The Wisconsin Valley Railroad
Tomah to Heafford Junction, Wisconsin
SooLineHistory Group Index and Map Part 1 Part 2
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A favorite Milwaukee Road topic of mine, or, as Alf made comment on the phone to me oncet, "No kidding?"

The Valley was the Milwaukee Road to me. My first exposure to the Milwaukee Road was the Valley Line. When I think of Milwaukee Road, I immediately think of the Valley.

The Valley was interesting railroading, in that the Milwaukee serviced no less than SEVEN (7) Paper Mills, directly or indirectly, along it's route. Count 'em:

     Tomahawk (via Marinette, Tomahawk & Western)

     Brokaw (in-plant switching RR; Milwaukee serviced the south end where the loading docks were, directly)


     Rothschild (via in-plant switching RR)

     Mosinee (in-plant Switching RR)

     Wisconsin Rapids (directly & through GB&W)

     Port Edwards (via NEPCo's own RR)

     Nekoosa (Via NEPCo's own RR)

T'was an interesting piece of Railroad, one that, in my addled mind, more embraces my mental image of the Milwaukee Road moreso than Bi Polars, Little Joes and Box Cabs, but only because it was close to home. Don't get me wrong; I still have a deep love for Lines West, but my affinity for the Valley and the images it conjours up remain far stronger.

The Valley hosted notables for motive power. In steam, Class L-1a Mikado types handled the Milwaukee-Wausau Freights, Class C 2-8-0's of all the sub classes pitched in at one time or another and did the local work, spiffy 0-6-0's did yard chores where applicable. Two ancient 10-wheeler types (renumbered # 10 & # 11 for their NORTHWOODS HIAWATHA stint) were disguised in HIAWATHA shrouding and given the duties of forwarding the NORTHWOODS HIAWATHA from Star Lake, Wis., to New Lisbon and return. They were spelled by 4-6-2, older, unshrouded Atlantics of the A-1 through A-3 classes and slightly newer 10-wheeler types when needed.

In dieseldom, the Valley shined, hosting Alco RSC2 roadswitchers, doing all manner of work, from switching duties to hauling the NORTHWOODS HIAWATHA. The RSC2 model dieselized the Valley; later on, armies of EMD F Units provided the power for the Milwaukee-Wausau freights. I'm not certain when the Milwaukee's Alco RSD5 roadswitchers began working the breadth of the Valley. By the time I stumbled upon it, at least one RSD5 was somewhere on the Valley, usually paired with an F and used on the Tomahawk Patrol, the job that did all the north end work from Wausau to Tomahawk, or as far north as needed.

The Valley wasn't completely all-Alco. Milwaukee's plethora of EMD GP9's invaded it early and often; it was rare, right up to the Soo Line acquiring what was left of the Milwaukee, to not see a GP9 working somewhere on the Valley, either as a yard engine in Wisconsin Rapids or as part of the consist for the Milwaukee-Wausau road freights. SD7's & SD9's visited often, though they were hardly "normal" power. EMD Switchers handled other chores, SW1 and NW2 types being the most common.

Joe Stauber's shot of GP9 # 228 at New Lisbon

Alco power, though, dominated. When Milwaukee Road stole the ARR Type ' B ' road trucks out from under their RS3 models for use on their then-a-building GP30's, the resultant RS3 was given the switcher trucks off the Milwaukee's being-traded-in Alco S2 Switcher types. These RS3's served as Switch Engines on the Valley. Weird looking things, wearing Alco Blunt switcher trucks, derated to 1200 hp., but agile enough to handle anything thrown at them. One of these animals was a former RSC2, numbered as I remember her as # 468. Why Milwaukee chose to retruck that animal I never understood.

RS3 # 468 at New Lisbon

Coupled with the duct work Milwaukee added from the roof top radiator fan to the generator compartment, 468 was an interesting beast to say the least, also one hard to pin down the lineage on. There were a few RSC2's that were returcked; #490-493, 580 & 581, that I know of. Where # 468 fit in this typical "Milwaukee -Renumbering Mess" I leave to Don Ross. I gave up trying to figger it all out.

I'm also not certain if all the aforementioned RSC2's got Alco Blunt switcher trucks or if some got AAR Type ' B ' road trucks. I've never seen a photo of any of them pre-renumbering.

Not all of the Milwaukee's RS3's got re-trucked. There were a few that remained "un-sullied", but very few. # 465 is one example, shown in the files section. I believe the un-re-trucked RS3's were 465-470.

Rumors have circulated through the "Railfan Grapevine" that F-M's and Baldwin diesels made their way over the Valley at one time ot another, too, but I can find no evidence of it, and our Wetmoc (Stuart Kurth) is no longer with us to confirm or deny that existance.

Later on, as Milwaukee moved to try to simplify things in their motive power department by getting things down to two major builders, the Alco's disappeared, as did the F's, to be replaced with home-rebuilt "GP20's", and brand-new GP38-2's, augmented by whatever was servicable sitting on the service tracks in Milwaukee, GP40's, U23B's, U25B's, U30B's, GP30's or a GP35. Once in a great while one of Milwaukee's home re-built "SD10" types might find it's way up to Wausau. As the MP15AC models began taking over old jobs held by older EMD Switchers, SW9's, SW1200's, and the calf-less TR4A showed up in places like Wisconsin Rapids and Wausau. The Switcher types were augmented by Milwaukee's stable of un-rebuilt, dynamic brake-equipped GP9's.

GP20 # 971 at Wisconsin Rapids

When our Tax Money was used to rehab the Valley from New Lisbon to Wausau in preparation for the opening of the Wisconsin Public Service power plant at Weston in 1980 (Weston 3), MP15AC's were the power handling the ballast trains on the Valley.

The Valley Line started out as the Wisconsin Valley Railroad, headquartered in Tomah, Wisconsin. The original Valley headed northeast out of Tomah, crossing the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha at Valley Junction. From Valley Junction to Babcock was the most lonely, barren stretch of Railroad you could ask for, broken only by the ultra-small commnity of Mather.

The Wisconsin Valley's main purpose was to provide a rail outlet for the burgeoning sawmills located along the Wisconsin River, in places like Nekoosa, Port Edwards, Wisconsin Rapids, Mosinee, Wausau and Merrill.

It's interesting to note that each of these Sawmills later became Paper Mills, with the exception of Merrill.

I can't tell you how fast Construction of the Valley went. I don't have a copy of Ray Specht & John Cline's "Wisconsin Valley Railroad" so I can't quote. I will only say that it seems to me that the WVRR was in Wausau by 1879. Construction started at Tomah in 1872. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that the WVRR crossed the Wisconsin Central at Junction City about 1873 or 1874.

I also cannot remember if the present-day Babcock-New Lisbon line was built by the WVRR or CM&StP.

Northwoods Hiawatha at Babcock

I will intone, however, that the WVRR was very coupled to logging and the wares therefrom. At Mather on the "old Main Line" between Babcock and Tomah, there had been a logging spur that reached out to Progress via Veedum and Tarbox Junction. At Babcock, another logging line stretched out northwards to Dexterville, where the line split. One leg going to Pittsville, the other reaching northwestwards to Romadka's Mill, about mid way between Marshfield and Neillsville. The Pittsville line split just south of Pittsville with a leg going northeastwards to Vesper, and then paralleling the Soo & C&NW to Arpin.

Local Railfan Historians like to point out that the Pittsville Line and the Arpin lines were attempts to build to Marshfield. The Pittsville line in particular, as it was rumored for several years that the WVRR, using George Hiles Lumber Co. as their agent, planned on hooking up with the Marshfield & Texas---the same M&T that waggled past my home here in sunny Marshfield.

There were many little spurs built off the WVRR into the woods along it's route. One notable spur was one that left the Valley at Irma, south of Merrill, and ran into the woods to Gleason, Wis., and northwards to Grundy, where it connected with the one-time eastern extension of the Marinette, Tomahawk & Western RR. The south spur wound it's way equidistant from Brokaw, some 10 miles west on the Valley Main.

Essentially, everything that existed north of Tomahawk was a logging spur. The extreme northward terminus of the Valley was a lonely outpost just over the Wisconsin-Michigan border call "Blue Bill" or "Blue Bell" depending upon your source of information.

CM&StP got Control of the WVRR before 1910, I believe.

And what a Railroad Milwaukee got.

The Valley is relatively flat from Babcock to New Lisbon (and, I may add, Bobcock to Tomah as St. Hwy 173 uses the original WVRR r-o-w from Valley Jct. to Babcock) running in mostly marshland, suitable for breeding mosquito's or Cranberries---take your pick. Once the Valley leaves Babcock, the going gets interesting, climbing to Nekoosa Junction, about a 1/4 mile west of Port Edwards Proper. Nekoosa Jct. is marked by a Wye, and an aging Chemical plant once owned by BASF Wyandotte (Owned today by Vulcan Chemicals). The Milwaukee's wye at Nekoosa Jct. served a purpose; Nekoosa had a full loop track, making it possible for the NORTHWOODS to service Nekoosa without running around the train, and still have the train headed the correct direction when it came back out to the wye at Nekoosa Jct. After Port Edwards, the Valley gives the impression of being flat, but it actually is on a long gradual climb to Wisconsin Rapids.

GP38-2 # 360 at Wisconsin Rapids

Beyond Wisconsin Rapids, the builders of the Wisconsin Valley RR chose to take a more-or-less direct route to Wausau rather than follow the Wisconsin River through Biron and Stevens Point, thereby building across the drainage pattern of the Wisconsin River, a shorter route overall. There were six "summits" between Wisconsin Rapids and Dancy, most of the bottom of the declivities were over small rivers or creeks. Almost immediately the Valley began climbing out of the bottom lands in Wisconsin Rapids to reach a summit about two miles north. From there the r-o-w dropped down to cross a creek, then began climbing again to crest just south of Rudolph. The track hit the bottom of the grade at Rudolph's main thoroughfare, and bagan climbing again to crest about 3 miles north of Rudolph. The track then takes a steep drop to cross over another creek, only to rise alarmingly again two miles farther south. The crest of this grade is about a mile south of Junction City, whereby the track falls away to bottom out about a 1/4 mile from where the Valley crossed the Wisconsin Central.

Junction City actually sits at the start of a long 2-1/2 mile grade for the Valley. It tested the abilities of the locomotives assigned to a northbound passenger or freight train. This grade crested just shy of the approach signal for the crossing in Junction City; for a brief distance there is a flat spot before the track begins falling away to cross County ' O '. The track crests one more grade shy of Dancy before falling down to water level. At Dancy the Valley runs through bottom and swamp land, and skirts over the backwaters of Lake DuBay. Two miles north of Dancy the track makes a gradual descent to cross Lake DuBay at Knowlton. Noth of Knowlton, the track curves northeast away from Lake DuBay to climb another long grade that crests at a point called "Mathy", a quarry operation owned and operated by Mathy Construction Co. Mathy owns American Asphalt located some miles north of this pit operation; much of the material dug out of the ground here is used as filler. Wisconsin Central also used Mathy for Track Ballast, and the rock dug out at Mathy resembled the same rock the Soo Line used that was quarried at Dresser, Wisconsin, over 100 miles farther west on the St. Croix River.

After cresting at Mathy, the track makes a descent to river level, bottoming out alongside the Paper Mill at Mosinee. Coming through Mosinee, the track hangs on the riverbank, below bluffs caused by the river (Mosinee Papers is actually built into the river bluff). >From Mosinee to Weston, the track is essentially riding on the riverbank, although the Wisconsin River is some distance off in places. The track climbs again to crest near Mosinee Cold Storage, about 3 miles north of Mosinee proper. >From Mosinee Cold Storage the track is basically flat to Weston. Beyond Weston, the track falls away again to bottom out about mid way between Weston and Rothschild. From this point to Schofield, the track makes a long gradual climb until it crests at a grade crossing in the Schofield industrial park, about 5 miles. From this grade crossing to the famous Wausau Depot, the track falls downgrade.

Once the track left Rothschild, the railroad was moving away from the Wisconsin River, which it would not come up next to again until the line was north of Wausau.

In addition to the up and down gradiant of the Valley, in most places the track was twisting one way or another to avoid tackling the grade directly.

It remained a battle north of Brokaw all the way to Tomahawk, with the Valley atop the Wisconsin River so closely they were trestling over backwaters, a'la Dancy.

I can only imagine what this railroad was like to operate back in the days of 4-4-0's, 2-6-0's and 4-6-0's. Grades enough, even today, to make the motive power howl in protest. Take a second and imagine an A-B-B-A set of F Units, paired Alco RSD5's or RSC2's, making their happy way from Wisconsin Rapids to Dancy. Ear candy.

The majority of the logging spurs, and the "old Main", Babcock-Tomah, were lifted at the beginning of the great depression. Most all of these small lines were gone before WWII. The line to Star Lake remained until 1948; Fred's book says "1944", but a photo in TRAINS magazine a number of years ago showed an RSC2 leaving Star Lake with the southbound NORTHWOODS. I'll not argue.

Joe Stauber's shot of 61B at New Lisbon

Joe Stauber's shot of 87C at New Lisbon

Joe Stauber's shot of 89C at New Lisbon

Joe Stauber's shot of GP9 # 228 at New Lisbon

What remained was New Lisbon-Woodruff. Logging became passe`, and what remained was Pulpwood and the Passenger, both the NORTHWOODS and the FISHERMAN. The connection with the C&NW at Woodruff didn't net the Milwaukee any great amounts of traffic, mostly Pulpwood destined for the Mills farther south. The connection with the Soo at Heafford Junction was basically the same thing.

Passengers kept the Tomahawk-Woodruff section alive, for, as logging declined, Woodruff-Minoqua-Star Lake-Harshaw became Vacation TRAPS. Is it any wonder that when the NORTHWOODS was cut back to Wausau ca. 1960 (?) that the Heafford Jct.-Woodruff section declined? By 1972, Milwaukee abandoned everything north of Heafford Jct.

The running of what remained of the NORTHWOODS as late as it did kept the Wausau-New Lisbon section in far better shape than Wausau-Tomahawk. However, I must add that, even with having had slightly better maintenance, there were stretches of the lower half of the Valley where the track looked to be running in a mowed lawn: Leaving Necedah northbound, as the Valley curved alongside Highway 80; North of the Mosinee Depot through the curve that straightened the Valley to due north; in front of the Rothschild Depot; Schofield to Yard Limits. No, it wasn't perfect, but trains could still wind up to 35 mph in most places, at least on the south end. The Northern portion of the Valley was a different story altogether, rife with slow orders by 1977, down to 10 mph in too many spots, and railed with mostly 90 lb. iron, and, too often, looking like two rails in a mowed lawn. It was still that way when Dad and I visited Tomahawk in 1979. At that time, the Tomahawk Patrol only went to Heafford Junction "as Needed", i.e., MAYBE once per week. With Milwaukee's decline, much of the Pulpwood and Woodchip traffic Soo Line handed over to the Milwaukee at Heafford Jct. was riding the Soo to Wisconsin Rapids or Junction City, and the Traffic off the Marinette, Tomahawk & Western was going to the Soo at Bradley Junction instead of the Milwaukee in Tomahawk, sand being hauled to Prentice, Wisconsin, and set out there for movement south on Park Falls-Chicago Soo train # 18.

The Valley, really, was Freight Traffic, and, specifically, Paper. Passenger trains overshown the Milwaukee's mainstay of freight with their glitz and glamour. For many years, Milwaukee had the upper hand with the paper traffic coming off the Valley. The only serious competition the Milwaukee had was with the C&NW and the GB&W, and mostly in the Wisconsin Rapids area. Soo Line wasn't an option because of their route from Marshfield, and GB&W didn't have the rate to haul anything but Paper moving off the Railroad, and they, along with the C&NW, gave the Milwaukee a bit of competition for the eastbound finished paper traffic. For many years, GB&W train # 1 filled out tonnage at Wisconsin Rapids with carloads of finished paper headed for the Lake Michigan Carferries at Kewaunee. This traffic began taking the all-rail route through Chicago in ever-larger amounts by 1980.

In Wisconsin, Paper Traffic consisted of a lot of Paper Pulp moving between mills in different locations. A lot of short-haul type of stuff that, 30 years ago, Railroads were willing to put up with.

The traffic mainstay was Paper on the Valley, no question about that, but Milwaukee had other industries on it that required service. In Necedah there is a firm located in Necedah's north edge that had a well-used spur in to it, but I can not tell you what is is they do (did) or what they got in. The rails were always shiny; today that spur is gone. At Nekoosa Junction Milwaukee Road serviced BASF Wyandotte's chemical plant, along with the Soo, C&NW and NEPCo. Nekoosa and Port Edwards were strictly Paper Mill towns with nothing else there. Milwaukee had a neat little white depot on Nekoosa's main street; there was an Agent here in to 1979.

Wisconsin Rapids sported an abundance of Local business that required the Milwaukee Road to keep an Engine there, in addition to requiring the Milwaukee to switch Consolidated Paper's Sulfite Mill's pulpwood tracks and the new power plant (built after 1971). In fact, there was a neat one-stall engine house squirrelled away behind the Milwaukee's Wisconsin Rapids Depot---the SECOND Milwaukee Depot, a three-room, small-ish brick affair with none of the charm the original wooden Milwaukee depot in Rapids had (it still stands today, all but hidden by a substantial tree that got root not long after Milwaukee built this replacement station). It's hard to place much of what the Milwaukee had in Wisconsin Rapids. There have been so many changes since the first time I saw everything there.

GP20 #992 at Wisconsin Rapids

Outside-braced Boxcar at Wisconsin Rapids

Milwaukee had a small three-track yard in Wisconsin Rapids (now reduced to one) which I never knew was there until my Dad took the Agent's job in Rapids during Lake States. There was no "Riverview Expressway" back 30 years ago, so one ever knew this yard was down there. There is a chemical company that still receives carloads from CN that was a Milwaukee customer; the businesses to the west of the Milwaukee tracks crossing Grand Avenue all had spurs, and I remember cars spotted at the various places. All that spur trackage is gone now though the buildings remain.

Joe Stauber's shot of 330 in Wisconsin Rapids

Right behind the Rapids depot is Metcalf Lumber, once a feed mill, and, always it seemed, a good rail customer. It has no spur to it anymore.

Milwaukee crossed the Soo Line, C&NW and Green Bay & Western (in that order going north) north of the Milwaukee's Depot; north of those diamonds, the Milwaukee serviced warehouses, at least two of which were owned by Wisconsin Rapids' biggest employer, Consolidaed Papers. North of that industrial trackage, Milwaukee serviced Consolidated's Power House directly, and also serviced the pulpwood yard of the new Sulfite Mill. This trackage was obliterated by expansion of Consolidated's mill in 198-something, along with rerouting of Highway 34, part of which sits on what had been the Milwaukee r-o-w.

Joe Stauber's shot of 331 in Wisconsin Rapids

Joe Stauber's shot of GP9 # 244 in Wisconsin Rapids

Joe Stauber's shot of GP9 # 279 in Wisconsin Rapids

There was a job assigned to Wisconsin Rapids that did all the local switching in Rapids, Port Edwards and Nekoosa, oftentimes one of those retrucked RS3's, RSC2's, a GP9 or an NW2. I don't recall hearing this job going anywhere but within the Nekoosa-Port Edwards-Wisconsin Rapids switching area.

At Rudolph, Milwaukee once serviced a busy feedmill (no spur to it anymore), got carloads of cheese from the local dairy, and, I believe, had a local lumberyard to service too. The only thing left in Rudolph now is the main track.

Southbound at Junction City

Junction City was an Important interchange connection to the Soo Line. There was also local business here for the Milwaukee, 99% of it Milwaukee's business to handle. In addition to the East & West Wyes (East wye was cars going to the Milwaukee from the Soo; the west wye was cars going to the Soo from the Milwaukee), Milwaukee had Badger Feed Store, which always seemed to have cars spotted next to the building unloading; Morton Lumber Co., always a switch until the drop in new housing starts hit the housing industry in the mid-'70's; and the Junction City Midland Co-op, whose feed mill and gas station were next to the Soo Line along the west wye but who did all their business with the Milwaukee. The Junction City Co-op had a tank farm for LP and Fuel Oil north of Badger Feed Store, where they once got in LP, and unloaded their box cars of feed by hand to a straight truck to truck over to their mill by the Soo Line. There was something that needed a switch almost every day in Junction City besides the interchanges.

I got in to a pissing match with someone else on the Big Milwaukee list about what trains did the work at Junction City, but, from the time Dad had Junction City added on to his Traveling Agency in October 1975, until deep in to the Milwaukee Road's 1977 bankruptcy, the road freights to/from Wausau to/from Milwaukee did the work at Junction City. Many were the times one got stuck for the northbound train leaving JO, battling that grade in addition to starting their train up that grade after having stopped in JO to do their work. Patrols on the Valley were often only one unit (with the exception of the Tomahawk Patrol); these trains oftentimes had upwards of three units on the front and were over 100 cars long.

You had to be in Junction City before 8 a.m. to catch the northbound train. If they were there later than that, something had happened farther along to delay the train. I mind the time Dad and I arrived at JO to catch the Northbound getting ready to leave (we were in our own personal car that day because the Soo Line piece-of-shit company car--a Ford Gran Torino-- had vomited it's timing chain) JO; they had SIX (6) units that day (As I recall, 4 GP38-2's & 2 GP40's, all on-line) and a train that I quit counting at 120 cars (it went on for a long time after that). Those 6 units had all they could do to head north with the train they had, upgrade in half a foot of snow. In fact, there was an appreciable amount of snow piled up on the short hood of the leading unit, testimony the train had run in to some drifts on the way up. The crew, apparently, had had to shovel themselves out of the cab of the lead unit as I recall it.

Alas, JO, by the time it was appended to Dad's Traveling Agency, was but a whisper of itself for local traffic. Badger feed Store got in a total of three cars after 1975 to 1985---nothing at all after 1980. Morton Lumber got nothing and was out of business by 1979. The Junction City Co-op got in something like three cars between 1975 and 1980---none of it Propane.

Soo Line in JO had very, very little local business. Before the Junction City Co-op built their Fertilizer Plant on the Grasshorn Creamery Track off the east wye, an occasional carload of lumber consigned to some guy that had to pay cash to the Soo before he could even THINK of opening the car door, would show up on the Soo at JO, but that was it. Once or twice per year, the Soo would get outbound Petroleum loaded in to tank cars on the Grasshorn track, bound back to the refineries in Chicago for re-refining, about three cars per year.

Interchange between the Soo and the Milwaukee consisted of, chiefly, cars going to the paper mills in Mosinee, Rothschild, Wausau and Brokaw as the cars going to the Milwaukee from the Soo, and mostly empty cars, pulpwood gons, empty UTLX 10,000 gallon tank cars and box car loads of market pulp, going to the Soo from the Milwaukee. Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range pulpwood gons were regularily seen stuck on the west wye at JO waiting for the Soo to pick them up for movement back to Ambridge, Wis. They hadn't come down loaded on the Soo Line, but they got the empties back.

The empty 10,000 gallon Tank Cars had gone to the Weyerhaeuser Paper Mill in Rothschild, loaded with Fuel Oil. If I'm not mistaken, the Rothschild mill, and the Mill at Brokaw, are the only two that USED to use fuel oil for firing their boilers. I believe both are now natural gas today.

Empty Tank Cars were headed back to Roseport, MN., and the Koch Oil Refining company located there.

In addition, Soo handled a lot of carload bulk cement to the Milwaukee at JO, used, I later found out, by Wausaw (correct spelling) Concrete Products, makers of Concrete items, the main item of which is Concrete drain pipe in several diameters. It wasn't unusual for the Soo to set out up to 20 cars of Cement for the Milwaukee at JO.

There were carloads of California Wines that came in for the Milwaukee via the Soo, destined for some liquor distributor in Wausau in addition to kaolin clay, quick lime, lime, Pulpwood, wood chips and Corn Starch, all of which were destined for the mills the Milwaukee serviced from Mosinee northwards to Brokaw.

Today, there are THREE legs of wyes here, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest. The old West Wye remains partly in place, in pieces, but it is unconnected to anything anymore. Badger Feed Store became Fliss Feeds, but the spur to it is long gone. The Junction City Co-op is half closed, and the area north of Badger Feed Store/Fliss Feeds where the Co-op tank farm was (yes, WAS) is occupied by a retirement complex now. Only the Co-op fertz plant remains, with it's spur, but it hasn't been used at all in at least 5 years.

There wasn't much at Dancy or Knowlton. Dancy's "Depot" remained in to 1979, along with a stub-ended spur where there was some pulpwood loading done, but Dancy was really nothing. Knowlton harbored Mullin's Cheese, and their Lake DuBay-sided plant still stands, although no longer used for cheese making. Mullin's has a bigger plant in Knowlton itself. As late as 1973, Milwaukee was still getting carload cheese off the old cheese factory spur. It fizzled after that. I think some of the last carloads loaded there were trucked over 2 miles from Mullin's other factory.

You can still see where the spur ran in alongside the old building, but it was lifted a long time ago, before 1980.

Knowlton retains fleeting fame of the old Milwaukee Road bridge crossing Lake DuBay/the Wisconsin River. Added to the east side of the bridge was a wooden, one lane roadway annex. This no longer exists, thankfully. It was a different experience to cross the wooden bridge portion designated for auto traffic. There were warning signs on each end of the bridge warning "DO NOT CROSS WITH TRAIN ON BRIDGE". That didn't stop too many people, but, the wooden portion never fell off into Lake DuBay, either.

The Knowlton bridge also acted to keep pulp loads in order on the cars, and sticks sticking out too far off the carside would be rudely and unceremoniously clipped off by the bridge. There was always a mound of beaten and chewed up pulp logs laying on either side of the track at either end of the bridge.

As far as I can discern, the quarry at Mathy never did any business with the Milwaukee Road. The spur in there now was installed by Wisconsin Central Ltd., or so I would be led to believe.

Mosinee Paper's Switcher

In addition to Mosinee Papers, Mosinee sported a Feed Mill (Mosinee Farmers Co-op) that was a good Milwaukee Customer at one time; the "West Side Market" at the southern end of Mosinee's small two track yard that once received carload produce; Al Swiderski Implement, who got in brand new New Holland implements and Ford Tractors, and box car loads of parts, plus there had been two gas stations that had needed the Milwaukee to deliver tank car loads of gas to them. Mosinee Builders Supply used to get inbound lumber, which they unloaded through Al Swiderski's metal warehouse next to the house track north of Mosinee's classic brick and stucco depot.

Mosinee Station

I never knew Mosinee had a two-track yard until the Wisconsin Central pulled it all up out of the weeds and mud! All the years of traveling to Pope's Hobbyland in Wausau took us past the backside of Mosinee's Depot, I do not recall Milwaukee EVER using the yard at Mosinee for anything, so it was a surprise to see trackage here!

RSD5 571 at Mosinee

Mosinee's Agent remained until 1977; the classic depot came down very shortly after. Today, the old Feed Mill is gone (removed not long after the Depot was eradicated), West Side Market no longer operates although their building still stands. The Mosinee house track, that serviced Al Swiderski's ramp and metal warehouse is long gone, as are the two little gas stations to the north.

However, A&W Cold Storage built a transloading facility at the southern end of the yard and gets in 1-3 cars of cheese per week. There was a stone unloading area along the westernmost yard track where large limestone boulders were being unloaded, and taken to a crusher, but this business has since vanished with the ascention of Canadian National to the area.

In kind like the Milwaukee, trains today only perform interchange with the Mosinee Papers switcher. Milwaukee used to go right up in to the Paper Mill yard on paper mill property, but, since the days of the WC, CN makes a point to stay as far off of plant trackage as far they can, sometimes holding on to 20 or more cars to avoid the engines treading on Paper Mill trackage.

About two miles north of Mosinee was what had been a large cheese factory, today's Mosinee Cold Storage. They had a spur that would only fit two of Milwaukee's 57' mechanical reefers. They used to load out about two cars of cheese per week. This traffic came to and end just as Soo Line became the unlikely owner of the moribund Milwaukee property. Although the dock doors are still there, WC pulled up the spur in 1995.

That brings us to Weston, originally just sawgrass and weeds until Wisconsin Public Service built what is now known as "Weston 1 and 2" here alongside the Wisconsin River. I'm not at all certain what year this Power Plant came in to existance, but it seems to me it was after the Korean War, sometime between 1955 and 1959. This plant accounted for some 20 carloads of coal per day from the Milwaukee Road, most of it, originally, High Sulfer coal mined in Pennsylvania and Southern Illinois. There was always a sea of NYC, PRR and IC open hopper cars there, but you had to drive in quite a ways to see any of it if the plant switcher hadn't pushed empties out to the end of the spur. Weston 1 & 2 sit about a 1/4 mile west of the old Highway 51. Milwaukee switched Weston 1 & 2 as often as they needed it, including stopping a southbound Milwaukee-bound train to go in and fetch empties or have the Northbound stop and set out loads. This, in addition to the Mosinee Patrol that scuttered south each day to switch Mosinee Papers.

Mosinee Patrol at Weston

The power plant switcher was an #FF7F00, center-cab Plymouth or Davenport beast of around 65 tons. It was THE plant switcher until the construction of Weston 3 and the rotary dumping operation came in to fore. Alas, the little engine was destroyed by some ignorant operator that tried moving far more tonnage than this little engine was capable of moving. She went off to scrap around 1981.

Coal empties at Weston (Dan Kwarciany photo)

After WPS built Weston 1 & 2, the area has blossomed. Wausau Homes (a pre-fab house builder) built their fabrication plant just across from the switch in to Weston 1 & 2. I'm not certain what year Wausau Homes came on-line along the Valley, but they were a good Milwauke Customer (and have remained so for CN today), being a daily switch.

Just north of today's US Highway 51/Interstate 39 crossing of both Old 51 and the Valley, stands a plant of Foremost Farms. Originally, this was a cheese factory, but Foremost's biggest item is separating milk from it's proteins and reusing the proteins elsewhere. I recall #FF7F00 Milwaukee Road 57' mechanical reefers loading on the spur that used to run in alongside the north side of this building, but that is 30 years ago. I believe all that is done at the Foremost Weston Plant now is separation of Proteins. They may even dry and bag whey powder here, but I really can't say.

Weston in 2005

You would never believe how this area around the Power Plant, Wausau Homes and Foremost has grown up today. WPS is adding another generator set to the complex, to become Weston 4. This will amount to a unit coal train per day to Weston instead of the every-other day operations now.

About three miles farther north is Rothschild. The only game in Rothschild is the former Marathon Mills/Marathon Paper Corp./Weyerhaeuser Paper Mill. This was always an interesting place. Built, originally, as a sawmill, it morfed into a Paper Mill, specializing in Enameled Printing Papers. Weyerhaeuser got hold of it in 1969. Not long after buying this mill, Weyerhaeuser decided, for whatever reason, to make the Sulfite Mill with it's recovery operation somewhat separate from the Mill itself. American Can, a Japanese firm no one can remember the name of, Reed-Lignin, and today's Lignotech, have operated the Pulping processes and recovery operations here instead of Weyerhaeuser.

Rothschild Station

The Milwaukee's neat Rothschild Depot sat right next to the paper mill's driveway where log trucks and other assorted truck traffic entered and exited. The Agent was on duty here in to 1977. The Village of Rothschild and the State of Wisconsin envigled the Milwaukee to get rid of the Agent and Depot here in order to widen the road with a long turn lane for the truck traffic detsined for the mill.

Rothschild's paper mill is spread out north to south along the Valley, an interesting mix of older and newer construction buildings, from brick to metal. It is worked by an in-plant railroad, powered by an SW600 bought new by Marathon Papers. This mill was always terrific business for the Milwaukee until the Milwaukee's bankruptcy in 1977. Up until about two years ago, lots of Pulpwood came here. Going farther back, on the back side of the southern end of the mill complex, there USED to be a mountain of Wood Chips, and you'd see Wood Chip cars, Soo, Milwaukee and C&NW, both loaded and empty, standing outside the fence around the mill in the 3 track interchange yard between the Milwaukee Valley and Old Highway 51. This plant got most everything by rail until a few years ago, and shipped out roll paper, lignin, tall oil and turpentine.

Rothschild Switcher in 1970

Alas, the Milwaukee had to compete head-to-head with the Chicago & North Western for the business coming out of the mill at Rothschild. C&NW had built their own branch line to Rothschild sometime around 1900. It came off the Wausau-Eland line of the C&NW at Kelly, Wis., made a more-or-less straight shot to Schofield where it crossed the Milwaukee Road, then ran humilatingly directly alongside the Milwaukee right to the Rothschild mill. At one time, both Milwaukee and the C&NW sported separate bridges over Grand Avenue in Schofield. Milwaukee's was a steel-and-wood piling affair, C&NW's was a steel I beam bridge, painted silver and sporting the C&NW Ball And Bar Herald on each side.

Rothschild Switcher in 1980

C&NW was a thorn in the Milwaukee's side, not much else, for years. Technically, C&NW didn't make much of a dent in the Milwaukee's outbound business out of the Rothschild mill until the Milwaukee fell on bankruptcy in 1977. Then, for a period, the C&NW was getting more traffic in to and out of Rothschild than the Milwaukee was.

At the same time, C&NW pettitioned the ICC for Trackage Rights on the Milwaukee from Schofield Junction in Schofield to Rothschild, thusly eliminating duplicate trackage. The ICC acquiessed, and the C&NW was able to abandon their 5 mile parallel line, although some rail still remains on what had been the C&NW r-o-w. The bridge over Grand Ave. in Schofield was removed.

Today, the Rothschild Mill doesn't do HALF the business it did with the Railroad. They get no woodchips in anymore; as far as I can tell, they gave up woodchips entirely. They get no pulpwood, and have recently removed some tracks in the log yard for easier access by semi. Very little paper gets shipped out anymore, the chief product coming out of Rothschild now is Lignin, with some Tall Oil and Turpentine carloads. They still get in some Kaolin and Corn Strach powder in pressureaide covered hopper cars. The SW600 bought new still toils away (now painted in Green Bay Packers colors, complete with the " G " in helmut style on the cab) but only for 6-to-8 hours 5 days a week. Years ago, this job worked everyday except Sunday, 14 hours a day.

Not very far over the Grand Avenue bridge over Schofield's main street was the crossing of the Milwaukee by the C&NW's Kelly-Rothschild branch. The C&NW Depot stood here in to 1980. Milwaukee's Depot had been eradicated in 1960, I believe.

Schofield harbored the manufacturing plant of Drott Equipment Co., once the Schofield Manufacturing Company. This was heavy equipment made here, cranes, end loaders, back hoes, et. al. This was terrific inbound steel business for the Milwaukee, and, later, the C&NW, as well as the finished equipment going out on flatcars. Drott wasn't shipping much by rail anymore by 1973, although the inbound steel remained for both Railroads. Drott sold out to J.I. Case in 1977; Case closed the whole operation up and left Wisconsin altogether in 1980 or '81. The buildings sat empty for 10 or so years before Greenheck Manufacturing came in to being. Greenheck does no business with the railroad, but the former Drott/Case buildings are at least being used.

North of Drott was Northland Cold Storage, also a good rail customer and still remains so today for CN.

I'm not certain what Customers were using the Milwaukee or the C&NW in Schofield's Industrial Park spread out east of the Milwaukee Valley Line. They all look too new to have been here for very long before Soo Line tried it's darnedest to choke on the Milwaukee's raped, left over carcass. Most of it located along the C&NW Marshfield-Eland main line, such as Warehousing Of Wisconsin, Wausau Supply and Greenheck.

The Milwaukee and the C&NW crossed not far from the Schofield Industrial Park, at an un-automated interlocking which required both Railroads to stop. From this crossing for the next two miles, the C&NW paralleled the Milwaukee. After the junction the connection track between the Valley and the C&NW stretched across marshland between the two roads. The C&NW's Wausau Yard fanned out here; their steel replacement for the old, wooden Wausau Depot was sequestered here, as were the two-stall enginehouse, turntable and engine servicing facilities.

Train #475 Southbound at Wausau Junction

C&NW's line curved away to the northwest just before both C&NW and the Valley crossed Townline Road. Right atop Townline Road is a Kraft Cheese plant, long a good railroad customer. The plant used to have two spurs serving it, but a plant expansion in 1999 eliminated the eastern most spur that curved around in between the buildings.

RS3 #463 at Wausau

After crossing Townline Road, the Milwaukee's Wausau Yard began fanning out.


SooLineHistory Group Index and Map Part 1 Part 2
Part 3 - Pix Part 4 - Pix Part 5 - Pix Part 6 - Pix
Part 7 - Pix Part 8 - Pix Part 9 - Pix Part 10 - Pix
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