The Nekoosa Line
Marshfield to Nekoosa, Wisconsin

by Keith Meacham
Part Five

Locomotives used on the Nekoosa Line going back to the Steam Era were mostly small engines. Prior to, and some after WWI, WC, Soo and C&NW used the trusty 4-4-0 American to haul their trains. Soo Class C-4 and 5's were common, along with Ex-WC Class C-20 - C-25 4-4-0's made their appearances on the Nekoosa Line.

4-6-0 Ten Wheelers were most common for both railroads operating on the Nekoosa Line, Soo's Ex-WC E-21 to E-25's and C&NW's infamous Class R-1's. Soo's ex-WC Class D-20 2-6-0 Moguls found their way to operating on the Nekoosa Line, both as WC engines and later as Soo engines.

C&NW used their spiffy Class D 4-4-2 Atlantics on the Marshfield-Fond du Lac Passenger trains. C&NW passenger trains also drew Class R-1 10 wheelers.

As traffic grew on the Nekoosa Line, larger engines were necessarily used to haul it. C&NW used Class Z 2-8-0 ("Zulu's") Consolidations on Marshfield-Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield-Fond du Lac Freight Trains. The C&NW Class Z was not the best example of a 2-8-0 ever built; they were hard to fire, rode rough, and suffered from a poor firebox design that left the engine with a Crownsheet mounted too high, which made if difficult and necessary to keep the crown sheet covered, lest ye have a boiler explosion--- which happened a number of times to the Class Z's, including once on the Nekoosa Line south of Vesper!

Soo Line used a member of practically each class of 2-8-0's on the Nekoosa Line it had, from the teakettle-ish F-1's all the way to the F-23's. F-9's, F-11's, F-12's, F-20's, F-22's and F-23's were the more "normal" power for # 26 and 27 from the 1930's onwards.

C&NW never used anything larger than their Class Z 2-8-0's on the Nekoosa Line and to Fond du Lac, but, after WWII, Soo Line tried using their Class L-1, Class L-2 and Class L-20 2-8-2 Mikado types on the Nekoosa Line, with somewhat mixed results. Although Soo's Mikado types rank among some of the lightest of the wheel arrangement built, they were a tad too heavy for the Nekoosa Line, and left a trail of spread and broken rails, along with numerous derailments, in their wake to mark their passage.

C&NW tried using Gas-Electric motor cars for the Marshfield-Fond du Lac line passenger trains a number of times over the years, getting spelled when needed but an R-1 10 Wheeler or Class D Atlantic. Gas Electric service was wound up using stream-styled 9915 on the Marshfield-Fond du Lac line passenger trains, but I believe a Class R-1 or a Class D Atlantic pulled the last passenger train between Marshfield and Fond du Lac.

Philosophy on motive power changed on the Nekoosa Line with the coming of the Diesel. Fairbanks-Morse, Alco, Baldwin, and, of course, EMD, wares all graced the rails between Marshfield and Nekoosa.

C&NW seemed to have no malice of forethought in what kind of diesel they used---so long as it was light in the toes. As such, Fairbanks-Morse H-16-66 Road Switchers in all body styles---Raymond Lowey's first versions of it to the Baby Trainmaster configuration---were regular players up to 1973 when F-M power was withdrawn from Central Wisconsin and sequestered to Green Bay and points north. Baldwin DRS-6-6-1500 roadswitchers made regular appearances on the Nekoosa Line, both before the C&NW sent them off to EMD in La Grange Illinois to be repowered and after. C&NW's Hermaphrodite Baldwin DR-6-2-1000 "Babyface" cab unit, 5000A, was a regular feature on the Marshfield-Fond du Lac passenger trains. EMD F7's made regular appearances, as did GP7's, GP9's, GP30's, GP35's and C&NW's lighter versions of the SD7 and SD9. Although I have no photographic evidence of it, I have been told the C&NW used Alco RS3's and RSD4 and RSD5 diesel locomotives between Fond du Lac and Marshfield. It is recorded on film that C&NW's rare Alco FA2 and FB2 cab units worked over the Nekoosa Line, and Railfan rumors claim that the Alco C425's made runs between Fond du Lac and Marshfield when new before going west to Huron, SD. It is claimed that the C&NW's short-lived RS27's waddled over the Nekoosa Line, and that the C&NW's only Alco RS36, 405, operated between Fond du Lac and Marshfield as well.

From the time I moved to Marshfield until C&NW abandoned everything in 1982, I did get to see the F -M's, GP7's, GP9's, TONS of GP30's, and repowered Baldwin everything the C&NW owned, including the ex- M-K-T repowered Baldwin AS16's. In fact, the ex-Katy Baldwins originally made their appearance on the Fond du Lac train, one of them coupled with an early styled F-M H-16-66.

The Soo Line was much more mundane compared to the C&NW. Very early, Soo Line used their RSC2 and RSC3 diesel units on the Nekoosa Line. Supposedly, RS1's got the call to work on the Nekoosa Line local, but I have doubts about that. Paired Alco FA1 and EMD F Units worked the Nekoosa Line local in the 1950's, and Alco FA1-EMD F combinations made regular appearances on the Nekoosa Line.

Doubled cab units being used on the Nekoosa Line, while not altogether rare in the 1950's, was more of the exception than the rule for the Soo. Part of that was the somewhat backward reasoning the Soo was still applying Steam Locomotive philosophy to diesels, the other was that the trains on the Nekoosa Line simply didn't warrant the use of two diesels together at that time. You were more likely to see a single GP7 or GP9 toddling along between Marshfield and Nekoosa with the Nekoosa Line's 40-50 car train in the 1954-1960 time period. Even throughout the 1960's, the Nekoosa Line local was still drawing but a single unit on some occasions.

Soo's single SD9, 2381, made numerous trips over the Nekoosa Line doing what it did best: Making mouths drop open with it's uncanny ability to pull just about everything put behind it. 2381 was best known for her stints on the Nekoosa Line in the 1960's when the Soo's business on the line began to blossom. 2381 came home to Marshfield one night from Nekoosa with 102 cars in tow all by herself. She broke no speed records, was grinding along at 4-7 mph, drawing 600 amps, but she kept coming.

Of course, I can't pass up the opportunity to make mention of the use of Alco RSC3 2380 on the Nekoosa Line. It, too, did what it did best when it was used on the Nekoosa Line: Stalled and earned the crew extra pay for stalling AND dying before reaching Marshfield when their hours of service were up before they could make it back to Marshfield.

As I recall the Soo's Nekoosa Line trains, EMD F units were the normal power for the train. In fact, while the Soo was making F-GP combinations regular fare on other locals, and these combinations did get used on the Nekoosa Line from time to time, the most regular assigned motive power on the Nekoosa Line was paired Funit A units, and they lasted like this far longer on the Nekoosa Line than anywhere else. Soo F3A 2200A was a regular on # 26 and 27 in the early 1970's, often paired with any of her roster mates. I did get to see 2200A and 2200B working together on 26 and 27 once. Paired GP9's became common after the F's were purged from the Soo roster, along with GP30's, GP35's, GP40's and the GP38-2's.

The use of more than two units to power # 26 and 27 was rare, indeed, although it did happen, and on three occasions I was witness to seeing consists of more than two locomotives traversing the Nekoosa Line.

The first occasion was around 1973 on a Saturday. Dad and I were headed for Neenah and Cass' Hobby Shop. We got stopped at East 4th Street by the eastbound # 26 headed for Wisconsin Rapids, and the power consist that day was F3A-GP9-F7B-F7A. I believe the 2200A was leading, followed by 409, 502C and 2229A. It wasn't until the winter of 1983-1984 that I saw more than two units on # 26 again. Business was up that winter, because Soo had the Coal Hauling contract at that particular point in the year for Consolidated Papers, so # 26 became lousy with loads of western coal, bulging their size. The coal had more priority than anything else, so, very suddenly, because of the wintertime restrictions on train size, the Yard in Marshfield became overloaded. Also very suddenly, everything cooling it's heels in Marshfield destined for the Nekoosa Line HAD to get going, so, in a move I never expected to see, Soo Line threw up their hands and assigned THREE GP38-2's to # 26 and ran the train over 125 cars every day to get the Yard cleaned out and everyone's cars to their respective consignees.

That this was done in temperatures of -20 below zero was itself exceptional, but I shall NEVER forget the STEAM clouds rolling up from under the engines from the HOT traction motors, as these three units struggled backing # 26 up the main line past the Soo Depot in Marshfield.

Later on that same Winter, Soo assigned a FOUR unit consist of GP9's to # 26, reducing it later to three units. That was the "Last Great Gasp" on the Nekoosa Line; thereafter, on the eve of acquisition of the Milwaukee Road, # 26 began getting shorter and shorter. C&NW won the contract to haul coal to Wisconsin Rapids exclusively in 1984, so the four months of handling coal for Consolidated Papers came to an inglorious end.

The last run of # 26 occurred on March of 1985. The final train consisted of a GP30-GP9 and three gon loads of Pulpwood.

I personally prefer to remember Nekoosa Line train on the Soo in charge of a pair of time-worn EMD F units.


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