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.