The Nekoosa Line
Marshfield to Nekoosa, Wisconsin

by Keith Meacham
Part Three

Port Edwards and Nekoosa didn't represent much switching work for the Soo, Milwaukee Road or the C&NW. NEPCo. had their own Switching Railroad here that ran between Port Edwards and Nekoosa, and south of Port Edwards, there were FOUR sets of tracks heading to Nekoosa: NEPCo.'s Railroad, C&NW, Soo Line and Milwaukee.

Port Edwards was home for the NEPCo. railroad, with a three-stall brick enginehouse standing across the street from the mill. Most shop work was done here; I cannot tell you if NEPCo. owned Steam Locomotives or not.

Originally, like in Wisconsin Rapids, Soo and C&NW swung wide of the Milwaukee Road to the east once they broached Paper Mill property, Soo and C&NW crossing the leads to the original paper mill yard tracks. Milwaukee's connection into the Port Edwards NEPCo. mill yard crossed the Soo Nekoosa Main; Soo's connection fed off the Nekoosa Line to the southeast and formed a wye with the Milwaukee connecting track and the Soo crossing the Milwaukee.

C&NW went wider, ending up one full city block farther east than the Soo or the Milwaukee, crossing the Soo-Milwaukee connecting track at the throat of the switches for the yard tracks.

All three companies had stations in Port Edwards within SPITTING distance of one another, and ALL were painted WHITE by edict of NEPCo. Why? Well, let's just state that, at one time, Port Edwards was the epitome of the Ultimate Company Town, and was a sterile looking place at one time. For whatever reason, NEPCo. decreed that everything look the same, no color allowed, and this extended to the Railroad Depots.

It rather reminds one of Fairy Tales telling the story of a village where the local powers that be controlled EVERYTHING. Well, Port Edwards was once just like that, and still shows signs of that past today.

C&NW let their N.E. Junction-Nekoosa trackage go to hell in a hand basket early. Derailments were, unfortunately, common, starting in the 1930's already, not long after C&NW took off the Port and Nekoosa Section Crews and appended all the work to the Wisconsin Rapids section crew.

C&NW also closed their Port Edwards depot by 1937, and demolished it by 1940.

Soo's Agency hung on in to the '60's before it was closed and the Depot demolished. Milwaukee had an Agent in Port Edwards until 1960-something before they, too, closed the depot and shifted the Port Edwards work to the Agent at Nekoosa.

I have no idea when the yard track arrangements in Port Edwards were changed. As I knew them, ca. 1978, each delivering carrier had three tracks of their own, with the Milwaukee delivery tracks east of the C&NW's. Milwaukee's connection to NEPCo. came off and crossed the Soo to access NEPCo.'s yard, also crossing the C&NW to reach their delivery tracks, which were off NEPCo's Nekoosa Main.

You could tell who's yard belonged to who; Soo Line had their time-honored No. 6 Pettibone-Mulliken Star Switch Stands with round Targets; C&NW had their own time-honored Racor Stands with Diamond Targets, and Milwaukee used those distinctive Switch Stands with the big gear at the base and the inverted Arrow targets.

NEPCo's Railroad snuck out of Port Edwards alongside the C&NW. South of where the BASF Wyandotte chemical plant would build, C&NW and NEPCo shared a short wooden trestle over a creek. NEPCo ran on Gantlet trackage over this bridge.

Once the four railroads crossed Highway 54 just southwest of Port Edwards, all four swung south for the three miles in to Nekoosa. To the east of all four railroads rights -of-way, Wyandotte Chemical Corp. built a large Chlorine Converting Plant. I wish I could tell you what year that was. It was sometime in the late 1950's or early 1960's. NEPCo's Railroad did all the in-plant switching work at Wyandotte for Soo, C&NW and Milwaukee Road. Cars destined for Wyandotte would be set out at the NEPCo delivery yards in Port Edwards and forwarded by NEPCo's railroad to the Plant.

Under Georgia Pacific, this switching arrangement was given up, and Canadian National and Union Pacific both switch what is now Vulcan Chemical.

"Chlorine Converting Plant?" Yes, chlorine is converted at the Port Edwards facility, along with Potash, to produce a wide variety of Chemicals, a majority of which have nothing to do with papermaking. Using a process involving Electrolysis, chlorine and potash are turned electronically-chemically in to something else, as well as mixing chlorine and potash and electrically changing them into to something else.

Soo Line got a lot of business inbound and outbound from the Wyandotte plant in Port Edwards---and didn't have to do any switching! This plant was the receiver for hundreds of olive-green, 24' 10,000 gallon tank cars, as well as any sized chemical tank car used by successor BASF Wyandotte. # 26 would have up to 15 of those short-shorty tank cars in their train, coming to this plant just outside of Port Edwards, along with Soo 34' Covered Hoppers hauling potash, and the normal CN and CP Rail Cylindrical Covered Hopper Cars carrying potash in from Canada.

All four lines trailed in to Nekoosa, with NEPCo's railroad giving rights on all 3 of the larger carrier's lines. Soo and C&NW all terminated right atop the sidewalk on Nekoosa's main Street, and all three had small depots here. Unlike Port Edwards, where "There Shalt Be No Color Allowed" reigned, in Nekoosa the Depots were painted their owner's traditional depot Colors. C&NW's was Dark Red, Soo's was Light Yellow and Red, but Milwaukee chose White --- perhaps they were still trying to "Kiss Up" to NEPCo. All were three room depots---a small freight room, Operator's Office and waiting room.

Milwaukee Road had a Loop in Nekoosa, like Fox Lake and Beaver Dam also had. It was used by the passenger trains to keep Nekoosa in the "loop" for long-distance passenger traffic, and Milwaukee's NORTHWOODS HIAWATHA called at Nekoosa twice daily, 7 days a week.

Milwaukee's Nekoosa Agent hung on until 1970-something, well into the final bankruptcy. C&NW's Agent held on to 1970. Soo pulled off their Agency in Nekoosa around 1965.

North of all three Depots is NEPCo.'s Pulpwood Yard, and their coal pile for incoming coal, along with trackage for effecting interchange between the Paper Mill Railroad and the three class-1 carriers. Like Port Edwards, Nekoosa was a set out and pick up with no work outside of exchanging cars with the Paper Mill road.

When Dad relieved at Nekoosa in the early 1950's, the Nekoosa Line train would pull up alongside the Soo Depot and tie up for lunch in Nekoosa, as did the C&NW.

It was during this time that the 2442, the preserved Soo/WC 2-8-0 standing in Marshfield, Wis. on permanent display, was assigned to the Nekoosa Line local. Dad got to ride on 2442's pilot footboard at the invitation of the crew as he headed out to do the yard check.

Returning back to the late 1920's-to 1940's time period, recall I made the statement that the Soo was fighting for and getting more traffic off the Nekoosa Line. The Nekoosa Line was a part of the reason the Soo Line built the New Yard in Marshfield, located down behind the Roddis Veneer and Lumber Company (Weyerhaeuser). Another reason was growing traffic coming out of Marshfield; another was trying to use Marshfield to set out cars destined for other points west, like, cars coming from the Twin Cities going up on the Ashland Line, for example. It made little sense to haul it to Stevens Point, and back through Marshfield again. Plus, Stevens Point didn't have the capacity.

Another reason was the "Yard" in Marshfield had little capacity for everything coming here, and it was shoe-horned in, in a three block area with a bust grade crossing at each end. Most likely, the City of Marshfield also had a hand in "helping" the Soo Line decide to construct the New Yard as well.

So, in the depths of the Great Depression, Soo Line (actually Wisconsin Central in receivership at the time) spent the money to build a 5-track, 300+ car capacity yard. The location of this yard effected the Nekoosa Line trains, even though, after buying the PECAN/M&S-E, the Soo installed a Wye track running from what became the New Yard Yard Lead, around the western perimeter of Roddis Lumber and Veneer, to connect with the Nekoosa Line.

As far as I can determine, this Wye was not used very much for arrivals and depatures of Nekoosa Line Trains, if it was ever used for that at all. It seems that, after Soo and C&NW reached agreements with each other in hostling and servicing each other's power in their respective Roundhouses (In Rhinelander, Soo hostled and serviced C&NW's engines; the Marshfield arrangement was part of that agreement had C&NW servicing Soo's engines) and the Wye was used for getting the Yard Engine over on to the Nekoosa Line to use the Palmetto Avenue Connecting track to get on the C&NW and go to their Roundhouse.

This leg of the Soo Wye was also used for spotting inbound carloads of Saw Logs destined for Roddis, and old photographs of the place often show flat cars or gondola cars standing on it, most likely from bringing in logs.

Instead, Soo Line began building the Nekoosa Line Train out on the Chicago-Twin Cities Main Line, then backing it up across all the streets that crossed the main line and siding, and leaving the train aired up and ready to go, west of Chestnut Avenue. In the early days, from 1936 in to the mid 1950's, this wasn't a problem, since # 26 was seldomly over 50-60 cars long, if that.

But did this cause problems later on when trains got longer, and in more ways than one.


Hit Counter

The content on this page was collected and/or created by Keith Meacham, and he retains the copyright.
All photographs are from the collection of Keith Meacham.
All rights reserved.
Created on December 24, 2005.
Last changed on December 24, 2005.

NOTE: In an effort to thwart the work of those automated "spiders" that roam
the internet harvesting e-mail addresses, to which their masters later direct mass
quantities of Spam, I have inserted the words "AT" and "DOT" in the link below.
When using the link below to contact the WebMaster, please replace those words
with the equivalent symbol, and remove any spaces, before sending the message.
It won't work unless you do. Hopefully your e-mail proggie will alert you.

Contact the WebMaster

Index to more Meacham drivel
Visit Ron's Rec Room