergers and acquisitions as less profitable entities were absorbed into (usually) larger systems. By the end of the century, the railroad scene in Wisconsin would be very familiar to most viewers.

Entries in this timeline with a pale yellow background are related to model railroading events in Wisconsin. Specific sources are listed in parentheses after the associated events.

19th century

1831-1840

  • September 17, 1836 - A public meeting is held in Milwaukee to discuss proposals for a railroad across the Wisconsin Territory to the Mississippi River. Those attending the meeting resolve to petition the territorial legislature to establish a railroad that would build from Milwaukee through or as close as possible to Mineral Point and eventually to the Mississippi River. (Lanz 1998, p 3; Meyer 1898, p 207)
  • December 3, 1836 - The La Fontaine Rail Road is chartered to build a railroad between Winnebago and La Fontaine. (Meyer 1898, p 293)
  • December 7, 1836 - The DuBuque (sic) & Belmont Railroad is chartered to build a railroad connection from Belmont, then the territorial capital, to an as yet undetermined point on the Mississippi River. (Lanz 1998, p 3; Meyer 1898, p 294).
  • 1837 - Territorial representative George Wallace Jones presents a proposal to the U.S. Congress from the Wisconsin Territory to survey the route for a railroad from Wisconsin through Dubuque to San Francisco, California. The presentation was reported to be received with laughter among Congress. (Lanz 1998, p 3)
  • January 11, 1838 - The Root River Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 294)
  • March 6, 1839 - The Pekatonica (sic) & Mississippi Railroad is chartered to build a railroad from Mineral Point to the Mississippi River at a point in Grant County. (Lanz 1998, p 3; Meyer 1898, 9 294)
  • January 8, 1840 - The Michigan & Rock River Railroad is chartered to build a railroad from the intersection of the Rock River and the Illinois border to a Southport on Lake Michigan. (Meyer 1898, p 294)

1841-1850

  • December 10, 1841 - In his annual address to the state, Governor Doty uses the speech to argue against the construction of the Rock River Canal and instead for the construction of a railroad from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. (Meyer 1898, p 231).
  • 1842 - At a railroad planning meeting held in Madison, Moses M. Strong argued strongly for the development of a railroad to connect the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes asserting that the railroad's utility in hauling iron ore from southwest Wisconsin could earn as much as $150,000 in revenue annually. (Lanz 1998, p 3)
  • November 23 1843 - Henry C. Payne, who would become president of the Wisconsin Telephone Company, First National Bank of Milwaukee, Milwaukee & Northern Railroad, Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company, Milwaukee & Cream City Traction Company, American Street Railway Association, and receiver for the Northern Pacific Railway, is born in Ashfield, Massachusetts.
  • January 13, 1844 - A Wisconsin House of Representatives report detailed the desire of Wisconsin residents to build a railroad connecting the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes as an overland link between the waterways connecting the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (Lanz 1998, p 3)
  • 1845 - Asa Whitney begins an exploration survey from Milwaukee westward in an effort to find a practical railroad route to the Pacific Ocean. (Lanz 1998, p 4; Meyer 1898, p 250)
  • January 25, 1847 - The Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad is chartered to build a railroad between its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 295)
  • February 4, 1847 - The Lake Michigan & Mississippi Railroad is chartered to connect the two waterways by rail. (Meyer 1898, p 295)
  • February 10, 1847 - The Fond du Lac & Beaver Dam Railroad is chartered to build a railroad from an unspecified point in Fond du Lac County to a point near Beaver Dam. (Meyer 1898, p 295)
  • February 11, 1847 - The Milwaukee & Waukesha Railroad is incorporated. It soon reorganized as the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad. (Meyer 1898, p 295-6)
  • August 19, 1848 - The Madison & Beloit Railroad is incorporated to build a railroad from Madison through Janesville to Beloit. (RLHS 1937, p 14; Meyer 1898, p 296)
  • August 19, 1848 - The Beloit & Taycheedah Railroad is chartered to connect its namesake towns by rail. (Meyer 1898, p 296)
  • 1850 - The Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road completes 10 miles of new track between Milwaukee and Elm Grove via Wauwatosa. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24) The first freight train is operated from Milwaukee to Wauwatosa. (WisDOT Timeline)
  • February 9, 1850 - The Madison & Beloit Railroad is renamed to Rock River Valley Union Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 14; Meyer 1898, p 296)
  • February 9, 1850 - The Shullsburg Branch Railroad is chartered to build a railroad from Shullsburg to an unspecified point on the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad. (Meyer 1898, p 296)
  • February 9, 1850 - The Madison, Waterford & Kenosha Railroad is chartered to build a railroad from Kenosha to an unspecified interchange with any railroad in Rock County. (Meyer 1898, p 296)

1851-1860

  • 1851 - The Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road completes construction of 10.7 miles of new track from Elm Grove to Waukesha. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1851 - The Illinois & Wisconsin Railroad is chartered. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 5)
  • February 10, 1851 - The Potosi & Dodgeville Railroad is chartered to build a railroad between its namesake towns. (Meyer 1898, p 297)
  • February 17, 1851 - The Illinois Parallel Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • February 21, 1851 - The Milwaukee & Fond du Lac Railroad is chartered to build a railroad from Milwaukee through Iron Ridge to Fond du Lac. (Meyer 1898, p 297)
  • February 25, 1851 - The first passenger train is operated on the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad. (Meyer 1898, p 216)
  • March 11, 1851 - The Madison & Swan Lake Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 297)
  • March 11, 1851 - The Milwaukee & Watertown Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 297)
  • March 13, 1851 - The Green Bay, Milwaukee & Chicago Rail Road is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 15; Meyer 1898, p 297)
  • March 13, 1851 - The Fort Winnebago, Baraboo Valley & Minnesota Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 297)
  • March 15, 1851 - The Manitowoc & Mississippi Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 297)
  • March 17, 1851 - The Delavan Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 298)
  • 1852 - The Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road completes construction of 41.5 miles of new track from Waukesha to Milton. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • January 7, 1852 - The Illinois & Wisconsin Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 14)
  • February 18, 1852 - The Beloit & Madison Rail Road is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 15; Meyer 1898, p 298)
  • March 8, 1852 - The Sheboygan & Mississippi Rail Road is incorporated to build a railroad to an unspecified point on the Mississippi River. (RLHS 1937, p 15; Meyer 1898, p 298)
  • March 23, 1852 - The Cascade & Lake Michigan Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 298)
  • March 23, 1852 - The Fond du Lac, Beaver Dam, Columbus & Madison Railroad is chartered to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 298)
  • March 24, 1852 - The Madison & Prairie du Chien Railroad is chartered to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 298)
  • March 24, 1852 - The Green Bay & Lake Superior Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 298)
  • April 2, 1852 - The La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad is chartered to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 298)
  • April 10, 1852 - The Southern Wisconsin Rail Road is chartered to connect to an unspecified point on the Mississippi River. (Meyer 1898, p 299)
  • April 14, 1852 - The Madison, Ft. Atkinson & Whitewater Railroad is chartered to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 299)
  • April 16, 1852 - The Portage City, Stevens Point & Wausau Railroad is chartered to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 299)
  • April 17, 1852 - The Racine, Janesville & Mississippi Railroad is chartered to connect its namesake cities to the Mississippi River (Meye 1898, p 299)
  • April 17, 1852 - The Mineral Point Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 299)
  • April 17, 1852 - The Northwestern Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 299)
  • April 17, 1852 - The Milwaukee & Horicon Rail Road is chartered to connect its namesake cities. (Meyer 1898, p 299)
  • 1853 - The Southern Wisconsin Rail Road completes 8.1 miles of new track from Milton to Janesville. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1853 - The Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road completes construction of 18½ miles of track from Milton to Stoughton. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • February 5, 1853 - The Illinois Parallel Railroad is reorganized as the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • February 11, 1853 - The Watertown & Berlin Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 300)
  • February 28, 1853 - The Michigan & Wisconsin Transit Rail Road is chartered to build a railroad between Manitowoc and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. (Meyer 1898, p 274 and 300)
  • March 4, 1853 - The Kenosha & Beloit Railroad is chartered to connect its namesake cities. (RLHS 1937, p 16; Meyer 1898, p 300)
  • March 4, 1853 - Wisconsin Central Railway is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 300)
  • March 7, 1853 - The Green Bay & Minnesota Railroad is chartered. (Meyer 1898, p 300)
  • 1854 - The Rock River Valley Union Railroad, a Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary, completes a 29-mile line from Minnesota Junction to Fond du Lac. (RLHS 1937, p 8)
  • 1854 - The Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road completes construction of 15½ miles of track from Stoughton to Madison. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1854 - The La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad completes construction of 8 miles of track from Chestnut St. in Milwaukee to North Milwaukee. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1855 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road completes construction of 21 miles of track between Carey, Illinois, and Janesville. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1855 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Green Bay, Chicago & Milwaukee Rail Road completes construction of 40.4 miles of track from Milwaukee to the Illinois border. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1855 - La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad completes construction of 44.7 miles of track from North Milwaukee to Horicon. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1855 - Milwaukee & Horicon Rail Road completes construction of 14 miles of track from Horicon to Waupun. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1855 - Milwaukee & Watertown Railroad completes construction of 31.8 miles of track from Brookfield to Watertown. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1855 - Racine & Mississippi Rail Road completes construction of 46¾ miles of track from Racine to Delevan. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • July 5, 1855 - The Rock River Valley Union Railroad and the Illinois & Wisconsin Railroad are merged to form the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, p 14)
  • 1856 - Racine & Mississippi Rail Road completes construction of 22.6 miles of track from Delevan to Beloit. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1856 - La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad completes construction of 47.6 miles of track from Horicon to Portage. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1856 - Milwaukee & Horicon Rail Road completes construction of 15 miles of track from Waupun to Ripon. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1856 - Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road completes construction of 71 miles of track from Madison to Boscobel. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1856 - Sheboygan & Mississippi Rail Road begins construction westward from Sheboygan. (Harnack, p 26)
  • June 3, 1856 - Two land grants are made: one to the La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad, the other to the Wisconsin & Lake Superior Railroad. (UW Bulletin 1899, p 98)
  • August 20, 1856 - The Ontonagon & State Line Rail Road is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 14)
  • October 11, 1856 - The Wisconsin & Superior Rail Road is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 14)
    An 1857 ad for rail travel through Wisconsin
    An advertisement promoting railroad travel across Wisconsin in 1857.
  • 1857 - Milwaukee & Horicon Rail Road completes construction of 12 miles of track from Ripon to Berlin. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1857 - Milwaukee & Mississippi Rail Road completes construction of two new lines: 28 miles from Boscobel to Prairie du Chien, and 34 miles from Janesville to Monroe. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1857 - La Crosse & Milwaukee Rail Road completes construction of two new lines: 43 miles from Portage to New Lisbon, and 18.8 miles from Watertown to Columbus. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1857 - Watertown & Madison Railroad completes construction of 24½ miles of track from Watertown to Sun Prairie. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1857 - Mineral Point Rail Road completes construction of 31¼ miles of track from the Illinois border to Mineral Point. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • January 16, 1857 - The Marquette & State Line Rail Road is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 14)
  • January 20, 1857 - The Kenosha & Rockford Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • February 12, 1857 - The Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road is reorganized. (RLHS 1937, p 14)
  • February 14, 1857 - The Kenosha & Beloit Railroad is reorganized as the Kenosha & Rockford Railroad. Note that this was a separate company from that of the same name incorporated a month earlier. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)
  • March 2, 1857 - The Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • March 5, 1857 - The Kenosha, Rocford & Rock Island Rail Road is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • March 6, 1857 - The Green Bay, Milwaukee & Chicago Rail Road is reorganized as the Milwaukee & Chicago Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • March 6, 1857 - The La Crosse, Trempeleau & Prescott Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 16)
  • April 13, 1857 - The Wisconsin & Superior Rail Road is consolidated into the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, p 14)
  • April 15, 1857 - Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad completes its line to Prairie du Chien. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, p 12)
  • May 18, 1857 - The Ontonagon & State Line Rail Road is consolidated into the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, p 14)
  • May 19, 1857 - The Marquette & State Line Rail Road is consolidated into the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, p 14)
  • May 21, 1857 - The Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road is reincorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 14)
  • September 8, 1857 - Both Kenosha & Rockford Railroad companies are merged into the Kenosha, Rockford & Rock Island Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)
  • October 1, 1857 - The La Crosse Railroad is leased to Selah Chamberlain. (NYT, 20 March 1861)
  • 1858 - La Crosse & Milwaukee Rail Road completes construction of 61.3 miles of track from New Lisbon to North La Crosse. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • January 26, 1858 - A supplemental deed of trust is made for the La Crosse Railroad limiting the company's bond liability to $4 million. (NYT, 20 March 1861)
  • October 14, 1858 - The whole line between Milwaukee and La Crosse is officially opened for traffic with a dedication train carrying dignitaries that operates over the entire route from east to west. (Johnson, p 47)
  • March 9, 1859 - Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad's Milton Branch conductor George Price is seriously injured in a work-related collision. He was riding the rear of an unoccupied passenger car being pushed around a curve toward Milton when the train he was on struck a stationary freight car loaded with lumber on the same track. Price died from his injuries on March 23 and is buried next to the mainline in North Prairie. (Adler 2009)
  • March 14, 1859 - The Chicago & North Western Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • 1859 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of three lines: 57 miles between Janesville and Minnesota Junction and 17 miles between Fond du Lac and Oshkosh. (RLHS 1937, p 8)
  • 1859 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Sheboygan & Mississippi Rail Road completes construction of 13.9 miles between Sheboygan and Plymouth. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11; Harnack, p 26)
  • 1859 - Racine & Mississippi Railroad completes construction of 0.27 miles of track from Beloit to the Illinois border. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1859 - The La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad files for bankruptcy. (NYT, 17 Sept 1863)
  • July 1, 1859 - The Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, p 14-15)
  • 1860 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Beloit & Madison Rail Road completes construction of 16.1 miles of track between Beloit and Magnolia. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1860 - Ripon & Wolf River Railroad completes construction of 9.6 miles of track from Rush Lake Junction to Omro. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • March 29, 1860 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Sheboygan & Mississippi Rail Road completes construction of 5.7 miles of track between Plymouth and Glenbeulah. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)

1861-1870

  • 1861 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 20 miles of track between Oshkosh and Appleton. (RLHS 1937, p 8)
  • 1861 - Regular service on the Ripon & Wolf River Railroad is reduced to three times per week. The line's president, Chauncey Bigelow, and Seward Cady of Omro begin meeting the evening train at Rush Lake with a handcar to get the daily mail and express deliveries for Omro. (Easton 2007, p 4)
  • 1861 - The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad is reorganized as the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien Railroad. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, p 12)
  • March 2, 1861 - Samuel L. Benson purchases the Sheboygan & Mississippi Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • March 19, 1861 - The Sheboygan & Mississippi Rail Road is reorganized and incorporated as the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)
  • September 3, 1861 - At a meeting of bondholders, the principals in the La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad establish an agreement to reorganize the railroad through foreclosure. (NYT, 17 Sep 1863)
  • October 1, 1861 - The reorganization plan for the La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad is officially adopted at the bondholders meeting; the company is to be renamed as the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad with trustees Francis Vose, Isaac Seymour, Horace Galpin, Mr. Dawson, D. M. Hughes and Mr. Gould. (NYT, 17 Sep 1863)
  • October 3, 1861 - The trustees of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad execute a trust deed to take over the former La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad. (NYT 17 Sep 1863)
  • 1862 - Building northward from Milwaukee, Chicago & North Western Railway tracks reach Green Bay. The railway completed the 28.4 mile section from Appleton to Fort Howard. (RLHS 1937, p 8)
  • 1862 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Kenosha, Rockford & Rock Island Railroad completes construction of 28 miles of track between Kenosha and Rockford, Illinois. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • September 18, 1862 - The Beloit & Madison Rail Road is reorganized. (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • October 23, 1862 - A suit is brought to Wisconsin Supreme Court to prevent the trustees of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad from dismissing Francis Vose as a trustee and to instead expel all trustees except Vose; the suit claims that Vose was excluded from company proceedings following the 1861 trust deed. (NYT, 17 Sep 1863)
  • 1863 - The West Wisconsin Railway is chartered. (Grant 1986, p 20)
  • 1863 - The Tomah & Lake St. Croix Railroad is organized. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 5)
  • June 22, 1863 - The Milwaukee & Chicago Railroad merges with the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad to form the Chicago & Milwaukee Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • June 23, 1863 - The Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway purchases the Milwaukee & Horicon Railroad
  • October 30, 1863 - The Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway purchases the Ripon & Wolf River Railroad. (Easton 2007, p 4)
  • 1864 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Beloit & Madison Rail Road completes construction of 31.8 miles of track between Magnolia and Madison. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1864 - Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway completes construction of three new lines: 28.2 miles between Columbus and Portage, 13 miles from Milwaukee via West Allis to Brookfield, and a 0.3 mile extension in Berlin. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • January 7, 1864 - The Kenosha, Rockford & Rock Island Rail Road is sold to new owners. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)
  • January 8, 1864 - The Dixon, Rockford & State Line Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 16)
  • January 15, 1864 - The Kenosha & State Line Railroad is organized by the investors that purchased the Kenosha, Rockford & Rock Island Rail Road a week earlier. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)
  • January 19, 1864 - The Kenosha & State Line Railroad is merged with the Dixon, Rockford & State Line Railroad to form the Dixon, Rockford & Kenosha Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)
  • January 23, 1864 - The Dixon, Rockford & Kenosha Railway, organized four days earlier, is incorporated and deeded to the Chicago & North Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)
  • March 9, 1864 - The Madison, Lodi & Baraboo Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • June 20, 1864 - The Chicago & North Western Railway is reincorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)
  • November 13, 1865 - Regular train service is reinaugurated from Omro to Milwaukee, now using Milwaukee & St. Paul trains. (Easton 2007, p 5)
  • 1866 - Fox Lake Railroad completes construction of 2.7 miles of track from Fox Lake Junction to Fox Lake. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1866 - The West Wisconsin Railway assumes control of the Tomah & Lake St. Croix Railroad. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 5)
  • 1866 - Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road begins construction on an extension from Glenbeulah to Fond du Lac. (Harnack, p 27)
  • April 9, 1866 - The Appleton & New London Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 16)
  • 1867 - The Tomah & Lake St. Croix Railroad begins construction. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 5)
  • 1867 - The Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway fully incorporates the Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien Railroad. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, p 12)
  • November 4, 1867 - At a meeting of the Board of Directors for the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, a resolution is passed to extend the line from Omro to Oshkosh, based on Oshkosh's contribution of $50,000 and land for the right of way and station grounds in Oshkosh. (Easton 2007, p 6)
  • 1868 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road completes construction of 23.4 miles of track between Glenbeulah and Fond du Lac. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11; Harnack, p 27, asserts that this extension was completed in 1869)
  • 1868 - Dubuque, Platteville & Milwaukee Railroad completes construction of 9.6 miles of track from Calamine to Belmont. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1868 - The West Wisconsin Railway begins operations. (Grant 1986, p 20)
  • April 1868 - Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway begins construction on the swing bridge in Omro. (Easton 2007, p 8)
  • August 31, 1868 - Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway completes construction of 5.3 miles of track from Omro to Winneconne and the Muskego Yard Cut-Off in Milwaukee. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24) The first train to Winneconne arrives and then departs the town with four carloads of lumber. (Easton 2007, p 8)
  • September 10, 1868 - The Milwauke & St. Paul Railway holds official opening ceremonies for the newly completed Winneconne branch. (Easton 2007, p 8)
  • 1869 - Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway completes construction of 6.2 miles of track from Grand Avenue Junction to North Milwaukee and 12 miles of track from Sun Prairie to Madison. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1870 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary La Crosse, Trempeleau & Prescott Railroad completes construction of 28.9 miles between Winona Junction (then known as Tower WJ) and Winona, Minnesota. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1870 - Madison & Portage Railroad completes construction of 33 miles of track between its namesake cities. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1870 - The Western Union Rail Road completes construction of 16.6 miles of track from Elkhorn to Eagle. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1870 - Dubuque, Platteville & Milwaukee Railroad completes construction of 7½ miles of track from Belmont to Platteville. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24)
  • 1870 - The Milwaukee & Northern Railway is chartered to build a railroad line from Milwaukee northerly to a point on the Fox River south of Appleton, and to eventually extend the line north to Lake Superior. (Harnack, p 31)
  • March 8, 1870 - The Baraboo Airline Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • March 10, 1870 - The Milwaukee, Manitowoc & Green Bay Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 16)
  • August 11, 1870 - The first train arrives in Eau Claire. (Follmar 2008, p 21)
  • September 9, 1870 - Baraboo Airline Railroad acquires the Madison, Lodi & Baraboo Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • October 1870 - West Wisconsin Railway completes the wooden high bridge over the Chippewa River. (Follmar 2008, p 22)
  • November 1870 - The Milwaukee & Northern Railway completes construction of 13.7 miles of track from North Milwaukee to Cedarburg. (RLHS 1937, p 20 and 24; Harnack, p 31)

1871-1880

  • 1871 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of four lines in Wisconsin: 49.45 miles between Fort Howard (Green Bay) and Marinette, 35.4 miles from Fond du Lac to Princeton through subsidiary Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road, 8.7 miles from Genoa to Lake Geneva through subsidiary State Line & Union Railroad, and 21.3 miles between Manitowoc and Brillion through subsidiary Appleton & New London Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1871 - The Oshkosh & Mississippi River Railroad completes construction of 19 miles of track from Ripon to Oshkosh. (RLHS 1937, p 21 and 24)
  • 1871 - The Wisconsin Union Railroad completes construction of two lines: 37.6 miles from Reed Street in Milwaukee to the Illinois border, and the Bay View Spur in Milwaukee. (RLHS 1937, p 21 and 24)
  • 1871 - Milwaukee & Northern Railway completes construction of 79 miles of track from Cedarburg via Hilbert Junction to Menasha. (RLHS 1937, p 21 and 24)
  • 1871 - West Wisconsin Railway expands its Eau Claire shops. (Follmar 2008, p 23)
  • January 10, 1871 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the Beloit & Madison Rail Road. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)
  • January 19, 1871 - West Wisconsin Railway inaugurates regular passenger train service to Eau Claire. (Follmar 2008, p 23)
  • February 1871 - Wisconsin Central Railway is established by an act of the Wisconsin State Legislature and incorporated.
  • February 25, 1871 - The Milwaukee & Northwestern Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 16)
  • March 2, 1871 - The State Line & Union Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 16)
  • March 10, 1871 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the Baraboo Airline Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • August 1871 - West Wisconsin Railway purchases three new locomotives, raising the number of locomotives owned by the railway to five. (Follmar 2008, p 26-27)
  • September 24, 1871 - Fire destroys the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway depot in Winneconne. Newspaper reports indicate that 25 tons of freight, three cars and all of the line's financial documents are also destroyed by the fire. (Easton 2007, p 10-11)
  • November 1871 - A new depot is opened in Winneconne to replace the structure that was burned in September. (Easton 2007, p 11)
  • Fall 1871 - West Wisconsin Railway purchases four new locomotives, increasing its roster to nine locomotives. (Follmar 2008, p 26-27)
  • 1872 - The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad inaugurates the first passenger train service between Chicago and Minneapolis as train numbers 1 and 4.
  • 1872 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Milwaukee, Manitowoc & Green Bay Railroad completes construction of 48.5 miles of track between Lake Shore Junction and Sheboygan. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1872 - Chicago & north Western Railway subsidiary Appleton & New London Railway completes construction of 20 miles of track between Brillion and a point one mile east of Appleton. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1872 - West Wisconsin Railway expands its Eau Claire shops for the second time since opening in 1870. (Follmar 2008, p 23) The railroad's car construction shops are moved from Eau Claire to Hudson. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 4)
  • 1872 - North Wisconsin Railway opens between Hudson and New Richmond. (Follmar 2008, p 24)
  • 1872 - West Wisconsin Railway purchases five new locomotives, bringing its roster of locomotives to fourteen. (Follmar 2008, p 26-27)
  • February 1872 - West Wisconsin Railway opens a connection to the St. Paul, Stillwater & Taylors Falls Railroad, linking Eau Claire to St. Paul by rail. (Follmar 2008, p 23)
  • May 3, 1872 - The Milwaukee & Northwestern Railway is reorganized as the Northwestern Union Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 16)
  • June 1, 1872 - The Milwaukee, Manitowoc & Green Bay Railroad purchases a line of the Appleton & New London Railway that connected Manitowoc and Appleton; the railroad is reorganized as the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 16)
  • October 21, 1872 - The Chicago & Tomah Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • 1873 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 216.9 miles of track on three lines: 129.1 miles between Madison and Tower WJ (Winona Junction), 62.6 miles between Milwaukee and Fond du Lac through subsidiary Northwestern Union Railway, and 25.2 miles between Sheboygan and Manitowoc though subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11) CNW also removes 3 miles of track from Syene to South Madison. (RLHS 1937, p 10)
  • 1873 - Milwaukee & Northern Railway completes construction of 27 miles of track from Hilbert Junction to Green Bay. (RLHS 1937, p 21 and 24; Harnack p 31)
  • 1873 - Wisconsin Valley Railroad completes construction of 45 miles of track from Tomah to Wisconsin Rapids. (RLHS 1937, p 21 and 24)
  • 1874 - The Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad is reorganized as the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, pp 12-13)
  • 1874 - The narrow gauge Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railroad begins operating between Galena, Illinois, and Platteville, Wisconsin.
  • 1874 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of three lines in Wisconsin: 21.2 miles between Galena, Illinois, and Platteville through subsidiary Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railway, 6.3 miles between Two Rivers Junction and Two Rivers through subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad, and the 1 mile segment from Appleton to the line from Brillion just to the east through subsidiary Appleton & New London Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1874 - The Potter Law is enacted in Wisconsin setting freight rates for shipments by rail; railroad companies protest that the assigned rates are unreasonably low and both Alexander Mitchell (president of Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad) and Albert Keep (president of Chicago & North Western Railway) send letters to governor Taylor that they intend to ignore the new law and continue charging the same rates as before. (Stover 1997, p 120)
  • 1874 - The Fond du Lac, Amboy & Peoria Railway is incorporated. (Hilton 1990, p 557)
  • 1874 - The Fond du Lac & Whitewater Railway is incorporated. (Hilton 1990, p 557)
  • 1874 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of the "Airline" Subdivision, connecting Milwaukee to Tower NW in Fond du Lac. (Harnack, p 27)
  • 1874 - Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad completes construction of the pontoon bridge across the Mississippi River to connect Prairie du Chien and Marquette, Iowa. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, p 13)
  • December 17, 1874 - The Chippewa Falls & Western Railroad opens for service between Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire. (Follmar 2008, p 23)
  • 1875 - The Fond du Lac, Amboy & Peoria Railway and the Fond du Lac & Whitewater Railway merge, keeping the former's name for the merged company. (Hilton 1990, p 557)
  • January 1, 1875 - West Wisconsin Railway enters receivership after it fails to pay the interest on bonds due that day. (Follmar 2008, p 23)
  • February 9, 1875 - The Menominee River Railroad is organized. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • December 10, 1875 - A one mile section of the Appleton & New London Railway in Appleton is sold to the organizers of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 16)
  • December 11, 1875 - The Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • 1876 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 19.9 miles of track between Appleton and New London though subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1876 - Wisconsin railroads and the state reach a compromise on the Potter Law regulating rail freight rates; railroads agree to adopt the rates, but provide substandard service at those rates. (Stover 1997, p 120)
  • 1876 - Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad completes its bridge across the Mississippi River at La Crosse. (Follmar 2008, p 25)
  • Spring 1876 - Construction begins on the Fond du Lac, Amboy & Peoria Railway but is soon halted due to the railroad's failure to pay the construction contractors. (Hilton 1990, p 557)
  • 1877 - Wisconsin Central Railway tracks reach Ashland.
  • 1877 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 8.5 miles of track between Ipswitch and a point south of Rewey through subsidiary Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1877 - Two drunk brakemen for the West Wisconsin Railway take a locomotive from Eau Claire and use it to travel eastward one mile to visit a prostitute. When they return with the locomotive to Eau Claire, they crash into a caboose which in turn pushes a flat car through the door at the shops building. (Follmar 2008, p 23)
  • 1877 - Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road and Milwaukee & Northern Railway end their trackage rights agreement that allowed the M&N to operate over S&FdL tracks to Sheboygan and also to Fond du Lac. (Harnack, p 31)
  • September 6, 1877 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the La Crosse, Trempeleau & Prescott Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • 1878 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 31.4 miles of track between Woodman and Lancaster through subsidiary Chicago & Tomah Railroad, and 16.2 miles of track between New London and Clintonville through subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • March 1878 - The West Wisconsin Railway is reorganized as the Chicago, St. Paul & Minneapolis Railroad. (Grant 1986, p 20; NPS HAER WI-13, p 4)
  • 1879 - The Eau Claire Lumber Company becomes the first consigner in Eau Claire of lumber by rail when it ships five carloads from there to Nebraska. (Follmar 2008, p 23)
  • 1879 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes four new lines in Wisconsin: a 3.63 mile long extension in Appleton, 13.5 miles between Lancaster Junction and a point south of Montfort Junction through subsidiary Chicago & Tomah Railroad, and 18.6 miles between Clintonville and Tigerton, and 11.4 miles between Hortonville and a point south of Larsen, both segments through subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 8 and 11)
  • 1879 - The Fond du Lac, Amboy & Peoria Railway, in receivership, pays $120,000 to George H. Wellman to settle a debt for construction of the railroad. The railroad also begins taking standard gauge cars on narrow gauge trucks in interchange off the Milwaukee Road connection in Iron Ridge. (Hilton 1990, p 557)
  • 1879 - Chicago & North Western Railway fully takes over the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road. (Harnack, p 27)
  • May 15, 1879 - The Illinois section of the Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railroad is split off to form the Galena & Wisconsin Railroad, an Illinois corporation. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • May 16, 1879 - The Wisconsin section of the Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railroad, what is left after the split from the day before, is reorganized as the Galena & Wisconsin Railroad, a Wisconsin corporation. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • August 16, 1879 - Both of the Galena & Wisconsin Railroad companies are consolidated and incorporated to form a united Galena & Wisconsin Railroad company. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • September 5, 1879 - The St. Paul Eastern Grand Trunk Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • November 21, 1879 - The Menominee Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • 1880 - Wisconsin Central Railway assumes control of the Chippewa Falls & Western Railroad. (Follmar 2008, p 23)
  • 1880 - The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway completes construction of a new iron and stone bridge across the Chippewa River in Eau Claire to replace a wooden bridge that opened in 1870. (Follmar 2008, p 23)
  • 1880 - The Milwaukee & Northern Railway is reorganized as the Milwaukee & Northern Railroad. (Harnack, p 31)
  • February 27, 1880 - The North Wisconsin Railway is listed on the New York Stock Exchange with $900,000 in capital stock and $800,000 in mortgage bonds. (NYT, 28 Feb 1880)
  • March 19, 1880 - The Rock River Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • April 1880 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railroad.
  • April 6, 1880 - The Sheboygan & Western Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 15)
  • April 10, 1880 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes the purchase at auction of Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road for $1.5 million, renaming the S&FdL to Sheboygan & Western Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16; Harnack, p 27)
  • May 1880 - The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway is incorporated in Wisconsin. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 5)
  • May 18, 1880 - The Milwaukee & Madison Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • May 26, 1880 - North Wisconsin Railway, West Wisconsin Railway, St. Paul & Sioux City Railroad and Chicago, St. Paul & Minneapolis Railway are merged to form the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway. (Follmar 2008, p 23 and 27; Grant 1986, p 18)
  • August 31, 1880 - The Galena & Wisconsin Railroad and the Chicago & Tomah Railroad are consolidated to form a new Chicago & Tomah Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • October 27, 1880 - The State Line & Union Railroad is consolidated with the Elgin & State Line Railroad to form a reorganized Elgin & State Line Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 14-16)
  • November 15, 1880 - The Menominee Railway and the Menominee River Railroad merge to form a newly incorporated Menominee River Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • December 3, 1880 - The Chicago & Tomah Railway and the Milwaukee & Madison Railway merge to form a newly incorporated Milwaukee & Madison Railway
  • 1880 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of several new lines in Wisconsin: 11 miles from Menominee River to a point west of Florence through subsidiary Menominee Railway, 8 miles from south of Rewey to a point south of Montfort Junction through subsidiary Chicago & Tomah Railroad, 6.1 miles from Janesville to Afton through subsidiary Rock River Railway, and 12.4 miles from Tigerton to Eland, 10.3 miles from Eland to Aniwa, 11.7 miles from south of Larsen to Oshkosh, 23.9 miles from Eland to Wausau, all four through subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11)

1881-1890

  • 1881 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 60.8 miles of track from Madison to Montfort Junction through subsidiary Chicago & Tomah Railroad and 26.4 miles from Aniwa to Summit Lake through subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11)
  • 1881 - Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway begins construction on a new iron bridge across the Eau Claire river and a new yard and shops facility in East Eau Claire (now known as Altoona). (Follmar 2008, pp 23-24) Major locomotive repair services are moved from Eau Claire to Shakopee, Minnesota. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 4)
  • April 12, 1881 - The Chicago & Milwaukee Railway, Milwaukee & Madison Railway and the Sheboygan & Western Railway merge to form the Chicago, Milwaukee & North Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 15-17)
  • September 28, 1881 - The Vieux Desert & Lake Superior Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • 1882 - Chicago & North Western Railway converts the former Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railroad route from narrow to standard gauge.
  • 1882 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Menominee River Railroad completes construction of 2.7 miles of track from west of Florence to Crystal Falls, Michigan, and 4.71 miles of mine spurs near Florence. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11)
  • 1882 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of several new lines in Wisconsin: 80 miles between Milwaukee and Madison through subsidiary Milwaukee & Madison Railway, 10 miles from Oconto to Stiles Junction through subsidiary St. Paul Eastern Grand Trunk Railway, and 28.8 miles from Summit Lake to Three Lakes, 15.7 miles from Monico to Rhinelander, and 5 miles from Antigo to a point west of Bryant through subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 9)
  • 1882 - Chicago & North Western Railway obtains a controlling interest in the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway. (Grant 1986, p 18-19; NPS HAER WI-13, p 5)
  • 1882 - Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad purchases the Chippewa Valley & Superior Railway. (Follmar 2008, p 25)
  • April 6, 1882 - The Galesville & Mississippi River Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • May 1882 - The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway begins using the new yard in East Eau Claire for limited freight service. (Follmar 2008, p 24)
  • October 3, 1882 - Chicago & North Western Railway acquires the Menominee River Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • October 14, 1882 - The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway announces it has renamed the area of East Eau Claire to Altoona; the name change is presented as a way to avoid confusion on freight shipments. (Follmar 2008, p 24)
  • December 31, 1882 - The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway completes construction of its line between Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls. (Follmar 2008, p 24)
  • 1883 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of several new lines in Wisconsin: 6.7 miles from Trempeleau to Galesville through subsidiary Galesville & Mississippi River Railroad, 5 miles from Stiles Junction to Oconto Falls through subsidiary St. Paul Eastern Grand Trunk Railway, and 31 miles from Three Lakes to State Line, 5.6 miles from Bryant to a point near Sherry Junction, 1.85 miles from Sherry Junction to Drexel all three through subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11-12)
  • 1883 - The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway builds the Omaha House in Altoona, a hotel to serve the trainmen. (Follmar 2008, p 24)
  • 1883 - Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway begins a project to rebuild most of its mainline to reduce grades and curves around Eau Claire. (Follmar 2008, p 29-30)
  • 1883 - The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad extends the former Chippewa Valley & Superior Railway to Chippewa Falls, which necessitated a crossing of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad's track in Eau Claire. (Follmar 2008, p 25)
  • 1883 - The Milwaukee Road opens an extension from Crivitz to Marinette and beyond to Menominee, Michigan.
  • March 16, 1883 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the Rock River Railway and the Galesville & Mississippi River Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 17-18)
  • May 3, 1883 - A new Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • May 4, 1883 - The Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway and the Vieux Desert & Lake Superior Railroad are consolidated into the new Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • June 13, 1883 - Chicago & North Western Railway acquires the Chicago, Milwaukee & North Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 15-16)
  • July 1, 1883 - The Chicago, St. Paul & Minneapolis Railway completes its line to Bayfield. (Follmar 2008, p 24)
  • August 4, 1883 - The Princeton & Western Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • August 20, 1883 - The Winona, Alma & Northern Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 19)
  • December 31, 1883 - The Chicago, St. Paul & Minneapolis Railway acquires the narrow gauge Fond du Lac, Amboy & Peoria Railway. (Hilton 1990, p 557)
  • 1884 - Wisconsin Central Railway completes its line between Minneapolis and Chippewa Falls.
  • 1884 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 41 miles of track from Oconto Falls to Clintonville through subsidiary St. Paul Eastern Grand Trunk Railway and 16 miles of track from Wyeville to Necedah through subsidiary Princeton & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11-12)
    The railway bridge over the Root River in Racine
    The railway bridge over the Root River in Racine, sometime between 1880 and 1899.
  • May 24-26, 1884 - The Chicago, St. Paul & Minneapolis Railway standard gauges the former Fond du Lac, Amboy & Peoria Railway, and begins operating with standard gauge equipment making the line into the Fond du Lac Branch. (Hilton 1990, p 557)
  • 1885 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway completes construction of 39.6 miles of track from Hurley to Ashland. (RLHS 1937, p 9)
  • July 8, 1885 - Wisconsin Central Railway forms a new subsidiary company to build a new line from Chicago northward, paralleling both the Chicago & North Western Railway and the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad as far as the Wisconsin border; from the state line, the new subsidiary will build toward Schlesinger, where it will connect to existing Wisconsin Central track. (NYT, 9 July 1885)
  • August 28, 1885 - The Wisconsin, Burlington & Northern Railroad of Wisconsin is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 19)
  • September 7, 1885 - The Wolf & Wisconsin Rivers Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • October 12, 1885 - Wisconsin, Burlington & Northern Railroad acquires the Winona, Alma & Northern Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 19)
  • October 21, 1885 - The Chicago, Burlington & Northern Railroad companies of Wisconsin and Minnesota are consolidated to form a new Chicago, Burlington & Northern Railroad.
  • 1886 - Milwaukee Road opens its Everett Street Station in Milwaukee.
  • 1886 - Wisconsin Central Railway tracks connect to Chicago.
  • 1886 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 4 miles of track from Tower WJ to La Crosse. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11)
  • 1886 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Janesville & Evansville Railway completes construction of 15.7 miles of track from Janesville to Evansville. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 12)
  • March 1886 - The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway and the Chicago & North Western Railway jointly announce the North Western Limited, a new passenger train service between Chicago and St. Paul with new Pullman Palace Hotel cars for overnight service. (Follmar 2008, p 30)
  • April 16, 1886 - The Janesville & Evansville Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • July 14, 1886 - The union depot in Plymouth, built by the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Rail Road, is destroyed by fire that is believed to have been started by sparks from a passing steam locomotive. (Harnack, p 31)
  • October 1886 - The Chicago, Burlington & Northern Railroad completes construction of 221.8 miles of new track from the Illinois state line at East Dubuque to the Minnesota state line at Prescott. (RLHS 1937, p 19; Follmar 2008, p 30)
  • October 27, 1886 - A Milwaukee Road passenger train derails while traveling at 40 miles per hour and telescopes its cars near Rio, killing 22 of the train's 66 passengers. (Morton, McArthur and Neverman, pp 39-40)
  • 1887 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway builds two new spurs and completes one new line in Wisconsin: 16.9 miles from Hurley to the southwest, 2.3 miles from State Line to the west, and 2¼ miles from Kelley to Schofield. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11)
  • 1887 - The Chicago, Burlington & Northern Railroad completes construction of 1½ miles of new track between Grand Crossing and North La Crosse, ½ miles of new track in Winona, and the 5.2 mile La Crosse Cut-Off. (RLHS 1937, p 19)
  • May 6, 1887 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the Janesville & Evansville Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • August 9, 1887 - The Lake Geneva & State Line Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • 1888 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of almost 46 miles of new track: 6 miles from Lake Geneva to Williams Bay through subsidiary Lake Geneva & State Line Railway, 26.8 miles from Rhinelander to Lac du Flambeau through subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway, and 13 miles from Pratt Junction to a point near Jeffries Junction through subsidiary Wolf & Wisconsin Rivers Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11-12)
  • February 27, 1888 - The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen begin a systemwide strike against the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad to force the adoption of new employment rules and a new wage scale.
  • 1889 - Northern Pacific Railway leases the Wisconsin Central Railway.
  • 1889 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of just over 59 miles of new track in Wisconsin: 45.6 miles from Lac du Flambeau to Hurley, 4½ miles from Parrish Junction to Parrish, 4½ miles from near Jeffries Junction to Harrison, 2.1 miles from Jeffries Junction to Jeffries all through subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railroad, and 2.4 miles from Stiles Junction to Stiles through subsidiary St. Paul Eastern Grand Trunk Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11)
  • 1889 - Chicago & North Western Railway opens the Lake Front Depot in Milwaukee.
  • January 15, 1889 - Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway purchases The Wolf & Wisconsin Rivers Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 17-18)
  • June 10, 1889 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the Lake Geneva & State Line Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • March 1890 - Edwin H. Abbot is elected to the presidency of Wisconsin Central Railway. (NYT, 13 April 1890)
  • August 18, 1890 - The Ahnapee & Western Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 6)
  • 1890 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway completes construction of 2 miles of track from Stella Junction to Stella. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11)

1891-1900

CNW station in Milwaukee c. 1898
The Chicago & North Western Railway station in Milwaukee circa 1898.
  • 1891 - Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway opens new shops facilities in Altoona to replace buildings that had burned a few years earlier. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 4)
  • 1892 - The Ahnapee & Western Railway completes construction of 14 miles of track between Casco Junction and Algoma. (RLHS 1937, p 6)
  • 1892 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway completes construction of four new lines in Wisconsin: 40 miles between Wausau and Marshfield, 5½ miles between Hunting and Big Falls, 9.1 miles between Hiles Junction and Hiles, and 9.6 miles between Aniwa and Mattoon. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11)
  • 1893 - Northern Pacific Railway declares bankruptcy and terminates its lease of Wisconsin Central Railway.
  • 1893 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway completes the 2½ mile Lac du Flambeau spur and 3.7 miles of track from Woodruff to Arbor Vitae. (RLHS 1937, p 9 and 11)
  • 1893 - Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway acquires the Eau Claire Railroad. (Follmar 2008, p 34)
  • 1893 - Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad purchases the Milwaukee & Northern Railroad. (Harnack, p 31)
  • August 19, 1893 - Chicago & Northwestern Railway purchases the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 17; Harnack, p 27)
  • 1894 - The Ahnapee & Western Railway completes construction of 18.5 miles of track between Algoma and Sturgeon Bay. (RLHS 1937, p 6)
  • 1895 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes the ¾ mile connection between Niagara and Quinnesec, Michigan. (RLHS 1937, p 9)
  • 1895 - The Milwaukee Road opens the Middleton station.
  • 1896 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 10.4 miles of track between Mattoon and Mattoon Junction. (RLHS 1937, p 9)
  • 1896 - Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway opens a new station in Eau Claire at a cost of $35,299.03. (Follmar 2008, p 37)
  • February 12, 1896 - Wisconsin Northern Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • June 5, 1896 - The Green Bay, Winona & St. Paul Railway is reorganized and rechartered as the Green Bay & Western Railroad. (Poor's 1917, p 75)
  • October 13, 1896 - The Chicago, Minneapolis & St. Paul Railway and the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway jointly open an interlocking tower at the grade crossing of the two railroads in Eau Claire. The structure was owned by CM&StP, while the mechanical equipment was owned by the CStPM&O; the latter railroad also staffed the interlocking tower. (Follmar 2008, p 37)
  • 1897 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Wisconsin Northern Railway completes construction of 46.1 miles of track from Northern Junction to Wabeno. (RLHS 1937, p 10 and 12)
  • September 10, 1897 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases Wisconsin Northern Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • December 30, 1897 - The Wisconsin Central Railway is organized. (Illinois PUC, 1915, p 1246)
  • 1898 - Milwaukee Road opens its station in Green Bay. Milwaukee Road also re-equips and rebrands its Chicago-Minneapolis passenger trains as the Pioneer Limited.
  • 1898 - The short deck truss spans of the High Bridge over the Chippewa River in Eau Claire are replace with deck girder spans. The main deck truss spans over the water are retained, but the bridge's entire deck is reinforced and receives new rails. (Follmar 2008, p 30-31)
  • 1899 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of almost 15 miles of track from Wabeno to a point north of Laona. (RLHS 1937, p 10) The railroad also completes construction of a new passenger depot at 200 Dousman Street, Green Bay. (Koehn 2008, p 19)
  • January 27, 1899 - The Chicago, Harvard & Geneva Lake Railway is organized. (Illinois PUC, 1915, p 1253)
  • June 1, 1899 - The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad acquires the Chicago, Burlington & Northern Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 19)
  • October 17, 1899 - The Mineral Point & Northern Railway is incorporated by New Jersey Zinc Company to build a railroad from Highland Junction (just south of Mineral Point) along the Pecatonica River to Linden and Highland. (Clark, 1st quarter 2008, p 13).
  • 1900 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of track from Tower CF north of Oshkosh 2½ miles to the west. (RLHS 1937, p 10)
  • June 24, 1900 - A Chicago & North Western passenger train arriving in DePere is unable to fully back into a siding to clear the mainline in time to allow an opposing freight train to pass. The locomotives collide causing the first two cars of the passenger train to telescope, killing 5 passengers instantly; one more passenger dies on the way to the hopspital and 37 other passengers are seriously injured in the accident. (Morton, McArthur and Neverman, pp 40-41)

Wisconsin railroad timeline: 20th century

The 20th century was a period of great change for the railroad industry, and these changes were reflected and sometimes hastened by events in Wisconsin. Common carriers moved from steam to diesel-electric motive power, crew sizes were reduced, companies were merged, lines were consolidated, other lines were abandoned, facilities were rebuilt and preservation efforts began. The state government plays a further role in Wisconsin's railroad history by acquiring a number of lines and finding operators for them.

Entries in this timeline with a pale yellow background are related to model railroading events in Wisconsin. Specific sources are listed in parentheses after the associated events.

20th century

1901-1910

Wisconsin railroad map from 1900
The official railroad map of Wisconsin for 1900.
  • 1901 - A survey sponsored by the Milwaukee Road estimates that construction of a new line connecting the railroad's existing lines to the Pacific coast would cost $45 million.
  • 1901 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 17.8 miles of track from Pelican to Crandon. (RLHS 1937, p 10-11)
  • 1901 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of four new lines in Wisconsin: 4.4 miles from Honzick's Siding to Ormsby through subsidiary Northern Woodland Railway, and 85.7 miles from Princeton to Marshfield, 6.9 miles from Nekoosa Junction to Nekoosa, 7.8 miles from Bannerman to Red Granite all through subsidiary Princeton & North Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 10 and 12)
  • April 26, 1901 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the Minnesota & Wisconsin Railway for $500,000. (NYT, 27 April 1901)
  • June 5, 1901 - Shares in Wisconsin Central Railway undergo heavy trading on Wall Street. Speculation rises of an impending purchase of Wisconsin Central by either Northern Pacific, Canadian Pacific or Pere Marquette. (NYT, 6 June 1901)
  • 1903 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of a branch line from North Freedom to La Rue to serve the iron mines in the area. CNW also completes construction of 16.6 miles of track from Antigo to Casper and 19¾ miles of track from Eland to Rosholt. (RLHS 1937, p 10)
  • 1903 - Construction begins on the Mineral Point & Northern Railway. (Clark, 1st quarter 2008, p 13)
  • 1903 - Milwaukee Road opens a new station in Marinette to replace an older building.
  • 1904 - The Lone Rock-La Valle Railroad is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 7)
  • 1904 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 9¼ miles of track from Blackwell Junction to Rat River. (RLHS 1937, p 10)
  • 1904 - The former Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway's Omaha House in Altoona is sold to St. Mary's Catholic Church and moved to the Church's land. (Follmar 2008, p 24)
  • October 4, 1904 - Henry C. Payne, former president of Milwaukee & Northern Railroad, Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company, Milwaukee & Cream City Traction Company, American Street Railway Association and former receiver for Northern Pacific Railway, dies in Washington, D.C.
  • November 22, 1904 - Manitowoc, Green Bay & North-Western Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • December 5, 1904 - Construction is completed on the Mineral Point & Northern Railway. (Clark, 1st quarter 2008, p 13)
  • December 18, 1904 - The first train operates over the entire line of the Mineral Point & Northern Railway. (Clark, 1st quarter 2008, p 13)
  • 1905 - The Milwaukee Road's Board of Directors approves construction of the Pacific Extension.
  • 1905 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes 19½ miles of track from Mercer to Winegar. (RLHS 1937, p 10)
  • February 11, 1905 - Milwaukee & State Line Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • 1906 - Milwaukee Road opens its passenger station in Columbus.
  • November 12, 1906 - Green Bay & Western Railroad assumes control of the Ahnapee & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 6)
  • 1906 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of three new lines: 28.6 miles from north of Laona to Brule River, 9.3 miles from Conover to Phelps, 5.7 miles from near Sherry Junction to Elton. (RLHS 1937, p 10-11)
  • 1906 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of three more new lines: 36¼ miles from Manitowoc to Green Bay, and 29¾ miles from Duck Creek to Gillett through subsidiary Manitowoc, Green Bay & North-Western Railway, and 33¾ miles from St. Francis to the Illinois border through subsidiary Milwaukee & State Line Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 10 and 12)
  • February 17, 1906 - John D. Rockefeller, through his Standard Oil holdings, obtains a controlling interest in the Wisconsin Central Railway. The purchase is allegedly made to give Rockefeller's iron ore mines a way to ship the ore to ports on Lake Superior as well as to Milwaukee and Chicago since the U.S. Steel Company's railroad, the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific have refused to haul their iron. (NYT, 18 February 1906)
  • June 14, 1906 - The Wolf River Valley Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • 1907 - The Lone Rock-La Valle Railroad is dissolved. (RLHS 1937, p 7)
  • 1907 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of several new lines in Wisconsin: 4¾ miles from Marathon City to Rib Falls, 6.6 miles from Elton to Wolf River Junction, 2.7 miles from Millbrig to Hazel Green, and the 4.1 mile Sheboygan Cut-Off. (RLHS 1937, p 10)
  • 1907 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Manitowoc, Green Bay & North-Western Railway completes construction of 47.7 miles of track from Pulaski to Eland. (RLHS 1937, p 10 and 12)
  • 1907 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Wolf River Valley Railway completes construction of 2 miles of track from Wolf River Junction to a point near Van Ostrand. (RLHS 1937, p 10 and 12)
  • January 1907 - The Wisconsin Railway Commission orders all railroad companies that operate into Milwaukee to provide a written explanation for the tardiness of all passenger trains that were late arriving in Milwaukee for the past several months and to continue such reporting on late passenger trains until further notice. (NYT, 14 January 1907)
  • 1908 - Wisconsin Central Railway construction reaches Superior. The Wisconsin Central is then leased by the Soo Line Railroad.
  • 1908 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes two new sections of track: 2.4 miles from St. Francis to Bay View and 3¼ miles from Bryant to Polar. (RLHS 1937, p 10)
  • June 5, 1908 - The Wisconsin Supreme Court in Madison upholds the constitutionality of the law creating the Wisconsin Railroad Commission. The Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway had sued over an order given by the commission for the railroad to stop at a dairy station; the court's decision in this case is the first to rule on commission control of corporations. (NYT, 6 June 1908)
  • October 31, 1908 - The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Railroad opens its complete line between its namesake cities. (DeRouin, p 10)
  • January 2, 1909 - The Cazenovia & Sauk City Railroad is incorporated as the successor to the Lone Rock-La Valle Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 7)
  • January 30, 1909 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the Manitowoc, Green Bay & North-Western Railway and the Milwaukee & State Line Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • 1909 - The Cazenovia & Sauk City Railroad completes construction of 5.65 miles of track between Cazenovia and La Valle. (RLHS 1937, p 7)
  • August 6, 1909 - Milwaukee, Sparta & North Western Railway is incorporated. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • 1910 - Wisconsin Central Railway completes construction of a new bridge over the St. Croix River at a higher elevation to replace the original bridge that required steep grades on either side of the river valley.
  • 1910 - The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway completes construction of a grade separation bridge in Hudson that came to be known as the 7th Street Bridge. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 6)

1911-1920

  • May 28, 1911 - Milwaukee Road inaugurates the Olympian and Columbian passenger trains between Chicago and Seattle.
  • 1911 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of just over 142 miles of new track in Wisconsin: 133 miles from Wiscona to Necedah, 8 miles from West Allis to Butler Junction, both through subsidiary Milwaukee, Sparta & North Western Railway, and one mile from Tower SW to Easton. CNW also removes 3 miles of its original track in Necedah that had been downgraded and since abandoned. (RLHS 1937, p 10-12)
  • 1912 - The Foster Railroad is organized to connect Fairchild and Foster in Eau Claire County.
  • 1912 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary Milwaukee, Sparta & North Western Railway completes construction of 23 miles of track from Wyeville to Sparta. (RLHS 1937, p 10 and 12)
  • January 15, 1912 - The Milwaukee, Sparta & North Western Railway purchases the Princeton & Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • April 1, 1912 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the Milwaukee, Sparta & North Western Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • 1913 - The Foster Railroad is extended from Foster to Cleghorn.
  • March 1, 1913 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the St. Paul Eastern Grand Trunk Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 17)
  • December 19, 1913 - The Cazenovia & Sauk City Railroad is reorganized and deeded to the Cazenovia & Southern Railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 7)
  • 1914 - Milwaukee Road replaces the last wooden heavyweight passenger car on the Pioneer Limited with a lightweight steel car.
  • 1914 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 8¾ miles of new track from Koepenick to Pearson. (RLHS 1937, p 10)
  • December 31, 1914 - Green Bay & Western Railroad absorbs the Iona & Northern Railroad. (Poor's 1917, p 75)
  • 1916 - Soo Line Railroad builds a new brick passenger station in Osceola to replace a wooden structure in the city.
  • 1916 - The Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Railroad is reorganized as the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad.
  • 1916 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of the Linquist Spur, 15½ miles of new track from Bonita to County Line. (RLHS 1937, p 10)
  • 1917 - The Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad inaugurates the Gold Coast Limited passenger train.
  • August 1, 1917 -The Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad inaugurates its Merchandise Despatch express LCL freight service between North Chicago and Milwaukee.  The service is extended to Evanston in September 1918 and finally to a new freight depot in Chicago in November 1919. (DeRouin, p 11)
  • 1918 - A quarry south of La Rue purchases the former Chicago & North Western branch line to La Rue and extends the line half a mile south to serve the quarry.
  • 1919 - Chicago & North Western Railway subsidiary B. Heinneman Lumber Company completes construction of the Heinneman Spur, 6 miles of new track from Pine River Junction to the north. (RLHS 1937, p 10 and 12)
  • 1920 - The Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad opens a new terminal in Milwaukee.
  • April 30, 1920 - Chicago & North Western Railway purchases the Wolf River Valley Railway. (RLHS 1937, p 18)
  • December 31, 1920 - At the end of 1920, there were 35 railroad companies operating on 11,615 miles of track in Wisconsin.  They carried over 101 million tons of cargo and earned almost $93 million in revenue. (1999-2000 Blue Book, p 795)

1921-1930

  • 1922 - Chicago & North Western Railway extends the Heinneman Spur by 2.62 miles. (RLHS 1937, p 10)
  • 1923 - Milwaukee Road abandons the Gratiot, Wisconsin, to Warren, Illinois, branch. (Borleske, p 45)
  • May 1923 - ALCO in Schenectady, New York, completes construction of a series of 4-6-2 locomotives that includes Soo Line locomotive 2718 and 2719.
  • 1925 - Milwaukee Road enters bankruptcy.
  • 1925 - Chicago & North Western Railway fully integrates the operations of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 5)
  • 1925 - Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad doubles the capacity of its Racine Merchandise Despatch depot. (DeRouin, p 16)
  • 1926 - Milwaukee Road opens its passenger station in La Crosse.
  • 1926 - Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad adds refrigerated LCL and dedicated door-to-door TOFC (using purpose-built 17-foot highway trailers) services to its Merchandise Despatch services. (DeRouin, p 16)
  • 1927 - Wisconsin Power & Light Company ends interurban service west of Plymouth to Elkhart Lake.
  • 1927 - Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad obtains approval from the Interstate Commerce Commission on new freight tariffs which will allow the railroad to carry full carloads of freight on its line. (DeRouin, p 17)
  • August 1, 1927 - Milwaukee Road completely re-equips the Olympian, making it the first major western passenger train to be equipped with roller bearings.
  • 1928 - Chicago & North Western Railway completes construction of 2.8 miles of track from Wiscona to Fox Point. (RLHS 1937, p 10)
  • 1929 - A new interchange is constructed in Plymouth between the Wisconsin Power & Light Company's interurban line and the Milwaukee Road as a way to get coal hoppers interchanged for the Edgewater Power Plant south of Sheboygan. (Harnack, p 31)
  • September 7, 1929 - The Mineral Point & Northern Railway files with the Interstate Commerce Commission for abandonment of the line. (Clark, 1st quarter 2008, p 13)
  • 1930 - Milwaukee Road discontinues the Columbian passenger train.
  • 1930 - Chicago & North Western Railway ends dedicated passenger train service between Fond du Lac and Sheboygan, although passenger service continues to be provided via combines hauled behind local freight trains. (Harnack, p 30)
  • January 11, 1930 - The Interstate Commerce Commission issues its approval of the petition by Mineral Point & Northern Railway to abandon the line. (Clark, 1st quarter 2008, p 13)
  • March 2, 1930 - With only a few of the railroad's officials on board and no other passengers or freight, the last train operates over the Mineral Point & Northern Railway. (Clark, 1st quarter 2008, p 13)
  • December 31, 1930 - At the end of 1930, there were 27 railroad companies operating on 11,583 miles of track in Wisconsin.  They carried over 83 million tons of cargo and earned almost $79 million in revenue. (1999-2000 Blue Book, p 795)

1931-1940

  • 1932 - Milwaukee Road inaugurates through sleeper service between Kansas City and Milwaukee via an extended section of its Southwest Limited train. The Milwaukee section split off in Savanna, Illinois.
  • 1932 - Using a redesigned trailer hitch mechanism, the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad begins hauling standard highway trailers in TOFC service. (DeRouin, p 20)
  • September 30, 1932 - The Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad enters receivership. (DeRouin, p 20)
  • 1932 - Wm. K. Walthers, Inc., is founded in Milwaukee. (Walthers History)
  • January 1934 - The first issue of Model Railroader magazine is published by Al C. Kalmbach in Milwaukee. (Kalmbach timeline)
  • 1935 - The National Model Railroad Association is founded in Milwaukee.
  • January 2, 1935 - Chicago & North Western Railway inaugurates its 400 passenger train between Chicago and the Twin Cities. The name was derived from the train's journey of 408.5 miles in 410 minutes. (Zimmerman, p 49-50)
  • April 6, 1935 - Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad makes a test run of the Twin Cities Zephyr from Chicago to St. Paul using streamlined trainset 9901. At an average speed of 77.65 miles per hour, the train covered the 431 miles in 5 hours, 31 minutes. (Zimmerman, p 48)
  • April 21, 1935 - The Burlington inaugurates the Twin Zephyr service between Chicago and St. Paul, with North La Crosse the only regular station stop between the two endpoints. (Zimmerman, p 49)
  • May 15, 1935 - On a test run with a dynamometer car, Milwaukee Road A class locomotive number 2 sets a speed record on a test run between Milwaukee and New Lisbon; the train is recorded in the dynamometer car as traveling at 112.5 miles per hour, but as the paper records from the dynamometer car have not been published, this record is in dispute.
  • May 29, 1935 - Milwaukee Road inaugurates the Twin Cities Hiawatha between Chicago and Minneapolis as a direct competitor to the Burlington's Twin Zephyrs and CNW's 400. (Zimmerman, p 50)
  • July 1935 - Several bridges on the mainline of the Cazenovia & Southern Railroad are severely damaged by floods, severing the railroad. (RLHS 1937, p 7)
  • January 1936 - Milwaukee Road reports that ridership on the Twin Cities Hiawatha from its inauguration on May 29 through December 31, 1935, set a new record for the company at 136,866 passengers. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, p 13)
  • October 1936 - Milwaukee Road completely re-equips the Twin Cities Hiawatha trains.
  • December 18, 1936 - The Burlington inaugurates new 7-car trainsets to replace the original trainsets used on the Twin Cities Zephyr led by power cars 9904 and 9905. (Zimmerman, p 50-51)
  • September 1937 - The Burlington adds an eighth car to both Twin Cities Zephyr trainsets in regular service. (Zimmerman, p 51)
  • 1938 - Employees on the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad go on strike, completely suspending the railroad's operations for seven weeks.
  • September 1938 - Milwaukee Road again completely re-equips the Twin Cities Hiawatha trains but this time replacing the class A 4-4-2 locomotives with new class F7 4-6-4 locomotives due to the increased train lengths. The original Twin Cities Hiawatha equipment is shifted to the Midwest Hiawatha on a route between Chicago and Omaha/Sioux City.
  • December 1938 - Wisconsin Power & Light Company ends passenger and freight rail service. (Harnack, p 31)
  • 1939 - The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company abandons most of its trackage, transferring the East Troy-Mukwonago section to the village of East Troy.
  • 1939 - The Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad undertakes a project to refurbish a number of its older cars; about 15 cars were completely rebuilt with amenities including electric heating and new interior fixtures.
  • January 21, 1939 - Milwaukee Road reschedules its Hiawatha passenger trains, replacing the Twin Cities Hiawatha with two train schedules: the Morning Hiawatha and Afternoon Hiawatha trains.
  • 1940 - A. C. Kalmbach Company publishes the first issue of Trains magazine. (Kalmbach timeline)
  • 1940 - The National Model Railroad Association's national convention is held in Milwaukee.
  • December 31, 1940 - At the end of 1940, there were 22 railroad companies operating on 10,484 miles of track in Wisconsin.  They carried almost 88 million tons of cargo and earned almost $70 million in revenue. (1999-2000 Blue Book, p 795)

1941-1950

  • February 9, 1941 - Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad introduces two new streamlined electric multiple unit sets called Electroliners for service between Chicago and Milwaukee. The railroad's timetable introducing the new trains called them "America's first all-electric luxury trains."
    Milwaukee Road 760 preserved at Illinois Railway Museum
    Preserved Milwaukee Road 760 operating at Illinois Railway Museum on July 18, 2004.
  • 1944 - Fairbanks-Morse in Beloit outshops its first railroad locomotive, an H-10-44 model that became Milwaukee Road number 760. This locomotive has since been preserved in operating condition at Illinois Railway Museum.
  • 1944 - Chicago & North Western Railway discontinues passenger serivce on mixed trains between Fond du Lac and Sheboygan. (Harnack, p 30)
  • May 31, 1945 - The receivers of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad present their plan for the company's reorganization to the court. (DeRouin, p 24)
  • December 1945 - Fairbanks-Morse introduces its competitor to ALCO's PAs and EMD's E-units. But, due to a lack of space in its Beloit plant, the locomotives' construction is contracted to GE in Erie, Pennsylvania, giving rise to the "Erie-built" nickname.
  • 1946 - Chicago & North Western Railway abandons the section of railroad between Peebles, just outside Fond du Lac, and Glenbeulah. (Harnack, p 30)
  • November 1, 1946 - The Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad emerges from receivership. (DeRouin, p 24)
  • June 23-25, 1946 - Massive flooding due to heavy rains around Ashland causes damage to road and railroad rights of way estimated in the millions of dollars. (Morton, McArthur and Neverman, p 31)
  • April 30, 1947 - Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad discontinues full carload and TOFC services. (DeRouin, p 24)
  • June 29, 1947 - Milwaukee Road inaugurates the Olympian Hiawatha as the successor to its Olympian train service between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest. The original Olympian schedule is rebranded as a new Columbian passenger train.
  • December 20, 1947 - Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad discontinues LCL Merchandise Despatch service.  (DeRouin, p 24)
  • 1948 - Employees of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad go on strike stopping the railroad operations for 91 days; the dispute over wages is resolved by mediation.
  • February 27-28, 1948 - Heavy rain around Darlington causes flooding that washes out sections of the Milwaukee Road right of way, forcing the railroad to discontinue service for a week while repairs are undertaken. (Morton, McArthur and Neverman, p 33)
  • May 1948 - Milwaukee Road's Milwaukee Shops completes contruction of "bulldog" motorcars 5900 and 5901. (MRHA, 3rd quarter 2000, pp 9-10)
  • May 2, 1948 - The American Freedom Train tour makes a display stop in Superior.
  • May 3, 1948 - Milwaukee Road operates "bulldog" motorcar 5900 on a series of test runs between Milwaukee and Madison. 5900 and 5901 will soon be used in regular service on the Milwaukee-Horicon-Berlin line powering Berlin Bullet trains 31/36 and 30/35. (MRHA 3rd quarter 2000, pp 14-15)
  • May 29, 1948 - Milwaukee Road re-equips the Morning and Afternoon Hiawatha trains with diesel locomotives and new cars designed by Brooks Stevens, which included new Skytop parlor observation cars. The Pioneer Limited is also re-equipped to include its first all-room sleepers.
  • June 24, 1948 - The American Freedom Train makes a display stop in Madison.
  • June 25, 1948 - The American Freedom Train makes a display stop in La Crosse.
  • June 26, 1948 - The American Freedom Train makes a display stop in Eau Claire.
  • June 27, 1948 - The American Freedom Train makes a display stop in Wausau.
  • June 29, 1948 - The American Freedom Train makes a display stop in Green Bay.
  • June 30, 1948 - The American Freedom Train makes a display stop in Oshkosh.
  • July 1 and 2, 1948 - The American Freedom Train makes a display stop in Milwaukee.
  • July 3, 1948 - The American Freedom Train makes a display stop in Racine.
  • July 4, 1948 - The American Freedom Train makes a display stop in Kenosha.
  • October 10-16, 1948 - Harry S. Truman, then candidate for president, makes his fourth official campaign trip, visiting Midwestern states and traveling through Wisconsin on Chicago & North Western lines. Truman's train travels from Chicago northwest to Superior then south to St. Paul before returning to Chicago via Eau Claire. (Trains, October 2008, pp 50-51)
  • October 10-18, 1948 - US presidential candidate Tom Dewey travels by rail through Wisconsin, riding on Chicago, Burlington & Quincy tracks along the Mississippi River between St. Paul and Dubuque. (Trains, October 2008, pp 50-51)
  • 1950 - The National Model Railroad Association's national convention is held in Milwaukee.
  • December 31, 1950 - At the end of 1950, there were 20 railroad companies operating on 10,000 miles of track in Wisconsin.  They carried over 121 million tons of cargo and earned almost $142 million in revenue. (1999-2000 Blue Book, p 795)

1951-1960

  • 1951 - Milwaukee Road orders its extended "Skytop Lounge" cars from Pullman for use on the Olympian Hiawatha.
  • 1952 - Milwaukee Road takes delivery of its new "Superdome" cars; six are assigned to the Olympian Hiawatha, and two more cars each are assigned to the Morning and Afternoon Hiawatha trains.
  • 1952 - The Sandley Light Locomotive Works company is forced to move its demonstration railroad out of Janesville's Riverside Park. The company relocates to a section of the former Milwaukee & La Crosse Railroad right of way in Wisconsin Dells.
  • 1953 - The North Shore Line is again reorganized after receivership, this time emerging as a subsidiary under a Delaware-based holding company.
  • January 1954 - Following its replacement in Montana by an F-unit, homebuilt motorcar 5901 is returned to Wisconsin for use on the Root River Cannonball trains 157/158 between La Crosse and Austin, Minnesota. (MRHA, 3rd quarter 2000, p 14)
  • January 21, 1955 - Milwaukee Road shortens the route of the Columbian passenger train from Chicago-Tacoma to Chicago-Avery, Idaho. Later the route was shortened twice more and eventually discontinued completely.
  • November 1955 - Union Pacific shifts operation of its intercity passenger trains between Chicago and Omaha from the Chicago & North Western Railway to the Milwaukee Road. This included the UP's City of Los Angeles, City of Portland, City of Denver, Challenger and City of San Francisco trains.
  • 1956 - Railroad historians and preservationists in Green Bay begin work to form what will become the National Railroad Museum.
  • September 1956 - Milwaukee Road abandons the Gratiot-Shullsburg branch. (Borleske, p 45)
  • 1957 - After building a new passenger station in Green Bay and rescheduling its passenger trains to serve the new station Milwaukee Road donates its original Green Bay passenger station (first opened in 1898) to the city of Green Bay. Milwaukee Road also operated its last regularly scheduled train hauled by a steam locomotive in 1957. John P. Kiley resigns from the Milwaukee Road's presidency and is replaced by William John Quinn.
  • 1957 - The shops in Hudson are abandoned. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 4)
  • 1958 - Fairbanks-Morse sells its last locomotive in the US market.
  • 1958 - A joint resolution of Congress establishes the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay.
  • February 1958 - Soo Line 2718 is donated to the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay.
  • March 22, 1958 - Milwaukee Road discontinues passenger service on the Milwaukee-Horicon-Berlin line; motorcar 5900 is transferred to serve the Milwaukee-Watertown commuter line. (MRHA, 3rd quarter 2000, p 15)
  • April 26, 1958 - Milwaukee Road discontinues the Chicago-Kansas City Southwest Limited; the Savanna, Illinois, to Milwaukee section is rescheduled to connect to the Arrow instead.
  • June 21, 1959 - Soo Line 4-6-2 locomotive number 2719 hauls the railroad's last scheduled steam-powered train in revenue service. The train was an excursion trip between Minneapolis and Ladysmith to commemorate the last steam run on the Soo Line. (Glischinski, Feb 97, p 25)
  • December 1959 - Soo Line donates 2-8-2 number 1003 to the city of Superior. (Glischinski, Feb 97, p 24)
  • 1960 - Milwaukee Road discontinues trains 157/158 between La Crosse and Austin, Minnesota; motorcar 5901 is transferred to Milwaukee to operate on the Milwaukee-Watertown commuter line. (MRHA, 3rd quarter 2000, p 14)
  • December 31, 1960 - At the end of 1960, there were 18 railroad companies operating on 9,625 miles of track in Wisconsin.  They carried over 93 million tons of cargo and earned over $134 million in revenue. (1999-2000 Blue Book, p 795)

1961-1970

  • 1961 - Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway, Wisconsin Central Railway and the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railway merge to form a reorganized Soo Line Railroad.
  • January 1961 - After their replacement on the Milwaukee-Watertown commuter line by FP7 locomotives, homebuilt motorcars 5900 and 5901 are retired from service. (MRHA, 3rd quarter 2000, p 15)
  • May 22, 1961 - Milwaukee Road discontinues the Olympian Hiawatha.
  • October 1961 - Milwaukee Road closes the pontoon bridge across the Mississippi River connecting Prairie du Chien to Marquette, Iowa. (Molldrem and McCoy, 4th quarter 1998, p 12)
  • 1962 - Chicago & North Western Railway files to abandon the La Rue branch.
  • December 19, 1962 - In a letter from president Harold G. Mason, the final operating date of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad is set as January 21, 1963. (DeRouin, p 97)
  • 1963 - The last locomotive produced by Fairbanks-Morse is sold to a railroad in Mexico.
  • 1963 - The Historical Society of Milwaukee purchases the former CNW La Rue branch and renames the organization to Mid-Continent Railway Museum.
  • August 4, 1965 - Milwaukee Road closes its Everett Street Station in Milwaukee. The new Milwaukee Intermodal Station opens and Milwaukee Road passenger trains are rerouted to serve the new station.
  • 1966 - William John Quinn steps down from the presidency of the Milwaukee Road to take the same position at the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.
  • May 15, 1966 - Chicago & North Western Railway reroutes its passenger trains to use the Milwaukee Intermodal Station instead of CNW's Lake Front Depot.
  • 1967 - The Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society moves its collection of railway equipment from the Mid-Continent Railway Museum to East Troy where the organization would be able to operate its equipment.
  • 1967 - The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is established. (WisDOT Overview)
  • 1968 - Milwaukee Road discontinues the Copper Country Limited. (Harnack, p 32)
  • 1968 - Chicago & North Western Railway's former Lake Front Depot is demolished.
  • 1969 - The Interstate Commerce Commission effectively blocks the merger of the Milwaukee Road and the Chicago & North Western by asking for terms that the CNW could not agree to.
  • January 23, 1970 - Milwaukee Road discontinues the Afternoon Hiawatha.
  • March 3, 1970 - Burlington Northern Railroad is formed from the merger of Northern Pacific, Great Northern and CB&Q railroads.
  • April 12, 1970 - Burlington Northern discontinues the former CB&Q's Black Hawk passenger train service between Chicago and Minneapolis.
  • July 1970 - A Wisconsin court issues a ruling in favor of Milwaukee Road against a group of eastern investors that were trying to unseat the entire Milwaukee Road board of directors.  The court rules that under the current circumstances, the entire board cannot be dismissed at once. (Railway Age, July 13, 1970, p 25)
  • September 7, 1970 - Milwaukee Road operates the last Pioneer Limited passenger train, making it the last privately-operated overnight train between Chicago and Minneapolis.
  • December 31, 1970 - At the end of 1970, there were 15 railroad companies operating on 9,127 miles of track in Wisconsin.  They carried over 97 million tons of cargo and earned almost $192 million in revenue. (1999-2000 Blue Book, p 795)

1971-1980

  • April 30, 1971 - Milwaukee Road operates the last Morning Hiawatha trains between Chicago and Minneapolis.
  • May 1, 1971 - Amtrak takes over operation of most intercity passenger rail service in the US. Chicago & North Western Railway ends all passenger train service in Wisconsin. Milwaukee Road's last Fast Mail train between Chicago and Minneapolis arrives in Chicago.
  • June 5, 1971 - Amtrak introduces the North Coast Hiawatha between Chicago and Seattle, using Milwaukee Road track through Wisconsin. Amtrak's Empire Builder is moved off the Great Northern and combined with the North Coast Hiawatha for the portion of the route from Chicago to Minneapolis.
  • November 1971 - Amtrak separates the North Coast Hiawatha and Empire Builder schedules through Wisconsin but keeps operating them both on the Milwaukee Road.
  • 1972 - The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway is fully merged into Chicago & North Western Railway. (NPS HAER p 5)
  • April 1972 - Milwaukee Road abandons the New Glarus branch. (Borleske, p 45)
  • February 1973 - The Interstate Commerce Commission approves Milwaukee Road's petition to abandon the Winneconne branch, setting a deadline of February 15, 1974, to remove the tracks from the right of way. (Easton 2007, p 13)
  • June 10, 1973 - The last regular train passes Omro on the Milwaukee Road's Winneconne branch. (Easton 2007, p 13)
  • October 1974 - Milwaukee Road abandons the Calamine-Platteville branch. (Borleske, p 45)
  • August 15, 1975 - The American Freedom Train makes a display stop in Green Bay.
  • August 20, 1975 - The American Freedom Train makes a display stop in Madison.
  • 1977 - The Wisconsin Department of Transportation establishes the Freight Rail Preservation Program. (FRPP)
  • August 22, 1977 - The Soo Line High Bridge over the St. Croix River between Stillwater, Minnesota, and Somerset, Wisconsin, is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • December 19, 1977 - Milwaukee Road files for bankruptcy.
  • May 22, 1978 - The former passenger station in Fox Lake is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • October 1, 1979 - Amtrak discontinues the North Coast Hiawatha.
  • 1980 - The State of Wisconsin purchases the Fond du Lac branch of the Milwaukee Road. (Hilton 1990, p 557)
  • 1980 - Wisconsin & Southern Railroad begins operations.
  • 1980 - Chicago, Madison & Northern Railroad takes over operations of the former Milwaukee Road's Mineral Point line. (Borleske, p 45)
  • March 1980 - The Wisconsin Department of Transportation forms the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission in order to preserve rail operations on some former Milwaukee Road branch lines in southern Wisconsin. The Western Wisconsin Railroad and the Central Wisconsin Railroad are also formed to operate the Prairie du Chien-Madison and Madison-Freeport lines, respectively.
  • December 31, 1980 - At the end of 1980, there were 21 railroad companies operating on 7,990 miles of track in Wisconsin.  They carried over 101 million tons of cargo and earned almost $454 million in revenue. (1999-2000 Blue Book, p 795)

1981-1990

  • December 26, 1984 - The former CNW passenger station in Reedsburg is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1985 - The Wisconsin Trolley Museum takes over operations of the former Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company line between East Troy and Mukwonago.
  • 1985 - The National Model Railroad Association's national convention is held in Milwaukee.
  • February 1985 - Central Wisconsin Railroad operates the last revenue train to Mineral Point. (Borleske, p 45)
  • February 21, 1985 - Soo Line Railroad acquires the Milwaukee Road and begins operating it as a wholly-owned subsidiary.
  • January 1, 1986 - Soo Line ends the Milwaukee Road's status as a subsidiary by wholly merging its operations into the Soo Line.
  • 1986 - Soo Line Railroad forms the Lake States Transportation Division to operate some of Soo's original mainlines and many of the former Milwaukee Road branch lines.
  • 1986 - The city of Green Bay sells the former Milwaukee Road passenger station to the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce.
  • October 9, 1986 - Amtrak's Empire Builder, train number 8, derails in Fall River. (NTSB report number RAR-87-06)
  • 1987 - The 7th Street Bridge in Hudson, built by the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad in 1910, is demolished. (NPS HAER WI-13, p 2)
  • April 3, 1987 - Soo Line Railroad announces its intention to sell Lake States Transportation Division to private investors, forming the new Wisconsin Central.
  • October 11, 1987 - Wisconsin Central operates its first freight train on a run from Stevens Point to North Fond du Lac.
  • 1988 - The Fox River Valley Railroad begins operations over former Chicago & North Western Railway lines between Green Bay and Milwaukee.
    Orfordville depot in 2008
    The Orfordville Depot as it appeared in May 2008.
  • October 13, 1988 - The former Milwaukee Road depot in Orfordville is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • November 3, 1988 - The former Soo Line Railroad passenger station in Ashland is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1989 - The Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society's collection of electric railway equipment is sold.
  • December 31, 1990 - At the end of 1990, there were 15 railroad companies operating on 6,125 miles of track in Wisconsin.  They carried over 116 million tons of cargo and earned over $455 million in revenue. (1999-2000 Blue Book, p 795)

1991-2000

  • 1991 - Itel Rail Corporation, owners of both Fox River Valley Railroad and Green Bay & Western Railroad, combines the management structures of both railroads in an attempt to relieve some of the debt pressures facing FRV.
  • 1991 - Glenn F. Monhart acquires former Bangor & Aroostook BL2 number 52 and moves it into storage in Janesville. (Trains, June 1991, p 16)
  • May 1991 - Wisconsin Central's IPO is made under the ticker symbol WCTC.
  • 1992 - Wisconsin Central is selected as Railway Age's "Regional Railroad of the Year."
  • 1992 - Wisconsin & Southern Railroad acquires the Wisconsin & Calumet Railroad.
  • 1992 - The Western Union Junction Railroad Museum in Sturtevant opens.
  • 1992 - Wisconsin voters approve a state constitutional amendment that allows railroad infrastructure improvements to be funded with state money. The state forms the Freight Railroad Infrastructure Improvement Program to manage loans that will cover rail infrastructure improvements. (FRPP; FRIIP)
  • 1992 - Chicago & North Western Railway abandons the spur on the west side of the Chippewa River High Bridge in Eau Claire, ending rail service over the bridge. (Follmar 2008, p 31)
  • June 30, 1992 - Burlington Northern train 01-142-30 derails in Superior. (NTSB report number HZM-94-01)
  • August 28, 1993 - Wisconsin Central acquires the Green Bay & Western Railroad and the Fox River Valley Railroad, merging the two to form the Fox Valley Western Railroad.
  • 1993 - Wisconsin Central forms a new subsidiary named Wisconsin Central International which it uses to lead a consortium to purchase New Zealand Rail Ltd (which is later renamed to TranzRail).
  • June 1994 - The city of Superior sells former Soo Line locomotive 1003 to the newly formed Wisconsin Railway Preservation Trust for $40,000. (Glischinski, Feb 97, p 24)
  • 1995 - Wisconsin Central forms a new subsidiary named Wisconsin Central Canada Holdings and uses it to purchase Algoma Central Railway. Another consortium led by Wisconsin Central acquires Rail Express Systems Ltd in the United Kingdom.
  • 1995 - The Wisconsin Railway Preservation Trust receives a $90,000 grant from the Jeffris Family Foundation; the money is allocated to the restoration of Soo Line 1003. (Glischinski, Feb 97, p 24)
  • 1996 - Wisconsin Central forms a new subsidiary named English Welsh & Scottish Railway Holdings to merge three trainload freight operators in the United Kingdom. The new train operating company is known as EWS Railway.
  • 1996 - Canadian National, Illinois Central and Wisconsin Central reach an operating agreement to form the "Superior Connection" which will streamline intermodal shipments between the three carriers on the combined route between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico. (Trains Oct 1996, p 19)
  • 1996 - Wisconsin & Southern leases 74 miles of former Chicago & North Western Railway mainline from Union Pacific connecting Madison to Reedsburg via Baraboo as well as a few small spurs around Madison. (Trains Oct 1996, p 19)
  • February 1996 - Restoration work begins on Soo Line 2719 at Carson Park in Eau Claire. (Glischinski, Feb 97, p 25)
  • March 4, 1996 - An 81-car Wisconsin Central freight train traveling from Stevens Point to Neenah derails on a broken switch in Weyauwega. Several tank cars of LPG and propane were ruptured and the gas ignited; fireballs from the explosions could be seen up to 13 miles away.
  • March 20, 1996 - Officials in Weyauwega issue the all-clear signal for residents evacuated as a result of WC's March 4 derailment to return to their homes.
  • March 26, 1996 - Nine individuals file a class action lawsuit against Wisconsin Central for punitive and treble damages as a result of the Weyauwega derailment.
  • May 23, 1996 - A fundraising dinner titled "An Evening in the Club Car" is held in Eau Claire with the money raised dedicated to benefit the restoration of Soo Line 2719 to operating condition.
  • August 16, 1996 - The original Milwaukee Road passenger station in Green Bay (built in 1898) is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • December 31, 1996 - BNSF Railway is formed from the merger of Burlington Northern Railroad and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.
  • 1997 - The National Model Railroad Association's national convention is held in Madison.
  • 1997 - Wisconsin Central forms a new subsidiary named Australian Transport Network Ltd to acquire a one-third ownership stake in TasRail, and then acquires the Emu Bay Railway, also in Tasmania.
  • 1997 - Canadian Pacific sells several former Milwaukee Road branches, including the line from Janesville south to the Illinois border, to newly formed I&M Rail Link. (Glischinski, Feb 1997, p 17)
  • 1997 - Wisconsin Central installs a third track on the former C&NW line near Neenah between Snells and Dixie. (Fromm, Fall 1997, p 15)
  • 1997 - Wisconsin Central rebuilds both the former C&NW and former Milwaukee Road yards in Wausau in preparation for their use by WC in the summer. (Fromm, Fall 1997, p 15)
  • January 27, 1997 - The Surface Transportation Board announces its denial of a stay from Inland Steel Company and LTV Steel Company against the Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Company's proposed acquisition of Union Pacific's Duck Creek North Lines in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. (STB 97-06)
  • April 17, 1997 - The Surface Transportation Board announces its approval of Wisconsin Central's proposed purchase of two lines in Wisconsin from Union Pacific. The two lines are UP's Hayward Line (Hayward to Hayward Junction) and Wausau Pocket (Kelley to Wausau-Schofield), a total of 17.8 miles of track. (STB 97-25; Fromm, Fall 1997, p 14)
  • May 31, 1997 - Wisconsin Central begins operations on the newly acquired Hayward Line and Wausau Pocket. (Fromm, Fall 1997, p 14)
  • Summer 1997 - Wisconsin Central inaugurates trains GBGLA and GLGBA operating between Green Bay and Gladstone via the former C&NW line through Marinette, Wisconsin, and Menomonee, Michigan. (Fromm, Fall 1997, p 15)
  • December 1, 1997 - The former Milwaukee Road passenger station in La Crosse, which still sees regular use for Amtrak's Empire Builder, is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • December 9, 1997 - The Center for Railroad Photography and Art is incorporated in Madison.
  • 1997 - Wisconsin Central subsidiary Sault Ste Marie Bridge Company acquires a former Union Pacific line between Green Bay and Ishpeming.
  • September 19, 1998 - Soo Line 2719 operates under its own power for the first time after its restoration.
  • April 29, 1999 - The former Milwaukee Road depot in Middleton is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • December 23, 1999 - Wisconsin Central's North Fond du Lac shops release into interchange service WC 26173, a 50' boxcar bearing Model Railroader magazine's 50th anniversary logo. (Trains News Wire, Oct 13, 2008)
  • December 30, 1999 - The former CNW passenger station in Green Bay is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • April 6, 2000 - The former Milwaukee Road passenger station in New Glarus is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • May 18, 2000 - CNW 1385, a 4-6-0 preserved at Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • June 2000 - Soo Line 2719 is moved to the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad in Spooner where it is used in operations during the summer season,
  • December 13, 2000 - The former Soo Line Railroad passenger station in Osceola is added to the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Wisconsin railroad timeline: 21st century

As railroading progresses into the 21st century, we see new technologies increasingly taking a more important role in moving freight and passengers. But throughout it all, good old fashioned railroading is still practiced.

Entries in this timeline with a pale yellow background are related to model railroading events in Wisconsin. Specific sources are listed in parentheses after the associated events.

21st century

2001-2010

  • 2001 - Soo Line 2719 becomes the last steam locomotive to operate out of Ladysmith on former Soo Line track.
  • 2001 - Railway Age magazine names Wisconsin & Southern Railroad its "Regional Railroad of the Year."
  • January 30, 2001 - Wisconsin Central and Canadian National announce plans for CN to purchase WC for $800 million in cash and the assumption of $400 million of WC debt.
  • May 9, 2001 - The Surface Transportation Board announces that it has accepted the application of Canadian National to purchase Wisconsin Central and its subsidiaries; the STB schedules the release of its final decision on the application by September 7. (STB 01-21)
  • August 2, 2001 - The Surface Transportation Board announces that because the projected impact on railroad operations by the proposed CN-WC merger would be minimal, the application does not require a formal environmental review. (STB 01-35)
  • September 7, 2001 - The Surface Transportation Board issues its approval of CN's purchase of Wisconsin Central.
  • September 13, 2001 - The Surface Transportation Board announces it has found Union Pacific's rates for the shipment of coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming to the Wisconsin Power & Light plant in Sheboygan, Wiscosnin, to be unreasonably high. (STB 01-42)
  • October 9, 2001 - Canadian National Railway acquires Wisconsin Central.
  • July 30, 2002 - Iowa Chicago & Eastern Railroad begins operations, including a former Illinois Central Railroad segment from Janesville south to the Illinois border.
  • October 3, 2002 - Citing the smooth consolidation of Wisconsin Central and subsidiaries into Canadian National, the Surface Transportation Board releases CN of its obligation to file weekly operational monitoring reports; the filing of the reports was a condition of the merger approved in 2001. (STB 02-41)
  • 2003 - Wisconsin & Southern's Horicon paint shop releases into interchange service WSOR 503149, a boxcar bearing Model Railroader magazine's 70th anniversary logo. (Trains News Wire, Oct 13, 2008)
  • 2004 - Metra begins a renovation of its Kenosha station.
  • June 1, 2004 - The former Soo Line roundhouse in Altoona, which was being used as a storage facility for restored Soo Line 2719, is razed.
  • June 11, 2004 - A section near the middle of the mainline of the 15 inch gauge Riverside & Great Northern Railway in Wisconsin Dells is washed away by flood waters. Operations are suspended on the railroad until a complete assessment can be made. Soon the trains are operating again, but stopping short of the washout so visitors can detrain and view the damage.
    WSOR 4025 in Madison, July 23, 2005
    WSOR 4025 at the railroad's 25th anniversary celebration in Madison on July 23, 2005.
  • 2005 - Wisconsin & Southern Railroad applies a special 25th anniversary paint job to SD40-2 locomotive number 4025. The locomotive is shown on public display at celebrations in Janesville on July 9 (which also included a visit from Milwaukee Road 261) and in Madison on July 23 and the locomotive returns to regular service wearing its new paint job permanently.
  • January 12, 2005 - The former Milwaukee Road station in Marinette is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • January 18, 2005 - Amtrak's Hiawatha trains between Chicago and Milwaukee begin using the newly built Milwaukee Airport Rail Station at General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee. (WisDOT Timeline)
  • 2006 - Metra completes the renovation project of its Kenosha station.
  • April 19, 2006 - The former Green Bay & Western Railroad passenger station in Whitehall is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • December 17, 2006 - After two years of storage outdoors in Altoona, Soo Line 2719 is moved to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth.
  • 2007 - The remodeling of the Milwaukee Intermodal Station is completed.
  • January 30, 2007 - The Surface Transportation Board announces its decision to require a full environmental impact statement regarding the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad's proposal on coal train routings from the Powder River Basin through Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Missouri over the former I&M Rail Link lines. (STB 07-07)
  • June 21, 2007 - The former Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad passenger station in Rice Lake is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • August 24, 2007 - Following an extensive overhaul, Soo Line 2719 is test fired.
  • August 25, 2007 - Soo Line 2719 is operated on a round trip test run between Duluth and Two Harbors, Minnesota.
  • September 13, 2007 - The Surface Transportation Board announces that it has awarded a contract valued at $1 million to Christensen Associates in Madison to prepare a report assessing the current state of freight rail transportation competition in the US. The completed report is due by Fall 2008. (STB 07-31)
  • October 9, 2007 - Excel Energy agrees to pay $71,940 to Union Pacific Railroad in order to transfer ownership of the former West Wisconsin Railway bridge over the Chippewa River to the city of Eau Claire. The transaction is to ensure that the bridge is maintained so that Excel's gas line, also carried by the bridge, will continue to have a reliable and stable river crossing. (Follmar 2008, p 28; Langton 2007)
  • 2008 - BNSF and CN agree on a contract to haul coal from South Dakota via BNSF to Chicago then north to WPS Resources power plants in Green Bay and Weston, WI. (The Soo, Winter 2008, p 6)
  • March 10, 2008 - The National Railroad Museum in Green Bay is awarded a $31,000 Joint Effort Marketing Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism to support its display of the Pullman Porters: From Service to Civil Rights exhibit.
  • June 2008 - Massive flooding occurs following rain storms throughout Wisconsin. All rail activity on several mainlines, including BNSF's line along the Mississippi River and CP's mainline through Wisconsin is suspended until flood waters recede. The Baraboo River floods the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom with water up to the floors of all the equipment; the museum cancels all activities until cleanup can occur. (Trains, September 2008, p 10-11)
  • July 4, 2008 - In a ceremony in Ashland, Soo Line Railroad presents steam locomotive number 950, the railroad's only class G 2-10-0, and the world's largest locomotive when it was built in 1900, to the city of Ashland. The locomotive will be placed on static display near the former ore dock. (The Soo, Winter 2008, p 41)
  • August 2, 2008 - Mid-Continent Railway Museum reopens on a limited operation schedule.
  • August 26, 2008 - Wisconsin & Southern Railroad dedicates SD40-2 number 4053 with a special "Grow Wisconsin" livery at a ceremony in Whitewater. (Trains, December 2008, p 28)
  • September 30, 2008 - The Surface Transportation Board issues its approval of Canadian Pacific's proposal to purchase Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad along with Cedar American Rail Holdings and subsidiary Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad. (STB 08-30; CP press release; September 30, 2008)
  • October 10, 2008 - Wisconsin & Southern's Horicon paint shop releases into interchange service WSOR 503175, a 52' double plug door boxcar bearing Model Railroader magazine's 75th anniversary logo. (Trains News Wire, October 13, 2008)
  • October 30, 2008 - Canadian Pacific Railway begins operations over the now former Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern and Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroads (combined under Cedar American Rail Holdings, these two railroads made up the largest Class II operator in the US), gaining another home-road entryway into Wisconsin across the Illinois border. (MarketWatch, October 30, 2008)
  • January 2009 - Wisconsin & Southern performs a series of test runs using leased SD9043MACs on several trains throughout Wisconsin. The lease units were soon returned to CIT Group due to the condition of most of the track over which WSOR operates. (Powell, June 2009, p 37)
  • February 27, 2009 - Wisconsin & Southern files a petition with the Surface Transportation Board to operate over former Chicago & North Western tracks between Plymouth and Sheboygan and to interchange cars to and from this line with Union Pacific. (Trains, June 2009, p 12)
  • March 10, 2009 - Railway Age Magazine names Wiscosnin & Southern Railroad as its Regional Railroad of the Year for 2009. (WSOR 2009)
  • March 23, 2009 - Wisconsin & Southern pauses its daily easbound train in front of the memorial at North Prairie with locomotive 4025 in the lead to honor the 150th anniversary of Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad conductor George Price's death. (Adler 2009)
  • October 2009 - Union Pacific completes a $9 million track upgrade project on 26 miles of track between Eau Claire and Fairchild. (ProgressiveRailroading; December 2, 2009)
  • December 11, 2009 - Union Pacific increases train speeds on the line between Eau Claire and Fairchild from 30 miles per hour to 40. (ProgressiveRailroading; December 2, 2009)
  • December 18, 2009 - Union Pacific increases train speeds on the line between Eau Claire and Fairchild from 40 miles per hour to 50. (ProgressiveRailroading; December 2, 2009)
  • July 2010 - The National Model Railroad Association's 75th anniversary national convention is held in Milwaukee.
  • December 30, 2010 - Governor-elect Scott Walker announces that Mark Gottlieb will become Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation at the start of the new governor's term. (WisPolitics; December 30, 2010)

2011-2020

Wisconsin railroad history and timeline: Sources and Bibliography

This work of research involved a large number of references in different media. Specifically, this included the following:

Books

Journals and magazines

  • "Abandonments & Acquisitions," Trains (June 2009). Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing. p 12.
  • "Arrivals and Departures," Trains (June 1991). Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing. p 16.
  • Borleske, Phil (fourth quarter 2008). "The New Glarus Branch: What Might Have Been." The Milwaukee Railroader, Milwaukee Road Historical Association, pp 44-45.
  • Clark, Milt (first quarter 2008). "The Mineral Point & Northern Railway." The Milwaukee Railroader, Milwaukee Road Historical Association, p 13.
  • Cummings, Andy and Lustig, David (September 2008), "Floods devastate Midwest routes." Trains, Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing, pp 8-11.
  • Cummings, Andy (December 2008), "W&S unit notes economic role." Trains, Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing, p 28.
  • "Dissidents lose a round in court," Railway Age (July 13, 1970). New York, New York: Robert G. Lewis, Publisher. p 25.
  • Easton, Larry (first quarter 2007), "The Milwaukee Road's Winneconne Branch: part 2." The Milwaukee Railroader, Milwaukee Road Historical Association, pp 4-13.
  • Follmar, Joe (2008) "The Omaha Road in Eau Claire and Altoona." North Western Lines, Chicago & North Western Historical Society, 1, pp 21-64. ISSN 0279-5000.
  • Fromm, Galen, ed. (Fall 1997). "Wisconsin Central News" The SOO, Lee, IL: Soo Line Historical and Technical Society, vol 19, no 4, pp 14-15.
  • Glischinski, Steve (February 1997). "From Milwaukee Road to Iowa Rail Link?" Trains, Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing. pp 17-18.
  • Glischinski, Steve (February 1997). "Soo Line 2-8-2 back in steam." Trains, Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing, pp 24-25.
  • Grant, Roger H. (Spring 1986) "Three Components of the Chicago & North Western: The Omaha Road, the Louie, and the Great Weedy." Railroad History, Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, 154, pp 17-39. ISSN 0090-7847.
  • Harnack, Art (fourth quarter 2008). "Along the Milwaukee Way: Plymouth, Wisconsin." The Milwaukee Railroader, Milwaukee Road Historical Association, pp 24-33.
  • Johnson, Dick (fourth quarter 2008). "Fast Mail: Third Quarter 2008 (Viroqua Branch issue)." The Milwaukee Railroader, Milwaukee Road Historical Association, pp 46-47.
  • Koehn, Truman (2008, Number 4). "Chicago & North Western in Green Bay." North Western Lines, Chicago & North Western Historical Society, pp 18-29. ISSN 0279-5000.
  • Milwaukee Road Historical Association (third quarter 2000). "Milwaukee Road's Homebred 'Bulldogs.'" The Milwaukee Railroader, Milwaukee Road Historical Association, pp 4-15.
  • Molldrem, Nate and McCoy, Robert (fourth quarter 1998). "Along the Milwaukee Way: Marquette, Iowa." The Milwaukee Railroader, Milwaukee Road Historical Assocaition, pp 12-23.
  • National Park Service (WI-13, after 1987), "Seventh Street Bridge, Hudson, Wisconsin." Historic American Engineering Record.
  • Powell, Eric (June 2009). "Big power for the little guys." Trains, Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing, pp 34-37.
  • "Scanner," Trains (October 1996). Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing. p 19.
  • The Soo (Winter 2008), Cedarburg, WI: Soo Line Historical and Technical Society.
  • Withers, Bob (October 2008), "Map of the month: Campaign trail by rail in 1948." Trains, Waukesha, WI: Kalmbach Publishing, pp 50-51.

Newspapers

Websites

Surface Transportation Board releases and reports

Image sources

  • 1857 railroad ad. An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera, Library of Congress Printed Ephemera Collection Washington, D.C. The Rights and reproductions page (retrieved September 18, 2008) asserts "With a few exceptions, the Library is not aware of any U.S. copyright protection (see Title 17, U.S.C.) or any other restrictions in the materials in An American Time Capsule." As this image was first published in the United States before 1922, I believe this image is in the public domain.
  • Chicago and North Western Railway station in Milwaukee circa 1898. Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. The Rights and reproductions page (retrieved September 18, 2008) asserts "The Library of Congress is not aware of any U.S. copyright or any other restrictions in the photographs in this collection." As this image was first published in the United States before 1922, I believe this image is in the public domain.
  • Racine, Wisconsin, railway bridge, Root River. Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection (cataloged in 1899), Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. The Rights and reproductions page (retrieved September 13, 2008) asserts "The Library of Congress is not aware of any U.S. copyright or any other restrictions in the photographs in this collection." As this image was first published in the United States before 1922, I believe this image is in the public domain.
  • Graham L. Rice, Railroad Commissioner (1900). Official railroad map of Wisconsin, 1900 Madison, WI. From the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C. 20540-4650 USA. According to the Map Collections Rights and Reproductions page (retrieved September 12, 2008) "The Library of Congress ... is not aware of any U.S. copyright protection." As I understand it, works published in the United States before 1922 are in the public domain.

All other images displayed in the timeline were created by Sean Lamb, this website's author.