File on Railroad spur, North Water St.
Chapter on Railroads
Click to enlarge
Watertown's railroad history began during the administration of Theodore Prentiss.
At that time $80,000 was voted for railroad bonds
to cover the cost of constructing the Milwaukee-Watertown Railroad.
A prospect of getting a few cents more in price will induce the carrying of grain to Milwaukee over the plank road. The only remedy is a railroad between these interior markets and the lake towns. Farmers cannot compete with a railroad in carrying grain, therefore they will find it to their advantage to sell at the nearest R. R. depot. This consequently induces a home market, and the money laid out for necessaries by the farmers retained in the interior. State Register, 05 28 1853
M&StP 42, "D.A. Olin", Class H, was built by Niles & Co. in 1854 as Watertown & Baraboo Valley "Watertown". It became M&StP 42 in 1868. On April 11, 1899, it was renumbered 1438. It was scrapped on September 20, 1904. This engine featured Davis Balanced Valves, which were an early piston valve.
M&StP 40, "L. B. Rock", Class H, was built by Menominee in 1854 as Milwaukee Watertown & Baraboo 1. It became Milwaukee & Watertown 1 almost immediately. In 1856 it became La Crosse & Milwaukee 56 "Luther A. Cole". In 1863 it became M&StP 40, "L. B. Rock". It was gone by 1899. http://donsdepot.donrossgroup.net/dr385.htm
12 27 Milwaukee and Watertown Railroad built new freight house, parallel with the main depot WD
08 05 Our Railroad interests. Land Grant Road WD
09 & 10 The Milwaukee, Watertown and Baraboo Valley Railroad Company to lay their line from Columbus to the Wisconsin River WD
09 16 Trip over the Milwaukee, Watertown and Baraboo Valley Railroad; one of the pleasantest to be had in Wisconsin Milwaukee Sentinel
10 14 Completion of section of Chicago, St. Paul and Fond du Lac Railroad between the Watertown and the La Crosse Junction WD
12 09 Coupons [bonds] sold liberally, trouble when presented for payment WD
04 21 Relations of city with Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Railroad; hopelessly insolvent, city deemed advisable to assign stock according to plan proposed WD
07 21 La Crosse and Milwaukee Railroad Co; extend Watertown railroad by building of short section between Columbus and Portage WD
08 11 With hardly an exception, uncompleted western railroads have been at a standstill for the eighteen months, but large gangs of men are now busy in our neighborhood in grading and laying the track upon two different roads leading through this place—the first running to the west, connecting Watertown with Madison, the state capitol, being an extension of the Milwaukee and Watertown Road, and the other completing the Chicago, St. Paul and Fond du Lac Road, between Janesville and the La Crosse junction.
The latter is now called the Chicago and NorthWestern Railroad, and it is certain that by the middle of October, the cars will be running upon it from Chicago to Oshkosh, a distance of one hundred and eighty miles through the richest part of the state . . . WD
09 01 Regular trains running over Chicago and North Western Railroad between city and Oshkosh
New Chicago and North Western depot building a few rods south of the plank road WD
02 16 Milwaukee, Watertown & Baraboo Valley RR Co, acquires rights, property and privileges of both earlier RR’s WD
05 24 Chicago and Northwestern derailed, struck cow WD
05 31 Junction House, kept by H. B. Sherman WD
07 05 Farm property for railroad stock subscriptions, mortgages WD
08 09 Twenty freight cars have built in city at machine shop of Milwaukee, Watertown and Baraboo Valley Co WD
12 06 Milwaukee, Watertown & Baraboo Valley RR Co to change name to that of the “Milwaukee & Western Railroad Co.” WD
04 04 THE LONG TRAIN.-- We believe the longest train of cars one engine ever hauled north passed through this city last Monday. Conductor W. C. Green took with him, over the Chicago and North Western track, 62 cars, with the engine Wisconsin -- John Hunter, engineer. They will return to the South freighted with the productions of the North. WD
05 02 SERVICE TO APPLETON
Trains now run regularly on the Chicago and North Western Railroad as far north as Appleton. The track between that city and Oshkosh is being ballasted and will shortly be in the best running order. Passengers can go straight through to Chicago without delay. WD
06 06 BUSINESS, ACTIVITY & PROSPERITY
Last Monday we passed over the line of the Milwaukee and Western Railroad, which is now doing a heavy carrying business. The cars were crowded with passengers, every warehouse along the road was filled with wheat ready to send forward, the only trouble being to get freight cars enough to take it away. At Ixonia station a new side track has recently been put down and several new buildings are being put up. There was everywhere an appearance of business, activity and prosperity — it was a pleasure to witness. We saw some fields of rye and winter wheat heading out finely, which made us think we were on the verge of another harvest, instead of having just passed from spring to summer. WD
11 28 RAILROAD ACCIDENT
The Chicago papers give an account of an accident on the NorthWestern Railroad, on the 20th, by which the conductor of a construction train on the NorthWestern Railroad, named Bennet, and an engineer by the name of D. A. Lowell, were seriously injured. The train was drawn by the locomotive Watertown, and when running at the usual speed between Carey and Barrington stations, a rail broke and threw the engine from the track, the cars following. The conductor and engineer both leaped from the train and were caught by the cars and jammed terribly. Bennet, the conductor, had one of his thigh bones fractured and was otherwise seriously injured. Lowell had both legs broken, one below, and the other in the region of the knee. A box car between the locomotive and gravel cars contained twenty-one men, and though the car was badly broken up, all the men escaped without serious injury. WD
02 05 A SLIGHT RAILROAD SMASH. Last Saturday, about four miles from this city, the freight train of the Chicago and NorthWestern Railroad, going south, met with a slight accident. The cold was severe and one of the wheels on the next to the hind car broke. That and the last car, with several passengers on board, were thrown off the track, and three or four rails torn away. Nobody was hurt and the damage was soon repaired by the activity of the men running the train. The passenger train was detained about four hours, and that was pretty much all the harm done. The road has since been thoroughly repaired and all is in good running order again. WD
05 09 FLAGPOLE & FLAG RAISING
Following is a list of the names of those who sang at the raising of the flagpole and flag at the C. M. & St. P. Ry. shops in this city in 1862. C. Southwell and wife, Miss Mary Mileham, Miss Anna Mileham, Nelson Barrett, Miss Amanda Barrett and John Austin. WG [Glimpse from the past, WDT of 05 09 1912]
07 10 NEW RAILROAD CAR
Last week a new railroad car, built in this city under the direction of Mr. B. T. Wells, made its first appearance on the Watertown & Madison Railroad. It is designed to answer the double purpose of both a passenger and freight car – and is admirably arranged for such use. It is strongly and substantially built of the best materials and is capable of resisting a tremendous shock, yet it is well furnished and finished and glides along lightly and smoothly over the iron track. It will be put on the route between this city and Sun Prairie, on which our young and attentive friend, Mr. O. F. Willis, acts as conductor.
While on this subject we will state the fact that some 25 freight cars are in course of construction at the machine shop of the Milwaukee & Western Company in this city. As good cars are made there as can be found on any railroad in the west. This establishment gives steady employment to a large number of skillful mechanics and all goes on like clockwork under the supervision of Mr. Wells. WD
06 18 SALE OF THE HORICON RAILROAD
The Milwaukee Sentinel of the 13th says the Horicon Railroad was sold yesterday afternoon by the U.S. Marshal to the highest bidder. The purchasers were Ex-Governor Hunt of New York and Russell Sage, Esq., whose bid was $670,000. WD
01 06 ACCIDENT AT MILTON JUNCTION
We learn that an engine on the Northwestern Railroad bursted its boiler at Milton Junction on Monday, killing and wounding several persons. Beaver Dam Argus
02 11 RAILROAD ACCOMMODATION
The Legislature of this state has conferred on railroad corporations certain privileges and franchises, which are intended to be mutually beneficial to both the public and these organizations. While it is the right of railroad companies to exact of those using their line the observance of indispensable rules and regulations, it is also the duty of railroad directors and agents to afford the public every facility which convenience and safety require.
We know such to be the intention of the officers of the North Western Railroad, one of the most important railways in the West, but some conductors – though most of them are careful, courteous and gentlemanly – occasionally display a disregard of the claims of travelers which calls for immediate correction.
The habit of passing depots in such haste as not to allow passengers, particularly the ladies, in the night, to get on or off the cars with any degree of safety, and then carrying them beyond their destination, and causing them to wait at the next station until another train arrives to take them back, should be stopped at once . . . WD
03 17 MILWAUKEE & ST. PAUL RAILROAD MEN AT WORK
The Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company have now a considerable number of men at work on that part of the Watertown Division between the Mississippi Junction and Milwaukee. The intention is to have this short section completed and in running order as early as July. We notice the contractors have circulated handbills calling for more laborers and offering good wages. Work is now progressing on the section between Columbus and Portage City, a great portion of the grading having been completed. We presume the next move will be to build the short section between Sun Prairie and Madison, the immediate construction of which would be a great public convenience. We can now hope that it will not long be delayed. WD
03 24 CITY OF WATERTOWN CLAIM UPON THE MILWAUKEE AND WATERTOWN RAILROAD COMPANY
The Judiciary Committee made the following report in pursuance of a resolution of the Common Council requesting them “To investigate the claim which the City of Watertown or any of its bond holders has upon the Milwaukee and Watertown Railroad Company or its successors for the payment of the bonds issued by said city in aid of said road.”
In the year of 1853 the City of Watertown loaned its credit to the Milwaukee and Watertown Railroad Company to the amount of two hundred thousand dollars and issued its bonds to said company for that sum. Said Company at the same time executed to said city its written agreement to pay the principal and interest of said bonds, as the same should become due and also endorsed on said bonds its guaranty of the payment of the same.
Thus said Railroad Company became liable to the City of Watertown to save it harmless from the payment of said bonds and also on its guaranty to the holders of said bonds to pay the same.
Since that time several changes have occurred in the affairs of said road; some time in the years 1856 or 7 it was sold out by its directors to the Milwaukee and La Crosse Railroad Company. Subsequently it was turned over by the La Crosse Company to other parties and called the Milwaukee, Watertown and Baraboo Valley Railroad; afterwards it again changed hands and was called the Milwaukee and Western Railroad; it is now owned and operated by the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Company . . .
. . . It is a well-established principle that a mere change of name does not change or affect the liabilities of a Railroad Company . . .
. . . The Committee are of the opinion that the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Company are liable to the City of Watertown to indemnify it against the holders of said bonds on the guaranty of payment endorsed thereon, in the same manner and to the same extent as the Milwaukee and Watertown Railroad Company were originally liable.
Theodore Prentiss, For Committee. WD
04 28 LAYING TRACK
The Portage Register, speaking of the railroad extension between Columbus and Portage, says: “A considerable force of men is now busily at work in laying the track on the railroad between this city and Columbus. The work is well along across the marsh, south of the canal, in this city, and within about three weeks more we shall have a railroad connection with Wyocena.” WD
06 23 A SAD ACCIDENT
Last Friday afternoon as the gravel train of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad approached the end of the bridge on the west side of the river, going east, it came in contact with a loose flat car standing on the side track, which had by some means been put in motion, and three men employed on the gravel train were thrown under the wheels of the cars – two of whom were so badly injured that they have since died. The other, though seriously injured, is likely to recover.
We are told the cause of this calamity is due to boys who are in the habit of playing on those idle cars, which are never left without being secured by the brakes being tightly wound up. But that afternoon the brakes had been loosened and one car uncoupled, and hence this loss of life and mangling of limbs. The boys should be careful how they meddle with things about railroads. WD
09 01 NEW ROUTE BETWEEN MILWAUKEE AND LA CROSSE
Last Monday the new railway route was put in operation between Milwaukee and La Crosse – the completion of the link between Columbus and Portage City rendering this measure practicable. Regular express and freight trains are now daily passing through this city, running in connection, as far as possible, with the North Western Road. This is an important and advantageous change for the public and opens a shorter and more direct means of reaching all points in the North West. Over this line trains are running from La Crosse to Chicago, without any of the delays in Milwaukee that have heretofore made that route so inconvenient and unpleasant. The road is in good working order and care will be taken to keep it so. There is no doubt that hereafter this will be the favorite route to the upper Mississippi and the road is destined to transact a large and profitable business in carrying both passengers and freight. WD
11 10 ACCIDENT
On Saturday night last the 12 o’clock train from Columbus ran into some freight cars which were standing on the crossing at the machine shop in this city. Quite an amount of damage was done – three of the cars belonging to the Northwestern railway were pitched endways and broadside through the carpenter shop belonging to the St. Paul company, causing consternation in general and trouble in particular to Mr. Wells, the foreman, for the following day. As to what was the cause of the accident, or who was at fault, we do not undertake to say, but merely mention it as a matter of local occurrence. WD
12 01 NEW TELEGRAPH LINE
The Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Company are now constructing a new telegraph along the track from this city to Portage. The polls are already up, the wire will soon be stretched over them and ready for use. We shall soon be in direct telegraph communications with La Crosse, St. Paul, and the whole Northwest. WD
09 14 FATAL RAILROAD ACCIDENT
At Oconomowoc last Thursday evening, the 7th, a fatal accident occurred on the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. The Sun Prairie train had arrived at that village, and standing on the side track was a damaged freight car which had been ordered to this city [Watertown] for repairs. Mr. Charles H. Sanborn was acting as temporary conductor, in consequence of the illness of the regular conductor. The bumpers on the injured car had been knocked off, a fact unknown to Mr. Sanborn, and when he stepped in between the train and car to couple them together, he was crushed so quickly and severely that he survived his fatal injuries only about an hour. He was brought dead to his home in this city a few hours afterwards. He leaves a wife and two children to mourn this sudden and lamentable bereavement.
Mr. Sanborn was a gentleman highly esteemed for his intelligence, industry, and integrity. His kindness and faithfulness had made him popular and respected by all with whom he was brought into business and social relations. While this startling calamity is an irreparable loss to his family, a large circle of friends and acquaintances deeply regret the death of one so well entitled to confidence and regard, and under circumstances, so painful and shocking.
Being a member of Watertown Lodge, No. 49, he was buried according to the beautiful and impressive ceremonies of the Masonic order. His funeral took place in Milwaukee last Sunday, the Masonic brethren here accompanying the remains to their final resting place, being joined by members of the fraternity in the latter city. WD
11 16 ANOTHER ROAD TO MADISON
The Green Bay Advocate of the 9th says “We are glad to see the agitation of a project to build twelve miles of railroad from Sun Prairie to Madison, which would allow all passengers from the north to reach the Capital by a shorter route and less time than to go around Milton Junction. Hurry it up.”
We hope there is a grain of truth in the above paragraph. The completion of the short section of railroad from Sun Prairie to Madison is a desirable public improvement. Most of the grading has been done and the whole could be finished and put in running order with a comparatively small outlay. We know of no other railroad enterprise that would be so convenient and beneficial to the traveling public. It would furnish direct communication with the Capital to all the eastern and northern portions of the state. WD
In 1866 the largest employer in Watertown was the St. Paul Railroad with 306 men on its payroll. About two-thirds of these employees worked in the train car repair shops until the company moved to Milwaukee in 1868 [ source ].
11 16 RAILROAD A CONSUMER OF WOOD
The Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company, heretofore a great consumer of wood in this section, are making arrangements for the use of coal on the entire line of road, and after this winter will purchase no more wood along the route. South of Janesville, we understand, they have adopted the use of coal altogether. The Jefferson county woods have been a source of great supply for the company and our timberland owners always had a most excellent customer in the Northwestern Railway Co., giving a great impetus to the wood market for many years past. Thousands of cords have been bought at Johnson's Creek, nine miles south of here, every year. The great demand about being cut off will have a tendency to bring down the price of wood with us, and our citizens may be prepared for lower figures in consequence. The increasing use of coal also with us will likewise have its effect on the wood market. All things considered, wood has been unreasonably high here for a long time, and the prospect of lower prices for this necessary commodity will be good news to many.
The tunnel under the railroad, on Second Street, is now opened, and ready for travel. Watertown Republican, 10 25 1871
H. J. Darton, locomotive engineer for the Milwaukee Road; mention of engineer C. E. Straw Watertown Gazette, 02 12 1909
WATERTOWN IN 1876
Watertown is beautifully situated on both sides of Rock river, in the northern part of Jefferson county and the southern part of Dodge county. It is on the line of the La Crosse division of the C. M. & St. Paul Railway, 43 miles from Milwaukee and 152 from La Crosse. A branch of this line extends from Watertown to Madison, the Capitol of the state, distant 37 miles. The Chicago & North Western Railway passes through here, terminating at Green Bay, 112 miles north.
Watertown was laid out about the year 1836. In 1840 a part of the town was laid out in blocks and town lots, Milo Jones of Fort Atkinson being the surveyor. After that the town took a fresh start, and the surrounding country began to settle up with farmers.
The streets are laid out at right angles, and are broad and pleasant. One of the crowning glories of the city is the profusion of shrubbery everywhere prevalent, lining the streets on either side, and in the door [house] yards, forest and ornamental trees vie with each other in giving a home-like appearance, and in the spring and summer there is such a wilderness of foliage as to almost obscure the houses.
The streets are well provided with substantial side-walks, usually kept in good repair, and afford many attractive promenades and drives.
The principal streets are Main on the east, and West Avenue on the west of Rock river, upon either side of which are fine business houses and blocks, and many of them of beautiful design and finish. Madison City Directory, 1875-6.
Fierce fire broke out in a warehouse at the C.&N.W.Ry. depot and spread rapidly WG, 02 26 1909
07 21 Good times are at hand says the Railway Age. The grain and stock markets are climbing upward, railway building is going on with great vigor, manufacturers are busy, money is plenty and cheap, the labor question is settling itself with some assistance from the law – and the new railway receiverships are few and far between. Good times are here. WR
06 23 Junction fire; rail mill, machine shop, carpenter shop and blacksmith shop of the C. M. & St. Paul RR WD
10 31 Ferdinand Stengel, a deaf mute, residing in the western limits of the Fifth ward, was killed outright at 12:30 o’clock Sunday afternoon, while walking on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railway track, west of the Junction, by being struck by the engine of a west-bound freight train. The man was not run over, but was struck in the head and pitched from the track. His skull was crushed in, in front. Stengel was about 25 years of age, and had been employed at one of the brick yards during the summer. It was his general custom to walk on the tracks on his way home, but he had always been cautious and nothing had ever befallen him, notwithstanding he was deaf. He is spoken of as an industrious young man. WR
02 13 SEVERE WEATHER DELAYS TRAINS
The severe weather of Thursday delayed all trains entering here. The Northwestern 2:30 p.m. passenger train did not arrive until after 6 o'clock. Several Watertown carpenters in the employ of the St. Paul railway company had their faces and ears frostbitten one day last week, while traveling on a hand-car on the Northern division of the road. WR
02 13 MAIL TRAIN BETWEEN CHICAGO AND ST. PAUL
[same date] Since last Sunday the fast mail train on the St. Paul road makes the run between Chicago and St. Paul in ten hours. It passes through here now at 6:12 A.M., just three hours and twelve minutes out of Chicago. The train receives and leaves Watertown mail at the Junction, where passengers are also taken. WR
05 15 NEW SECOND STREET VIADUCT
Onward Rogan Bates, at the head of the bridge and building department of the St. Paul Railroad, was in the city last Thursday looking into the matter of placing a new viaduct at the Second Street crossing of his road. It is thought something quite substantial of iron will be built. The city authorities desire a span forty feet wide, with twenty-nine feet in the clear and five and one-half foot walks one either side of the supports. This is somewhat larger than the company at first intended to construct, but it is believed they will do the fair thing and perhaps meet the city’s wishes. WR
07 03 NO NEW SECOND STREET VIADUCT
The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway company will not build a new viaduct at the Second Street crossing as was contemplated. The plans suggested by the committee on streets and bridges of the common council were not agreeable to the officials of the road. What repairs are necessary for safety on the viaduct will be made. WR
09 25 NEW CHICAGO TO WATERTOWN RAILROAD ?
Considerable surprise has been occasioned here by the printing of a dispatch in Monday's Sentinel, from Madison, dated the 22d, giving information as to a new railroad to be built between Chicago and Watertown. The terminus being located at this point, no little importance for our city would be associated with the building of the road, and the materialization of the project would be greatly welcomed. It was all news to everybody, however, and some doubt its authenticity. WR
09 25 SECOND STREET VIADUCT / NEW CHICAGO, MILWAUKEE & ST. PAUL ROAD DEPOT
Mayor Moak was in Chicago Monday and Tuesday in consultation with the officials of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Road relative to the construction of the new viaduct over Second Street. Incidentally the mayor "felt" of the company’s moguls in regard to the much-mooted and almost-worn-out question of a new depot for our city, something which no one will deny sadly wanted. General Manager Earling in reply said the company had but recently talked over its affairs in Watertown and had decided that a new depot must be erected there. He assured the mayor that this was not idle talk, and that he was desirous of being quoted to our citizens to the effect that the first new depot built in 1896 by his company would be at Watertown . . . The Second Street viaduct will be built as soon as practicable, on plans satisfactory to both the city and the company. The iron for it has been ordered and work may be begun in January. WR
11 06 The St. Paul Railway company has had a force of men employed the past week changing the spur-track on the site of the waterworks pumping station. It now lies nearer First Street. WR
12 18 The railroads are having something of a harvest just now carrying woodsmen back and forth. Every train north carries numbers of men going hopefully to the woods, having been lead to believe there is employment for all at good wages. Trains south carry almost an equal number of disappointed men who went north only to find hundreds ahead of them and the labor market congested. Men coming here from the north say the lumbering towns above are full of men vainly seeking employment in the woods. Experienced men are offered $16 a month. They formerly received as high as $30 and $35. The worst feature of the matter is that many of these men are induced to go north by misrepresentations. WR
05 18 The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway's new "Pioneer Limited," advertised as the most beautiful train of any railroad in the world, had its trial run from Milwaukee to Minneapolis yesterday. It arrived here at 7:30 A.M. and remained about fifteen minutes, so that Watertown people might inspect it. The inspection, however, was necessarily an exterior one, as nobody was allowed to enter the Sacred portals of a single car. This arrangement was a sore disappointment to the large crowd gathered at the depot, for a general invitation had been extended to our citizens to enter the train and feast their eyes on its elegance and luxurious appointments. Much chagrin was consequently evident in the disparaging comments heard on all sides, and the railway authorities were blamed for having gone back on their invitation. Notwithstanding all this disappointment, it was with considerable pride that Watertownites noticed that the drawing-room car was named for our city, showing that the road is appreciative of the patronage obtained here. "The Pioneer Limited" certainly presented a very beautiful exterior appearance, but we must reserve our opinion of the interior until the train is running regularly and we are given an opportunity to travel with it. WR
05 25 The "Pioneer Limited" train of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway made a stop of forty minutes in Watertown last Thursday morning, on its return from Minneapolis. The doors were thrown open and a considerable number of our people were given an opportunity to inspect the interior furnishings and appointments of the different cars. It is the quite general opinion that the train well bears out what has been claimed for it — that it is the handsomest on any railroad of the world. Every car has been built with the view to combine elegance and comfort, and the result is all that the traveler could wish for. It will indeed be a pleasure to partake of such accommodations as the "pioneer Limited" affords. The train seen here last Thursday and its twin will run over the St. Paul Road as No. 1 and No. 4; the former going west from here at 10:25 P.M. and the latter going east at 5:13 A.M. WR
01 04 Gathered around a good, warm stove in a west side retreat the other evening were several of the boys who had seen service in the employ of the Northern Pacific and mining camps of Montana before civilization had fairly reached its shores. Billy McArdle, one of the early pioneers of Montana, fell into a reminiscent mood, and entertained the company with a little of his experience during the winters of 1879-80, when the thermometer frequently dropped below 70. Billy said it took him a half a day to go a half a mile to get a half a load of wood. Dressed in four or five pairs of pants, several pairs of stockings and a few coats to keep from freezing to death, and with several feet of snow for his team to break through, why, our Watertown winters were like the gentle zephyrs of an autumn evening. The "boys" nodded at each other approvingly, buttoned up their overcoats, pulled their caps down over their ears, and silently withdrew. WR
01 27 It is once more rumored that the C.M. & St. Paul Ry. officials contemplate making Watertown the end of one of its divisions, and will shorty make extensive improvements here. The C.M. & St. Paul Ry. also contemplates the erection of a fine new depot here the coming summer. Watertown people will welcome these improvements with a great deal of delight. WG
02 22 A wreck occurred Thursday evening about 9 o'clock in the cut a short distance east of the Milwaukee & St. Paul depot. Through freight No. 61, which was due here at 9:30 o'clock, broke in two while on the downgrade, and the rear end overtaking the front section, there was considerable of a smash up, the cars being piled high on top of each other, and considerable freight was scattered in all direction. Conductor Miller and his crew escaped injuries. WR
03 01 Four freight cars were wrecked and the front of a locomotive damaged at the railroad crossing last Friday morning. At 5:13 a.m. the east-bound passenger train on the Milwaukee road stopped to take water, and while Engineer Woodman was oiling his engine the train commenced backing up, and before it could be stopped came in collision with a freight train going south on the Northwestern road, derailing four cars, and smashing one of them so badly it was burned up to get it out of the way. By 8:30 everything was in running order. The engineer charges the mishap to a leak in the throttle valve. WR
03 01 The recent wreck near the depot on the St. Paul track has been the downfall of a number of the inhabitants of that neighborhood. A quantity of goods had been carried off from the wreck, and the matter being reported to Chief of Police Block, he found some of them in the possession of William Freitag and Leo Juerek, who was fined $5 and costs by Justice Henze. John and Michael Modl, two young boys, were taken into custody, and they plead guilty and were fined $1 each. There are some of the goods yet to be found, but Chief Block is on the trail of the "looters," and will round them up when they least expect it. WR
05 09 MILWAUKEE RAILWAY TRACK RAISED
The Milwaukee Railway track on West Division Street (then Plank Road, today West Main/Hwy 19) will be raised seven feet. The company desires to put in an underground driveway and has asked the permission of the council do it. It has always been a dangerous crossing especially so after nightfall when those liable to drive off the high embankment of the east approach. The council will undoubtedly grant this permission. WR
08 25 Last Saturday morning a tramp named Frank Lemmons was stealing a ride on train No. 58 on the C.M.&St.P. Ry. and was being put off the baggage car when the train reached Watertown Junction by Herbert McMullen, the brakeman, but Lemmons pulled a razor on him and tried to carve McMullen with it. He only succeeded in cutting McMullen's clothes in several places, before the latter got the better of him and took the razor away. A short time after Officer Brueger and Pieritz arrested the tramp and he was taken before Justice Henze, charged with committing an assault with a dangerous weapon. He was placed under $1000 bonds and his examination set for Monday next. Failing to furnish bonds, he was taken to the county jail. WG
01 16 Mayor Grube has been apprised of the recent death at Toledo, Ohio, of Elab W. Metcalf, who at one time held a good slice of the celebrated railroad bonds of this city. Aside from Ephraim Mariner, of Milwaukee, Mr. Metcalf was, we believe, the only bondholder who effected a settlement with this city and thus realized partially on his holdings.
01 23 The baggage man on the passenger train that arrived here at 7:05 p.m. on last Friday kicked Alvin Garity of Jefferson from the baggage car when the train was near Jefferson Junction and while it was in motion. The boy had his face bruised considerably and his left arm injured. The boy had no right to be on the car, nor did the baggage man have a right to throw him off while the train was in motion, and were he our son the company would pay for his injuries. Too many of our young lads steal rides on the train and a stop must be put to the practice, but this does not give the employee a right to injure them and endanger their lives. WR
01 23 GUARD GATES. A communication from the mayor recommended that the council enact a measure compelling the railroad companies to place guard gates at all principal crossings in the city. WR
01 30 Three cars of a freight train on the Northwestern Road jumped the track and were wrecked while passing over the crossing at the Junction Wednesday afternoon, the 2:20 passenger on the Milwaukee Road being delayed a few minutes in consequence. A wrecking crew was set to work and in a couple of hours the debris was cleared away. WR
02 06 G. H. Edwards, a young farmer of Dousman, had one of his legs crushed Thursday evening under the wheels under the passenger train which arrives here from Chicago at 9:30 O'clock over the Northwestern Road. The unfortunate man and his brother were taking a free ride from Jefferson Junction to this city, and when the train stopped at the West Street crossing they alighted, thinking the depot had been reached. When their mistake was discovered they attempted to board the train while it was in motion, but Edwards missed his footing and was thrown under the train, the wheels passing over his legs. He was taken to the Junction Hotel and medical aid was summoned. It was found necessary to amputate the injured member above the knee. The brothers were on their way to Columbus on business. They had considerable money with them. WR
02 13 W.R. Thomas and Henry Lange, of this city, have been granted a patent on a new device called the "Combination Gauge Lamp and Railroad Meeting Point Recorder." It is a very practical contrivance and if brought into general use would be a certain preventative against head end collisions on railroads. So far as shown it has met with universal approval by railroad men. It is designed as a reminder to engineers and firemen of all train orders they have received. Messrs. Thomas and Lange, after it has been generally introduced, expect it will be in great demand. WR
03 06 The heaviest snowfall of the season occurred during Sunday and Monday. It was accompanied by a high wind and in consequence some of the country roads are badly drifted. The railroads found it necessary yesterday to abandon freight traffic, owing to the blockade, and all passenger trains were belated. WR
02 27 50th ANNIVERSARY, FIRST 20 MILES OF THE MILWAUKEE SYSTEM
Monday marked the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the first twenty miles of railway of the Milwaukee system, which extended from Milwaukee to Waukesha (then Prairieville). The anniversary passed without formal recognition by the company. WR
03 13 STOCK TRAIN COLLISION
The regular stock train on the Northwestern railway which passed through this city Monday evening, and on which stock-buyers from this vicinity are accustomed to make their weekly shipment to the Chicago market, was wrecked by a rear-end collision at Arlington Heights, III., a suburb of Chicago, about 5 o’clock yesterday morning. The wreck was a bad one and resulted in the death of two men, the injuring of several others, and the loss of considerable stock and railway property. One of the dead men is Gust Bock, a well-known stock-buyer of Johnson Creek, and one of those injured is Edward Weber, of Richwood, the partner of Peter Norton, of Emmet. Mr. Weber’s injuries, while painful, are not very serious and he will recover. He arrived here yesterday afternoon on the 2:38 passenger and was conveyed to his home near Richwood. WR
03 22 JAMES SPEER NEARLY KILLED
Jas. Speer, who carries the mails to and from trains in this city, came near being killed near the Northwestern depot on Tuesday morning. Just previous to the passenger train arriving here from the north at 10:52 that morning, he noticed that in the place the mail bag was usually thrown from the train was a large puddle of water, and he decided to go to the coal sheds where the train stops for coal and make the exchange of mails there. A freight train was switching in that vicinity at the time and a part of it was being pulled north on the side track. Mr. Speer following, supposing there was no danger, another section of it, however, was being pushed from the south and but for timely warning he would have been run over. He was struck by the end of the freight car and thrown from the tracks, receiving only slight bruises. He had a narrow escape. WG
08 30 MANGLED CORPSE ON RAILROAD TRACK
The train crew on the Fast Mail which goes through this city at a little after six o’clock in the morning discovered the mangled corpse of a man on the railroad track about a mile east of Richwood last Saturday morning and reported it to the section crew. The remains were taken in charge by the railway agent at Richwood, and were taken to the county cemetery at Juneau and buried. His remains were so badly cut up that identification was impossible and there was nothing on his person that would give any information as to his identity. He was evidently a stranger in these parts; his clothes indicated, however, that he had been doing work around a threshing machine, considerable chaff being on them.
LATER — August Voy has identified the remains of those of a man named August Gusrow, a farm hand who had worked hereabouts. He sold him the watch found on his person the day previous to his being killed. WG
12 30 DOUBLE TRACK BETWEEN CHICAGO AND WATERTOWN
Unless present plans are changed the Milwaukee road will have a double track between this city and Brookfield and when the work is completed there will be continuous double track between Chicago and Watertown. It is said in railroad circles that preparations are now being made with this end in view. If the contemplated work is carried out it will mean much to the laboring men of Watertown as this city is relied upon to a great extent for laborers, and with good wages it will bring prosperity to many homes. The task of double tracking is a big one as it means the construction of many bridges and culverts, besides the labor of putting in the new track. It is said the work will begin next spring. WDT
05 05 ALMOST A MILE PER MINUTE
A special train of several coaches containing officials of the Pennsylvania railroad passed through this city Monday morning for the west. The run from here to Portage, including a slow up at the junction here and drawbridge at Portage, was made in 52 minutes. The distance is 48 miles, almost a mile per minute for the entire distance.
09 20 WATERTOWN OMITTED FROM TIME TABLE
The attention of the writer has been called to the fact that Watertown, a junction point, is not mentioned in any of the railroad time tables published in the Chicago dailies. Recently a resident of this of this city was in Chicago and purchased a paper mostly for the purpose of ascertaining when a train would leave for “Watertown” and failed to obtain the information, because no mention was made of the city in the time table. Little dinky places are noted which do not furnish one quarter of the passenger patronage that this city does, yet “Watertown” is omitted. The railroad official should get busy and put “Watertown” in big black letters on the time table furnished the papers. WR
10 05 WATERTOWN AND THE RAILROAD TIME TABLE
Brother P. H. Swift of the Watertown Republican in his last issue wonders why Watertown is not given the prominence in the railroad time tables to which it is entitled, and takes a shot at the railroad companies. We should like to join with him in a campaign for an improvement in the service at the Junction. There is no such thing as “service” rendered here, and if there is any reason for the exasperating situation we have never had its explained. The Fond du Lac and Janesville trains which do not make connections at either end of the line are so timed as to prevent any connection with the St. Paul passenger trains. One wishing to go north in the morning finds that the train to Fond du Lac has left forty minutes before the St. Paul train gets in. Coming south in the evening he reaches the Junction twenty minutes after the Madison train has departed, making it necessary to spend fourteen hours before he can get a train west. That the cause is nothing but pure deviltry may be seen at Burnett Junction in the evening, when the Northwestern train leaves one minute before the St. Paul passenger pulls in, and gets out in a special hurry if the St. Paul train is near at hand. A study of the time tables shows that neither road has any reason for trying to dodge the other, for neither train makes important connections at either end of the run that could not be made an hour later or earlier as the case may be. Watertown Democrat / WR
11 03 Watertown and other cities on the Janesville-Fond du Lac divisions of the Northwestern road are to have improved railway mail service. Official notice to this effect has just been received at Fond du Lac. Full railway post office service is to be installed on Chicago & Northwestern train No. 25 and 28. This will give full railway post office services on all the Fond du Lac-Janesville passenger trains. The time that the new order will take effect has not been announced.
02 24 William Reichert, residing on the Coffee Road, is still a great sufferer from the injuries he received in the accident at the Coffee Road crossing in this city a few weeks ago, when his rig was struck by a Milwaukee Road engine. It is understood that attorneys for the road have visited Mr. Reichert at his home on two occasions with a view of effecting a settlement. According to information obtained, the legal department of the road is awaiting the recovery of the gentleman before finally offering terms of settlement. It is also understood that if the offer is not satisfactory, the victim of the accident will bring suit for damages. The crossing is one of the most dangerous in the city and yet the city council keeps sides tracking the movement inaugurated a long time ago for better protection to the public. It would seem that this accident alone would be a warning of the danger in the several “death traps” in this city and definite action should be taken without any further delay.
08 16 Robbery of box cars at Northwestern depot WL
08 23 Another train wreck at Junction
01 XX TELEPHONES IN DEPOTS
The Chicago & Northwestern is placing telephones in the depots on their line. The telephones will be used only in the running of trains or the block system. That is, in place of telegraphing the arrival and departure of trains from one station to another, the telephone will be used. According to a law passed by the last legislature the operators are only allowed to work eight hours and this will necessitate the services of another man after the first of January. WL
10 23 TRAIN WRECK AT THE JUNCTION
C.&N.W. Ry. and C.M.&St.P. Ry. freight trains
At 1 o'clock last Saturday afternoon a double-header freight train on the C.&N.W. Ry. going north ran into a C.M.&St.P. Ry. freight going east at the railway crossing at the Junction (Union Depot). No one was injured, but one of the C.&N.W. engines and a number of coaches were badly wrecked. Conductor W. F. Clasen and Engineer Chas. Burmaster had charge of the C.M.&St.P. freight, and D. F. Harrison and C. F. Dunwiddie had charge of the Northwestern. WG
03 12 "Shut your ashpan" WG
Nov Chicago and North-Western accident, 12 killed WD
1912 SIGNAL OR SWITCH LIGHTS
05 23 William W. Mitchell of Kansas City, Mo., died April 28, 1912 . . . The editor of The Gazette recalls his first acquaintance of "Billy" Mitchell, long before The Gazette was known. He was born and raised on a farm east of our city limits, and when school days were over he first began labor and was enrolled with the bread winners, acting in the capacity of attendant of the switch lights and other light labor on the west side in the vicinity of the Junction. Only a lad, tall and straight and of fine appearance; making fast friends of all he met. The signal or switch lights were then gathered in every morning and were replaced and were filled every night, and the writer readily recalls how punctual the signals were out at sundown each day and burning for the night. The white light ever shone as a beacon for the guidance of the engineers and train service men and guaranteed safety to the journey's end. The writer is inclined to believe that the "lights were white" at the "beautiful gates ajar” on Sunday, April 28, 1912, when Billy Mitchell passed from earth. WG
1913 ROAD FOREMEN IN DEMAND
01 09 The Milwaukee Sentinel recently published the following item: "An appeal comes from the State Highway Engineer, A. R. Hirst, for competent foreman to take charge of road construction in Wisconsin.
In the year 1912 about $1,000,000 worth of road work was done in the state under the general direction of the state highway commission, and during the coming year it is expected the amount of road work done will aggregate $2,500,000. Last year there was trouble in many counties to find competent foremen to direct the work and in 1913 this trouble promises to become acute.
"We would like to bring out of the woods every man in the state who has had experience in handling men and tools in moving dirt or building city streets, country roads or railroads," says the state engineer in a letter requesting the assistance of The Sentinel in bringing this subject before the public.
"We want men who have actually served as foremen on work of some importance and believe if we could secure a list of such men we could place most of them at very good wages and at the same time be of service to many counties which find it difficult to secure the right kind of men," he adds.
It is the purpose of the Wisconsin Highway Commission to prepare a list of competent foremen which will be furnished to all county highway commissioners to assist them in the selection of men to have charge of their work during the coming year.
If such a list can be secured it will solve one of the most serious problems facing the road builders in the state.
The campaign of 1912 in road work doubled or trebled the amount of such work ordinarily prosecuted in Wisconsin and 1913 will see another doubling, or more, with the result that experienced men, from highway engineers to foremen, roller operators, etc., will be scarcer than ever. WG
04 02 TRAIN KILLS MAN
Last Monday night the 7:34 westbound train on the C. M. & St. Paul Ry. struck and killed Douglas McKnight while he was walking on the railway track near Ixonia. He was about 62 years of age and unmarried. WG
10 01 PAY CHECKS FOR RAILWAY MAIL CLERKS
Effective October 1, 1914, all railway mail clerks residing in Watertown who so elect can have their pay checks cashed at the Watertown post office. Several clerks petitioned the post office department that this convenience be given them, and after consulting with the local postmaster, the privilege has been granted. Heretofore their pay checks were cashed in Chicago, and often it was necessary for them to make special trips to Chicago to get their pay. About $1,500 will be paid monthly to railway mail clerks residing in Watertown. WG
05 15 Hold-up at Watertown Junction; Northwestern depot broken into WLeader
07 22 TWO CONDUCTORS UNDER WHEELS
Northwestern and Milwaukee Road Men Injured.
Both Have Had Narrow Escape.
R. C. Cook of Fond du Lac Has Ankle Broken
and Julius Lorenz of Portage is Bruised From Head to Foot.
Two escapes from death, both miraculous, were experienced by railway conductors within a few miles of Watertown within about twelve hours.
Freight Conductor R. C. Cook did what railroad men call “stepping into the air” on the short line of the Northwestern railroad near Clyman Junction Wednesday evening. His train was pulling into the Junction and after slowing down took up the slack with a jerk that broke it in two.
Conductor Cook was on his way from the caboose to the head of the train, and stepped off one freight car just as the cars parted at that point. He is unable to explain how he managed to fall outside the rails. He fell so close to the car wheels that the tail of his coat was severed.
The injured man was rushed to Watertown in a milk refrigerator car attached to the engine of the train of which he was conductor. The special was met at the Northwestern depot by the city ambulance and Dr. F. C. Moulding, company physician, at about nine o’clock, and less than an hour after the accident, the conductor was being cared for in St. Mary’s hospital.
His injuries consist of a broken ankle and many body bruises. Railroad men declare that his escape from death is nothing short of miraculous.
Conductor Julius Lawrenz of Portage was severely injured near Richwood when he fell from a motor car of which he was in charge. He was sitting on the front of the car and arose to make sure that there was no train coming around the curve. He lost his balance and fell in front of the car, which was going about ten miles an hour.
The front wheels of the car, which weigh about 1,400 pounds, ran over Mr. Lawrenz before it was stopped. Though but two men were on the car with him at the time of the accident they were able to extricate him quickly and he was brought to Watertown on a train which was flagged for the purpose.
The big toe on Mr. Lawrenz’s foot is nearly severed, and his body is a mass of bruises. It is believed that he has no internal injuries and that he will be able to leave the hospital on crutches and go to his home within a week or two. He was protected from serious injury from the car wheels by the fact that he is a large, muscular man, and wore a heavy coat.
One of the occupants of the car had his sleeves rolled to the elbows and received painful scratches on his forearms when he was thrown from the car when it was stopped by running over the conductor. The car is used by a gang of Western Union linemen, which arrived in the city for a stay of two weeks. WG
07 29 Barnum and Bailey Circus comes to town, five railroad trains needed WG
11 04 MUST NOT WALK ON TRACKS
Any one walking on railroad tracks is subject to a fine or imprisonment or both, according to a law passed by the recent legislature.
That information will be somewhat of a shock to those who are accustomed to country rambles via railroad tracks. It’s a fact however, according to Chapter 551, Laws of 1915. The maximum penalty is a $50 fine, imprisonment in jail for 30 days, or both fine and imprisonment. The law does not apply to railroad employees, newspaper reporters, and persons whose business with the railroad company requires them to use the tracks, like stock shippers, etc.
There were more people killed and injured when trespassing last year than met death any other way on the railroads, and evidently this law was made to protect the railroad companies against suits for damages.
The law provides for notices containing this law to be posted about each railroad station. WG
10 20 Milwaukee Road Depot began operations Oct 20, 1926.
01 17 A proposal that the Milwaukee Road be permitted to install automatic gates and signals on each side of its tracks at two grade-crossings in Watertown was laid before the City Council last night and the council agreed to go along with the plan so the railroad can proceed to formally consider the installation and present a request to that effect to the State Public Service Commission which must approve the plan before work can begin. Installation costs will be $32,000. The installations would be at the South Third Street and the Milford Street crossing of the road. WDT
01 03 The City Council last night moved a step closer to a point seeking the return of a human guard at the Milford Street crossing of the Milwaukee Road, long the center of controversy growing out of repeated traffic tie-ups because of the present automatic signals and long stoppage of switch engines and lengthy freight trains. WDT
09 01 Fred Fenner retired from Milwaukee Road; 50 years of service WDT
12 06 The Milwaukee Road has been denied permission to discontinue the Milwaukee Road train stops in Watertown. WDT
09 12 A Hearing into discontinuance of Milwaukee Road's commuter train which operates between Watertown and Milwaukee WDT
09 23 The Milwaukee Road’s “Cannonball” commuter train between Watertown and Milwaukee, public hearing on WDT
06 19 Petition to discontinue Railway Express Agency in Watertown WDT
09 04 THIRTY-THREE FREIGHT CARS DERAIL
Thirty-three Milwaukee Road freight cars were derailed here a few minutes before 8 o’clock this morning. The accident occurred a short distance east of the Union Depot, with the principal pile up of box cars occurring between the depot and the Milford Street crossing. Of the 33 cars, 22 cars were part of a 100 or more east bound freight train, and the other 11 were attached to a switching engine. Cars on the switching train were knocked off the track by the impact of the derailed freight cars. No one was injured in the accident. As a result of the wreck, there was no train service of any kind today and it is anticipated that service will not be resumed until sometime on Wednesday, according to E.G. Stewart, Milwaukee Road Agent. From one-quarter to one-half mile of tracks were torn up. Repair of this damage is under the supervision of Frank Herleby, road master. WDT
05 28 SWITCH ENGINE NOISE
The case involving a Chicago and North Western Railroad conductor in a charge of having permitted a switch engine to make excessive and prolonged noises at nighttime which developed here last week did not come up in Watertown Municipal Court at today’s session. The case is being held open. Railroad officials have assured police authorities that starting June 1 a new policy regarding the switch engine will go into effect and eliminate complaints of long standing regarding excessive noises at night. WDT
02 01 MORE RAILROAD ACTIVITY HERE
If the proposed merger of the Milwaukee and North Western Roads becomes a reality, it will be a boon to Watertown, the Watertown Rotary Club was told on Monday. Michael J. Martin, assistant regional manager-sales, said that Watertown, with the two roads crossing in the city, will become an important break up point in by-passing Milwaukee. Much Milwaukee Road freight traffic would be switched to the North Western line here, he said, thus avoiding the congested Milwaukee area. He said it would no doubt mean a bigger switching crew here, and added that “there will be more railroad activity here than there has been in 50 years.” WDT
04 17 CLYDE PRATT RETIREMENT
Clyde Pratt, 532 West Street, who will retire on the occasion of his 65th birthday, April 28, as roundhouse foreman for the Milwaukee Road, was honored at a party given by his fellow-workers on Sunday evening at the East Gate Inn. Mr. Pratt will have completed 40 years and six months of service. He began his work with the Milwaukee Road in Portage on Oct. 14, 1926, as a machinist’s helper and was promoted to machinist in 1945. He came to Watertown as roundhouse foreman in 1948. WDT
In the early 1960s, the old Watertown train roundhouse which housed the cars of the train companies was demolished.
MILWAUKEE ROAD DEPOT served as a passenger and freight station until the “Cannonball” commuter train to Milwaukee was discontinued in 1972.
Passenger trains which allowed residents to catch 30 different trains a day in the 1930s and 1940s have been gone since 1972.
06 23 Junction of Chicago and North Western with Milwaukee Road tracks removed WDT
03 28 The Chicago and North Western Transportation Company is considering abandonment of its east-west railroad track in Jefferson County and re-establishment of north-south rail connections through Watertown. Bob Milcik, C & NW assistant vice president of planning, said from his Chicago office that preliminary studies have indicated that service to Jefferson County could be handled most economically via the north-south line from Clyman Junction to Fort Atkinson. He said that the line from Jefferson through Watertown to Clyman had originally been planned for abandonment, but further study has shown it as the better route to serve Jefferson County. The north-south diamond at Watertown Junction was taken out several years ago, and Milcik said it would be rebuilt. He added that other improvements would have to be made on the track between Clyman and Jefferson junctions.
02 16 The Chicago and North Western Railroad tracks south of Watertown abandoned in 1977 will be restored to service this summer if the railroad gets permission to abandon its line from Waukesha to Cottage Grove. About two miles of east-west track at Jefferson Junction will be retained so that customers there can be served, said Chris Mills, senior commerce counsel of the Chicago-based railroad. The railroad’s biggest customer at Jefferson Junction is Ladish Malting. Mills said train cars will be dropped off at Clyman Junction, loaded at Jefferson Junction and returned to Clyman. That system should be more efficient, because cars going from Minneapolis to Chicago now have to go all the way to Milwaukee and double back to Jefferson Junction,” Mills said. The new arrangement could also eventually result in more train service to Watertown, Mills said. Restoring the tracks here could cost $700,000. WDT
05 03 Workers installed a crossing diamond where the Milwaukee Road and Chicago & North Western railroads will intersect in Watertown north of West Street. C & NW plans to abandon east-west track through Jefferson County this summer and to restore north-south track from Jefferson Junction to Clyman, abandoned several years ago. WDT
1984 MILWAUKEE ROAD DISCONTINUES FREIGHT SERVICE IN WATERTOWN
02 25 In 1855 modernization brought Watertown the railroad with an abundance of freight and passenger service. On March 15, modernization will cause the departure of the last of those services when the Milwaukee Road discontinues freight service in Watertown. Other eras have similarly ended over the past year. In the early 1960s, the old Watertown train roundhouse which housed the cars of the train companies was demolished. The passenger trains which allowed residents to catch 30 different trains a day in the 1930s and 1940s have been gone since 1972. WDT
03 15 MILWAUKEE ROAD DEPOT TO CLOSE
After 58 years, the Milwaukee Road Depot closed when freight operations ended on March 15, 1984. The depot, which began operations Oct 20, 1926, served as a passenger and freight station until the “Cannonball” commuter train to Milwaukee was discontinued in 1972.
Railroad depot in Watertown to close
In 1855, modernization brought Watertown the railroad with an abundance of freight and passenger service. On March 15, modernization will cause the departure of the last of those services when the Milwaukee Road discontinues freight service in Watertown.
Other eras have similarly ended over the past years. In the early 1960’s, the old Watertown train roundhouse which housed the cars of the train companies was demolished.
The passenger trains which allowed residents to catch 30 different trains a day in the 1930’s and 1940’s have been gone since 1972.
This most recent closing is part of an effort by Milwaukee Road to consolidate freight service around the state because of the changing market demands.
Those who were served by the Watertown depot will be diverted to two stations. Customers of the depot west of Watertown will be served out of Portage, while those east of the city will receive service from Milwaukee.
The L-shaped structure, opened Oct. 20, 1926, will be used as a maintenance office by track crews, signal maintainers and lineman. The facility will also be used for storage.
Watertown’s connection with railroad service goes as far back as Sept. 14,1855 when the first cargo of wheat was delivered to the old Milwaukee Road depot and
freighthouse at the south end of Fifth Street.
Soon after, railroad shops Nourished in the city until 1886 when a fire destroyed most of the facilities. But still the railroad business flourished.
In 1863, a hotel was built at the depot’s present site to accomodate the crowds of railroad men and traveling public.
In 1875 when the hotel burned down, a three-story Junction House was constructed. The building was not only a hotel and restaurant but also contained ticket and telegraph offices. That structure was also destroyed by fire in 1920.
The roundhouse, which housed cars, engines and equipment was directly across the tracks from the Junction House tracks until it was abandoned and demolished approximately 15 years ago.
Several depots operating in the city, including the impressive passenger structure at Fifth Street, were consolidated at the present depot location in 1926.
Although freight service provided a livelihood to many Watertown residents, passenger service in the city was also extremely popular, especially in the mid-1900’s.
Among the trains were the Milwaukee Road’s famed Pioneer Limiteds and Hiawathas, the latter providing the fastest land transportation in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Passengers from the city could travel on the trains to as far west as Seattle via Minneapolis.
Unfortunately, the local stop was discontinued in 1970 when Amtrak assumed the passenger carrying function.
The final passenger service, “The Cannonball” commuter service, continued to operate until July 31, 1972, when it, too, was withdrawn from service.
It marked the first time in 117 years that a depot in Watertown did not offer passenger service.
Currently, about 24 freight trains pass the depot daily, of which four stop for service. Two Amtrak trains also pass through the city daily, but the closet Amtrak depot to Watertown is in Columbus.
Legislators and residents attempted to revive the “Cannonball” in 1980, but after a two-week trial period, revival efforts faded.
And with the closing of the freight depot, no trains, freight nor passenger, will stop in Watertown. Something that hasn’t happened in 128 years.
10 21 Derailment; tanker cars of Milwaukee Road freight train; in the Watertown yards. WDT
08 14 TWO RAILROADS, ONE LINE PROPOSED
The two major railroad companies running track through Watertown are discussing the possibility of having all of their trains operate on one line, but an agreement between the two is unlikely, a state transportation official said Friday. Rick Montgomery, director of the Railroad Bureau of the Commissioner of Transportation, said the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad company and the Soo Line Railroad Company have resumed talks on running the CNW’s Chicago to Minneapolis trains on the Soo Line (formerly Milwaukee Road) track. “But from what I’ve heard, the talks are not promising,” he said. WDT
01 31 The Chicago and North Western Railway is reviving discussions with the Soo Line for use of the Soo’s mainline tracks for much of its traffic from Milwaukee to Minneapolis-St. Paul, an official of the Chicago and North Western has confirmed. The use of the Soo Line tracks from Milwaukee to the Twin Cities has been discussed in the past, but it has never been put into effect. WDT
06 01 BADGERLAND SPECIAL
The Badgerland Special rolled into Watertown on the Soo Line Thursday, bringing a message of safety that railroad officials hope will save lives at grade crossings. The special train ride was sponsored by Operation Lifesaver, a national program designed to reduce motor vehicle accidents at railroad crossings. About 550 people in communities from Milwaukee to Portage were invited to ride the Amtrak train and, officials hope, take the message of “look, listen and live” back to their hometowns. Dale M. Bennett, a member of Wisconsin Operation Lifesaver, knows from experience just how dangerous car-train collisions can be. During his 23 years as a locomotive engineer, he’s been involved in 15 vehicle accidents. WDT
07 02 Hiawatha Extension service from Watertown to Milwaukee will continue to operate for only nine more days. WDT
11 13 Canadian Pacific Railway installs new track from the city west to Columbus WDT
09 15 &
10 02 Support for Amtrak stop in Watertown; demo ride Columbus to Watertown WDT
12 18 Possibility of rail passenger service for Watertown WDT
02 03 Study of high-speed rail, Madison to Milwaukee; stop in Watertown WDT
04 02 TRAIN HORNS TO RETURN; local ordinance pre-empted
The sound of train horns in Watertown is likely to return under a proposed federal rule that will pre-empt a local ordinance banning the whistles. The proposed rule, scheduled to take effect in January 2001, says that train horns are to be sounded at public highway-rail grade crossings unless they are located in a quiet zone and equipped with safety equipment approved by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). In 1995, Watertown implemented a 24-hours-a-day ban on train horns in response to some residents near the crossings who said the horns were a disruption. The city is at least one of 27 state municipalities which have whistle bans at crossings except in the event of an emergency. WDT
07 02 Thirty Wisconsin communities, including Watertown, that forbid trains from blowing air horns at railroad crossings may have to pay an estimated $60 million to comply with proposed federal safety rules. The proposed rules require train horns to be sounded at public highway-rail grade crossings, unless they are located in quiet zones and equipped with safety equipment approved by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The proposed rules are scheduled to be approved next year. They would take effect in 2002. Most whistle ban communities would be allowed at least one year to install the equipment. Installation of safety equipment in Watertown would cost about $2 million. There are 19 crossings in the city. WDT
10 08 Wisconsin & Southern rails, Dodge Cty Board members got the feel of WDT
06 29 An estimated 150 people turned out at a public hearing on proposed high-speed passenger rail Thursday night, and those who commented on the plan represented communities all along the Milwaukee-Madison corridor, where the trains would run. Residents at the hearing on the environmental study for the proposed project provided a range of comments on the proposed 85 mile passenger rail system proposed by the Department of Transportation and Amtrak. Supporters and opponents spoke throughout the hearing at Riverside Middle School. Some opponents criticized the environmental study, recently completed by the DOT. Supporters said passenger rail would be a good mode of transportation, among other things.
11 20 Canadian Pacific Railway, which operates the main railroad line through Watertown, has sold a 32.5mile line of track from Madison to Watertown to the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad. Years ago the route was a bustling line which carried passengers and freight between Madison and the main line of The Milwaukee Road. The line connects with the Canadian Pacific Main Line and the Union Pacific line at the railroad intersection just west of the Montgomery Street rail crossing. Wisconsin & Southern, a privately owned railroad based in Milwaukee, had leased this line, known as the Waterloo Spur, from Canadian Pacific in 1998 and exercised an option granted then to purchase it.
06 18 Dedicated train enthusiasts were rewarded by the appearance of a vintage steam engine train which made its way through town Sunday evening. Running behind schedule, the locomotive eventually rolled through the area pulling several old passenger cars, including the unique Milwaukee Road Hiawatha Sky Top observation car. Built in 1944, the steam engine, dubbed No. 261 by Milwaukee Road, has been made available for several excursions by employees of Canadian Pacific Railway and their guests. The engine was restored in the early 1990s and is the only operational engine left of the 10 originally built by the American Locomotive Company for the former rail line.
12 10 As the train of Christmas lights rolled into town thousands of area citizens flowed in, surrounding the train to stand in the rain and watch the entertainment. To see the attraction up close, viewers were requested to donate at least one nonperishable food item to the Watertown Food Pantry. "Even with all the lights on the train it was still really hard to see everyone in the crowd, but there must have been 2,000 to 3,000 people there," Glenn Rabenhorst, pantry president said. Teenagers from the Recreation Outreach Center youth organization circulated through the audience during the program with boxes to collect food items. And after the music was over and the train slowly pulled away residents continued to donate food.
12 27 The delay of a rule that will allow trains to sound their horns at rail crossings in cities throughout the country has given officials of Watertown more time to comply with the requirements to keep the city a quiet zone area. The effective date of the interim final rule from the Federal Railroad Administration that requires all trains to sound their horns or whistles while approaching public railroad crossings to warn highway users has been delayed to April 1, 2005. The rule was supposed to be established earlier this month, but it was moved to April because the Federal Railroad Administration received over 1,400 comments regarding the issue. Watertown will be a special exception to this rule because of its pre-rule quiet community status. In July of 1995 the Watertown city council passed a local ordinance to designate the city a quiet zone area, which preceded the 1996 amendment that requested all trains sound their horns at rail crossings. WDT
03 02 AMTRAK TO MADISON, MILWAUKEE OR CHICAGO
Watertown residents may soon be able to hop on an Amtrak train in the city and travel to Madison, Milwaukee or Chicago — but that scenario all depends on the passage of Senate Bill 294. The bill, which is also known as the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007, was proposed by Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Trent Lott in January and would provide $12 billion in federal funding for nationwide Amtrak services over the next six years. The proposed 85-mile route between Madison and Milwaukee would include stops in Watertown, Oconomowoc and Brookfield, with trains traveling up to 110 mph, according to Randy Wade, passenger rail manager for the state Department of Transportation. He added a trip from Madison to Milwaukee would take roughly 70 minutes. Wade said it will cost between $300 and $400 million to extend the Amtrak Hiawatha Service from Madison to Milwaukee and that under the proposed bill 80 percent of the funds would be provided by the federal government, while the remaining 20 percent would be covered with state funds.
04 28 BENEFITS OF PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE
Watertown would realize as much as $10 million to $15 million in economic benefits if a passenger rail service is expanded to the city, according to a report issued this month by the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. The rail initiative proposes an 85mile route expansion from Madison and Milwaukee that would include stops in Watertown, Oconomowoc and Brookfield. The trains would travel up to 110 mph, making a trip from Madison to Milwaukee take about 70 minutes. According to the report issued by nine states participating in the initiative, the passenger rail service would generate $23.1 billion in user benefits from time savings, congestion relief and emission reductions during the first 40 years of the project. The nine states participating in the initiative include Wisconsin, Ohio, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Illinois.
07 23 The Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Company services 1,400 communities in the state. The city of Horicon is the hub of operations in Dodge County as it is home to the locomotive repair operations, paint shop and switching system.
02 25 Stimulus bill raises possibility of rail service for Watertown; engineering plan calls for a complete upgrade of the tracks to accommodate the high speed passenger trains in addition to the 30 or more freight trains that pass through the city each day. WDTimes story
2010 NEW HIGH-SPEED TRAIN DEPOT PROPOSED
Vacant Pick ‘n Save store proposed as site for new high-speed train depot, adjacent to historic arch railroad bridge.
07 29 Agreement signed releasing $46.5 million for high-speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee, includes Watertown station. WDTimes story
12 09 $1.2 billion in high-speed rail money being taken away from Ohio and Wisconsin and awarded to projects in other states. Governor-elect Scott Walker had vowed to kill the planned 110-mph Milwaukee-to-Madison passenger train route that was to be funded with Wisconsin's share of $8 billion in federal stimulus dollars. Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich had issued a similar promise for a planned 79-mph line connecting his state's three largest cities, funded by $400 million in stimulus cash. In a meeting with reporters in Pewaukee, Walker called the decision a "victory" because he sees the rail line as a symbol of excessive government spending.
Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle had suggested Walker's stand also would jeopardize a separate $12 million grant for upgrades to a Hiawatha crossing and the Mitchell International Airport station platform, but the federal announcement made no mention of withdrawing that money. Doyle called the loss of the high-speed rail funds a "tragic moment for the state of Wisconsin."
The Milwaukee-to-Madison line would have been an extension of the Hiawatha. It eventually could have been extended to the Twin Cities, as part of a Midwestern network of fast, frequent trains.
12 11 KILLING THE TRAIN PLAN AN OPPORTUNITY LOST
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this week sounded the death knell for the high-speed rail project in Wisconsin in an announcement that was a surprise to hardly anyone. Gov.-elect Scott Walker made stopping the train project a major plank in his election campaign and he based that vehement opposition to the project on the estimated $7.5 million annual state subsidy the train was expected to have.
We have been strong supporters of the extension of the Hiawatha line from Milwaukee through Watertown and on to Madison as the first step in a broader plan to extend the service to Minneapolis-St. Paul. This line would have also been the first of many which would have comprised the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, connecting a number of larger cities in the Midwest. We strongly believe the train extension would have stimulated the economy of Watertown and others along the line and near it. Not only would it have been another option for travelers who don’t want or are unable to use the increasingly congested highways, but it would have improved freight service dramatically.
But, now those hopes are all history. The train is dead and the opportunities are lost. And, it’s likely they will be lost for a long, long time.
No one knows for sure just how big the impact of the expanded service would have been but suffice it to say it won’t be long before many who opposed the train will change their thinking. A more robust economy will certainly put more pressure on higher gas prices and that in turn will have people longing for transportation options other than their personal car. And, over time industries will look for more options in shipping and receiving goods from long distances. The train would be a solid option. Still, the world isn’t ending. We’ll move ahead as a community with or without the train. Certainly the Highway 26 bypass of Watertown, currently under construction, will have a positive economic impact on the community when it’s completed over the next couple of years.
It’s just too bad the debate on the high-speed line was framed simply on the $7.5 million operating subsidy and not on economic potential. Had the economic impact been the issue, we suspect the outcome would have been different.
It’s simply an opportunity lost. WDT
Cross Reference: Mayor Ron Krueger stands where a proposed train station was to be built.
11 08 TRAIN DERAILMENT, TANKER CARS LOADED WITH CANADIAN CRUDE
“I was home when it happened about 150 yards to my south.
It sounded like giant metal dumpster being dragged on concrete.”
Tanker car derailment west of Montgomery Street crossing a little after 2 p.m. Thirteen cars left the tracks at and near the intersection of the Canadian Pacific mainline and the Union Pacific branch line. The 110-car train was bound for Chicago, with 109 of those cars carrying crude oil. Canadian Pacific Railway says a broken rail caused the derailment.
More details. YouTube video clip
12 04 CHRISTMAS TRAIN
Canadian Pacific Railway Holiday Train, Watertown Whistle Stop.
Additional Cross References:
Railroad crew at work in Watertown, Thomas Beggan [1878-1956]
Glenn Oestreich (1952–2009) Watertown railroad buff. Portion of photo collection donated.
History of Watertown, Wisconsin