The Nekoosa Line
Marshfield to Nekoosa, Wisconsin

by Keith Meacham
Part Two

Once the Nekoosa Line left the Main Line in Marshfield, it remained at the same level of the main line until it crossed the C&NW Eland Line. After leaving the Main Line, the Nekoosa Line became a switching lead for, in order going east, the Coach Track, The spur in to Felker Oil Co., House Tracks 3, 2 and 1 (going east), and the Team Track before crossing the C&NW diamond of the Eland Line. After crossing the C&NW, the Nekoosa Line began dropping away from the Main Line. Where the Nekoosa Line crossed Peach Avenue in Marshfield, it was already a full two feet lower than the Main Line. In fact, you could see the grade approaching the C&NW diamond on the Nekoosa Line climbing to reach the crossing, and you could see the track climbing still thereafter to reach Vine Avenue beyond, if you stood looking westwards. It rather resembled an Interurban-type rollicking r-o-w.

At Peach Avenue, the Switch to the Belt Line to the Marshfield Yard turned away to the east-northeast, and the Nekoosa Line turned away to eventually point east-southeast before it crossed Palmetto Avenue and run alongside the C&NW line coming from the west- southwest from Merrillan, which paralleled the Nekoosa Line all the way to Wisconsin Rapids.

Make note that in Marshfield, the C&NW was on the SOUTH side of the Soo. In Wisconsin Rapids, the C&NW was on the NORTH side of the Soo. Soo & C&NW crossed at Nekoosa Line Milepost 10, two miles south of Arpin.

From Peach Avenue to East 4th Street, the Nekoosa Line fell sharply away from the grade of the main line. It bottomed out at East 4th Street, then climbed steeply to a crest about 2 blocks farther east just after crossing the Switch at Eastmar---the Connection between the C&NW and the Soo.

There will be more about this later on.

After cresting two blocks east of East 4th Street, the Nekoosa Line fell off in a gradual descent to Hume Avenue. At Hume Avenue the line began a long, hard climb to County Highway ' A ', one the outer southeast edge of Marshfield's City Limits, before taking a long fall and bottoming out at a creek crossed by a 7-bent pile, open deck wooden trestle.

After crossing the creek, the Nekoosa Line went up a sharp, 3/4 mile climb that crossed US Highway 10 near the cresting point; the grade crested about 1/4 of a mile southeast of Highway 10, and immediately fell away in a long descent again.

This is just a short example of the sawtooth profile of the Nekoosa Line; if you follow the line via township roads or County Highways, the Nekoosa Line is always descending or ascending in one direction or the other.

In Arpin, the line bottomed out coming down a long descent just before crossing Arpin's Main Street--County Highway ' N '---and immediately climbing shraply upwards for a mile before cresting again about a mile southeast of Arpin.

When you cross where the Nekoosa Line had been on the west side of Vesper, the Nekoosa Line crosses State Highway 186 at the bottom of a long, shallow climb in both directions. It is far shallower going eastwards in to Vesper. This grade crossed Hemlock Creek flowing through Vesper, cresting just west of where the Soo-C&NW Vesper Depot had stood, then falls away again, bottoming out at the crossing of County Highway HH, then immediately begins climbing to a crest about 1/2 mile farther southeast before dropping away again.

When the Nekoosa Line reached Westrap, the Junction Switch where the Soo swung off the C&NW, the line is descending another long grade into Wisconsin Rapids --- the grade you could see looking down the tracks at Vesper after the Nekoosa Line climbed and crested the hillock 1/2 mile southeast of County Highway HH.

Operating the Nekoosa Line in the Steam Era was a "Throttle n' Brakes" operation--- throttle wide open on one side of these grades, shut off and nursing the train with the air on the other side.

When it got to diesels, the Modus Operandi didn't change until the trains got longer. Then, with train lengths of 80 cars or more, a sharp engineer would allow the train weight and forward momentum to push the engines over the top of each crest, only to have the engines working hard on the DESCENDING side of the grade, trying to get their train over the rise.

On the Nekoosa Line, it wasn't unusual to have a long train strung over two crests and half pushing and the other half pulling backwards. I've always been amazed the Soo and the C&NW didn't pull more drawbars or break more knuckles than they did----either occurrence was quite RARE on the Nekoosa Line.

Wisconsin Central's --- and later, Soo Line's --- operation of the Nekoosa Line was quite simple. The Nekoosa Line train was also the same train that worked the Greenwood Line. The engine, caboose and crew homed at Greenwood. They went to work about 7 a.m. each day in Greenwood, did whatever work there was to do in Greenwood, coupled the cars they may have to their Combine, then left for Loyal, Spokeville, Veefkind, Mohle and Marshfield, arriving in Marshfield around 10-11 a.m.

The train would spot their Combine or RPO-Coach next to the Marshfield Depot on what became the Coach Track----which once ran up to the east end of the Depot before being truncated farther east and having a wooden ramp built on the stubbed end.

The train would pick up their Nekoosa Line cars, put their train back together, and head off towards Wisconsin Rapids, Port Edwards and Nekoosa around Noon-1 p.m. The train would be back in Marshfield around 3-4 p.m., reswitch the Greenwood Line cars into their train, leave the cars coming back from the Nekoosa Line, and toddle off towards Greenwood, doing local work on their way back to Greenwood. The train would tie up and the crew would bed down their engine about 12 hours after going on duty.

The Soo Line (and the C&NW) didn't sport a lot of Local Business in Wisconsin Rapids. There were a couple of Oil Dealers, a Coal Dealer and a Lumber Yard; Soo Line also had the "Hole Track", which came off the Nekoosa Line at High Street and curved away and ran three blocks into Consolidated Water Power and Paper's Mill Complex, providing Soo with access to the Mill, but Consolidated was serviced also by C&NW, Milwaukee Road (from the south on a long spur) and the GB&W --- which shared it's mill entry with the C&NW. C&NW got in to the Mill on a track that split off the C&NW line to Marshfield immediately after crossing the Soo's spur to the Mill at High Street. The C&NW connection ran 3 blocks north alongside the Milwaukee Road until just before the Milwaukee crossed the GB&W. C&NW made their deliveries to the GB&W on this connection track; GB&W accessed it from their connection on the eastern side of the crossing with the Milwaukee Road.

Soo Line and C&NW entered Wisconsin Rapids from the direct Northeast. Soo and C&NW both had two-track yards here; the Soo also had a scale track and track scale. Soo Line and the C&NW both crossed the GB&W and swung wide of the Milwaukee Road. Originally, the Soo and C&NW Depots were two blocks farther east of where today's WC/CN cross Grand Avenue in Wisconsin Rapids. It is obliterated by State Highway 34 today.

Soo Line connected to the GB&W north of their crossing with the GB&W and south of that crossing, creating a Wye between the two roads with the GB&W main line to Winona dissecting through the center. I'd imagine one leg was cars going to the GB&W, and the other leg was cars going to the Soo Line.

From everything I can gather, Soo, C&NW and Milwaukee serviced the Mill directly on different days. Soo went in on the Hole Track twice a week. From research, GB&W got the Switching Contract with Consolidated rather early, which left the other three railroads sharing what work there was at the mill. When it wasn't a specified railroad's day to work at the Mill, they delivered their cars to the GB&W.

C&NW and Soo swung back alongside the Milwaukee Road at about Chase Street, about six blocks south of Grand Avenue. Soo went off straight towards Port Edwards alongside the Milwaukee Road, but C&NW swung slightly east to N.E. Junction. Here, the C&NW had a wye and an Interlocking Tower; one leg of the Wye crossed both the Soo and the Milwaukee, and this track followed alongside the west side of the Milwaukee to service the E.W. Ellis Lumber Company (a portion of this spur remains in use in Rapids today).

C&NW's line to Port Edwards and Nekoosa swung back alongside the Soo 5 blocks farther south of N.E. Junction, putting the Soo in the center of the 3 roads that serviced Port Edwards and Nekoosa; from right to left, looking north, Milwaukee Road, Soo Line and C&NW.

All three railroads in Rapids crossing West Grand Avenue had their Stations located on Grand. Milwaukee Road had a classic wooden facility once located on the east side of their tracks north of Grand Avenue. Soo was located on the South Side of Grand Avenue in a simple yet stately-looking brick structure. The name "GRAND RAPIDS" was cast in stone and set on each end and over the Operator's bay window. Metal station signs later were placed over the ends, covering up the GRAND RAPIDS cast in stone on each end. It remained unhidden over the bay windows.

C&NW once had a classic, turreted, wide-canopied wooden depot worthy of note, also on the North Side of Grand Avenue and on the east side of it's trackage. C&NW also sported a two-stall enginehouse in Wisconsin Rapids, and had three tracks crossing Grand Avenue. Their Freight House sat directly across from their classic depot.

C&NW, Milwaukee Road, and the GB&W always had more local business than the Soo Line did. GB&W, C&NW, and the Milwaukee Road all had switch jobs assigned to Wisconsin Rapids. C&NW ended theirs during the Depression, trying to send a local to work Wisconsin Rapids on an over-one-day-and-back-the-next schedule from Fond du Lac. Milwaukee's Switch Job also doubled as their "Patrol" (locals were called Patrols on the Milwaukee) to Port Edwards and Nekoosa, an arrangement that didn't change until the Milwaukee entered bankruptcy in 1977. GB&W sported two switch jobs in Wisconsin Rapids, one which worked the Mill exclusively and one to do local switching work, including building pick ups by GB&W Freights and taking apart the set outs, and building the local to Plover and, later, the Switch Job to Biron.

Soo Line seemed content to run their Greenwood-Nekoosa local, although they did fight for --- and got --- ever increasing traffic off the branch.

Yes, Wisconsin Rapids was a busy place.


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