RR Memories in Plover

from the Tuesday May 19, 1992 Stevens Point Journal

Railroads Brought Lasting Memories
by
BRENDA REGETH
of the Journal

If a job in marsh dredging, highway paving or mill working didn’t put supper on the table, chances are railroad jobs did.

Railroads were a significant business in Plover during the late 1800's and early 1900's, and employed many local residents. Their primary function was to transport logs to all kinds of markets regardless of where those markets were. In the past, loggers relied solely on the river to move lumber. The railroads changed that. Later, the railroads became more heavily involved in commuter service.

In 1881, the Green Bay and Minnesota Railroad (later named the Green Bay and Western Railroad) built a branch line from Plover to Stevens Point. The line was an addition to the existing railroad line extending from Green Bay to Winona, Minn.

In 1876, the Wisconsin Central Railroad was extended through Plover, offering service between Portage to the south and Stevens Point. It was Wisconsin Central’s north-south route that gave it the nickname Portage Line, or P-Line.

Even if you didn’t work for the railroad, chances are the Green Bay and Western and Wisconsin Central’s P-Line left you with lasting memories.

The Green Bay and Western Railroad depot on Walnut Street west of Post Road was the place to be for kids playing hooky and for tearful fare-wells, long time residents said.

“The depot was a hideout,” said Emil Shannon, in a taped interview at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point archives. “If we weren’t in school, we were down at the depot helping with bags.”

“It was a real neat place,” said Mary Wright, whose father was a section foreman for the railroad. “We’d play up on that platform. They had a real nice waiting room inside.”

Rossier remembers running around the depot’s pot-bellied stoves as a kid.

As a little girl, Wright would catch the train at the depot every Saturday morning and ride to Stevens Point for piano lessons. It was the P-Line that regularly carried Plover passengers to and from the city.

Besides people, the P-Line delivered newspapers to points north and south of Stevens Point, Cletus Tepp remembers. The line was also a major mail carrier.

Ervin Shudarek remembers when Elmer Dakins used a slid in the winter to take mail from the Plover Post Office to the railroad depots. “We used to like to get on the end of sled runners and ride with him,” Shudarek said. “There used to be an old cattle ramp that hauled potatoes and cattle out of there,” Shudarek said. Stevens Point Normal School and Emerson High School students took the P-Line during its heyday, he said.

After the P-Line was shut down in the late 1940's, a bus service replaced railroad transportation into Stevens Point. But that service was discontinued long ago.

Although the P-Line offered passenger service to Stevens Point, Shudarek often would hitchhike into the city. He would listen for cars traveling north on Post Road as they rode over the Green Bay and Western Railroad tracks just a few blocks south of this home. When he heard the cars ride over the tracks, he’d run out to Post Road to hitch a ride. If you didn’t catch a ride when you could, “it would be another 10 or 15 minutes before the next car came by,” Shudarek said.

Memories always seem to come back to the railroad, he said. His brother and hundreds of other area men rode the trains off to war. Everyone was at the depot when the boys were sent overseas during World War II, Shannon said.

When the boys came back, Shannon, who was then 13 or 14 years old, remembers welcoming them home with his high school band. The band and a parade of others marched all the way from the depot to the P. J. Jacobs High School for a celebration.
 

(Return to top)      

See our Permissions page for use and copyright information.