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 - 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)