• Rail line in Wisconsin

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in the American Midwest, including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas. For questions specific to a railroad company, please seek the appropriate forum.
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in the American Midwest, including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas. For questions specific to a railroad company, please seek the appropriate forum.

Moderator: railohio

  by PZ 1
I was on a motorcycle ride a week ago on highway 35 along the Mississippi river in Wisconsin. The highway crossed a rail line at a right angle that had not been used for some time. Brush had grown up on the bed, but the rails were still there and it appeared that the blacktop of the road had been laid over the rails without removing them. I took no note of where I was at the time and now curiosity is making me wonder about the line. I looked at a map, but cannot locate it. I believe it was north of La Crosse (but am not sure now - memory is shot).

I think it is the BNSF that runs along the river there, but do not know if the unused line was also BNSF. The highway is not close to the river at that point and there is woods on both sides of the road. Anyone have any idea of what the line was? Where it went, when it was last used, why the rails were never removed?


  by Nukengineer
Well, your description matches half the state...
BNSF is the north-south line along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi.
I checked various maps I have and here are some possibilities.
If SOUTH of LaCrosse, there was a LaCrosse and Southeastern line that ran east from Stoddard (not likely your line as this was removed ages ago)
If in Lacrosse, could be a CNW line, but again not likely as it parelleled a CP line there
If north of Lacrosse, Could be a CNW branch line that went to Galesville. I dont have the town it originated in (along hwy 35), but it was only recently 'abandoned' (i'd guess prior to 2005, but after 1995)
North of that is a still active Green Bay and Western (now CP?) line.
And further north of that at the Chippewa river was a CNW line.

Without better directions, I cant quite place the exact line. It also could have been an industrial spur going to a grain mill, lumber yard or logging area as I dont have maps of those items and they are/were all over Wisconsin.

  by PZ 1
Thanks Nuken, It appears that it is the line near the Chippewa river. My fault, I did not study the map well enough.

From what I see on the map, the line junctioned with the main line at the village of Trevino (of which there may be nothing left) and went to Eau Claire. The part near Eau Claire is now a recreational trail. The tracks may have been left in place at the main line to use like a siding when needed.

Edit: I did some more searching and there appears to be nothing left at the site of Trevino. It is still listed on a map from 1901. The abandoned line at one time crossed the present BNSF line and extended south to a bridge over the Mississippi.
  by Hawko
The former GB&W line was part of the Wisconsin Central and is now owned by the CN. This line meets with the BNSF at East Winona, WI.

Did the abandoned CNW line that ran alongside the current CP tracks in La Crosse stay on the east side of the Mississippi River and cross the river at Winona, MN? There is still the the remains of a railroad bridge between Winona Jct., WI and Winona, MN. I am not sure if the bridge was part of the old GB&W or the CNW?

Thanks. Hope I did not get too far off the topic.
  by Komachi

Are you taking about the bridge remnants down by Levee Park, next to the

Here's a link to a site that features the bridge I'm talking about (and I believe that you are discussing as well)...

http://www.visi.com/~jweeks/upper_missi ... sAR04.html

The Winona Bridge Co. bridge (used by the GB&W and CB&Q (BN)) was located further downstream on the East side of town, and there aren't too many remnants left of that bridge. The bridge was not in the best of shape, nor could it support the heavier cars being used in interchange in '83, so both the GB&W and BN abandoned the bridge. The approach trestle in Winona was burned in '89 when a group of college students threw a kegger (if I correctly remember news accounts at the time). The bridge was then removed in '90.

Here's a link to a great GB&W site that has a blurb on the Winona Yard today (they discuss the bridge yard, tracks and engien terminal as it is today)...


Hope this helps you guys figure this mystery out.

  by Scoring Guy
Allow me to have a go at these points:

The line that PZ1 crossed is most likely the former Milwaukee Road line from Wabasha, MN through Eau Claire, WI, to Chippewa Falls, WI which indeed followed the Chippewa River. In addition, at the town of Red Cedar, WI, (about half way to Eau Claire) there was a branch line which went north to Menomonee (Junction), WI. - at Menomonee the lined T’d into the “Omaha” line (on the route of the Twin Cities 400), and the northern end of that line remains as a wye. Of course, Wabasha, MN, was located on the Milwaukee Road main line between Chicago and St. Paul. At Chippewa Fall the Milwaukee Road line T’d into the SOO Line.

Where Highway 35 crosses the former Green Bay and & Western tracks both are running more or less east and west, and thus NOT at right angle to the highway, and this is several miles from the BNSF line. The point where the GB&W (Wisconsin Central) line T’s into the BNSF is almost inaccessible by road vehicles. At one time there was a bridge west of that point that crossed the Mississippi into South Winona, but its 100 year life ended in 1989 (not to be confused with the former C&NW bridge which crossed the Mississippi right next to the current highway bridge).

The BNSF line never intersected with the C&NW line to Galesville. That line ran from Trempealeau Galesville (7 miles). The BNSF line runs along the Mississippi River on the west side of Trempealeau, while the C&NW “main” line, and the turn out to Galesville, was on the east side of town. The C&NW “main line” is a bike trail (101 miles from Reedsburg, WI, via Elroy, Sparta, Onalaska, to the Wildlife Refuge about five miles north of Trempealeau). North from there the C&NW went through some wetlands, and crossed the GB&W line at Marshland, WI. Most of the C&NW line from Marshland to Winona was covered over by the widening of the right of way of Highway 35/54. An effort is underway to construct a bike trail extension from the Refuge to Winona. The only place in Wisconsin where the BNSF and C&NW main lines crossed was there east of Winona just before the C&NW crossed the Mississippi (although the C&NW branch line into La Crosse crossed the Q line at “Grand Crossing”). And yes pieces of that C&NW bridge over the Mississippi at Winona remain (but not the swing portion). The C&NW Trempealeau-Galesville line was abandoned years ago, (late 40’s), and today is almost unnoticeable, save for some tree lines.

The La Crosse and Southeastern, (which ran from La Crosse, through Stoddard, Chaseburg, Coon Valley, and Westby, before arriving in Viroqua, WI.) was shut down in 1933 (although the line from Chaseburg to Westby was purchased by the Milwaukee Road and used through 1972 - the Milw. Rd. had its own line from Sparta to Viroqua, via Westby. In its day, the L&S used the Burlington (downtown) depot and ran on CB&Q track to the south end of La Crosse, and then had its own line from there to Stoddard, running next to (east side) the Q line. 99% of the entire L&S line is lost to erosion, but we did find some old spikes using a metal detector.

  by mtuandrew
Scoring Guy wrote:Allow me to have a go at these points:

The line that PZ1 crossed is most likely the former Milwaukee Road line from Wabasha, MN through Eau Claire, WI, to Chippewa Falls, WI which indeed followed the Chippewa River.
An article in the last Minnegazette (a member's only publication of the Minnesota Transportation Museum) described this line and the unique way of bridging the river. A few interesting points:
-This line actually originated in Read's Landing, MN, just south of Wabasha where the river funnels back down from Lake Pepin.
-The bridge across the Mississippi was one of three pontoon bridges the Milwaukee Road built - the others included another Mississippi bridge at Prairie du Chien, WI and one in South Dakota (Chamberlain perhaps) to cross the Missouri. These bridges worked well enough, but the long approaches were susceptible to damage during the spring thaw.
-The river crossing was abandoned in 1952, after the approaches were heavily damaged by ice floes. Meanwhile, the pontoon itself served for many more decades as a municipal boat pier in Lake City, MN. I don't know when the actual line up the Chippewa River valley was abandoned, as the CMStP&P served it from Winona for many years afterwards.

  by PZ 1
Thanks SG and mtuandrew. I have ascertained that it was the line at the Chippewa River.
The tracks are still in place at highway 35 and it appears that the recently laid blacktop was put right over the rails. By the growth on the roadbed, it doesn't appear that the tracks have been used for a few years and I wondered why they were not removed. De Lorme's Gazeteer shows the tracks present but abandoned until just past Red Cedar if that means anything. The tracks may have originally been left in place to reach Durand, a few miles southwest of Red Cedar - and perhaps there was a business to be serviced at Red Cedar.

There must have been a fairly substantial bridge on the branch line to cross the river at Red Cedar and also at Menominee.

Here is a picture of the junction that shows Trevino on highway 35. An old map I looked at shows the village name Trevino Junction at the junction. It shows a dirt road to the junction, but no telling if it is a township road or private. The old roadbed to the river can still be seen.

http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=44.4 ... &z=15&om=0

Thanks again everyone for your help.

  by Scoring Guy
Allow me to add further to this Milw. Rd discussion on the BNSF forum:

To correct myself, the Milw. Rd line north of Menomonie (thru N. Menomonie) was abandoned in the 1920's , so whatever trackage is there south from Monomonie Jct (of the C&NW, now UP line) is of C&NW origin.

Once the flood destroyed the pontoon bridge at Leads Landing, the detour at Winona was over the southern bridge (GB&W/CB&Q), not the C&NW bridge.

Regular scheduled passenger service, on the Chippewa line got the axe in 1952, before the pontoon bridge got destroyed, as did a lot of branchline pass services on the Milw Rd that same year.

In conjunction with the third Milwaukee Road bankruptcy in 1975, the Chippewa Valley line was sold to the Northern States Power Company, as they had a plan for a new powerplant along the route which never materialized. The line was closed down in 1981. I'm not sure whether the line has been banked.

From Durand, north to both Monomonie and Eau Claire is now a bike trail(s), this includes the very long bridge that crosses the Chippewa River at its junction with the Red Cedar river. Attempts were made to restore the line south from Durand for private excursions, but just 10 miles were done before the funds ran out.
  by Komachi
Scoring Guy,

Yes,, this is the BNSF forum, but your friendly, neighborhood moderator is a dyed-in-the-orange and black Milwaukee Road man (my hometown was on the Iowa and Southern Minnesota division of the Milwaukee Road), so your benevolent dictator is pleased with these tidbits (considering the locations you are discussing are about sixty miles from "home," it makes them even more interesting.

Also, here are some shots I've found online of the Winona Bridge Co. bridge (used by the GB&W and CB&Q)...

Here's a shot from 1976 (great year, BTW) with the Trempealeau Valley Limited (an excoursion train for the Northstar Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society) crossing the Winona Bridge...


And a shot from the middle of the swing-span looking towards Winona...


Moderator's note: your moderator is aquainted with Mr. Tomashek, the man who submitted the photos to the GB&W site that the above links send you to, and credits said gentleman with inspiring your moderator to become not only a fan of the Green Bay & Western, but also an ALCophile/ALCohaulic as well.
  by Komachi
Another interesting tidbit for you CB&Q fans...

In 1933 (I believe), when the Pioneer Zephyr was being paraded around the system after its debut, the CB&Q used the Winona Bridge Co. bridge to back the Zephyr into Winona and down second street to the CB&Q's depot down on second street.

This is the only time the Zephyr visited Winona.

  by Scoring Guy
Some more things on the Chippewa Valley Line:

A Durand website claimed that passenger service on the line lasted thru 1957, although no scheduled rail passenger service was shown in the time tables after 1951 - it certainly could have been possible that the division hooked a coach on the back of a freight.

In the late 50's and early 60's, time tables showed bus service from Wabasha to/from Eau Claire. Obviously the Milw. Rd. thought there was a market there - makes one wonder how long the pontoon bridge would have lasted (i.e. before it was torn down) if it hadn't been damaged by the flood. But by mid 60's the bus service was no longer in the time tables, but by then only the Morning Hi and Pioneer Ltd were left.

That CB&Q/CB&W bridge was closed in 1985, and then there was a fire in 1989 (probably that wooden structure in the '76 photo), and the bridge was dismantled in 1990. Unlike the C&NW bridge which still has portions still standing, there is nothing left of the C&BQ/GB&W bridge left, except the rail line (Winona has lots of rail left in the streets) that curves toward the river and ends at waters edge.

  by Otto Vondrak
[moved to Midwestern - omv]

  by offtherails
How do Gents,
Please pardon for being late, but I just stumbled across the site. Thought I would add my nickel's worth to this interesting topic. Retired now, I was an operator on the Milwaukee from 1964 to 1968. While on the extra board, I worked the agencies at both Durand and Menomonie, then later owned the second trick operator job at Winona. While there I saw this crew often, they usually showed up around 10 PM. We called them the CV, for Chippewa Valley. The conductor then was named Walt Riester, a good old guy. The switch crew would have their small train all made up, so the crew would usually grab a quick lunch at Shorty's across the street, then head home.

As others have posted and exactly right, in earlier days they did indeed run into Wabasha, then when that bridge was removed (don't know exactly when) they started running down the BN to East Winona, then across the GBW/BN bridge to Winona, then up the Milwaukee Road tracks on Wall Street. The Wall Street tracks are still there.

The BN had an interlocking tower at East Winona until it was taken out by the big flood on '65.

Hey scoring guy, looks like we are neighbors, I just moved to La Crosse last summer.