I Remember: The Chicago & North Western In Marshfield, 1967-1982
By Keith A. Meacham
There comes a time in a Person's Railfan Experience, that, somewhere along one's travels, you witness, or encounter, an Operation, a Structure, A Piece of Rolling Stock, or a Locomotive, that stays with you in your memory for an indefinite period, perhaps, even becoming an infatuation over time. Such was the Chicago & North Western, in Marshfield, for me. The C&NW had all the things I listed above to create interest in it; the Operations, which differed very noticeably from other parts of the C&NW operations I was acquainted with, or remotely familiar with, in Wisconsin, and the Likes of which I have spent 20 years trying to define; The Structure, in the Personage of the One-Of-A-Kind, C&NW Marshfield Depot, ostensibly built by the C&NW's subsidiary, Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha, and which has been compared to similar Structures on the C&NW, but it was still, very much, a True, one-of-a-kind building, unique unto itself; A Piece of Rolling Stock, in LEGIONS of C&NW Equipment, with Merger & Acquisitions of smaller Companies, unpainted, still rolling around in their Former Owners Paint, or the Army of C&NW Equipment still decorated in the Lettering schemes they were Delivered in from the Factory, some dating to before WWII, and, I would be remiss to not mention the C&NW's large fleet of Bay Window Cabooses, interesting, each and all; and Locomotives: Well, C&NW offered practically EVERYTHING they operated in the time period I recall, save for the 244-engined Alcos banished to the Line to Huron, S.D., early in the 1960's. Everything else was here in the time period I recall, except for the C628's that C&NW acquired Second Hand from Norfolk & Western in 1973. Baldwins, both Switchers of the VO-1000 and VO-660 model, and the DRS-6-6-1500 & AS616 types, albeit all of them re-engined, along with the ex-Missouri-Kansas-Texas, or, "M-K-T" or "Katy", re-powered Baldwin AS-16 road switchers purchased second hand from Precision National Corporation, also in 1973 at the same time as the ex-N&W Alco's, Alco RS-1's, S-1's, S-2's, S-3's & S-4's, Fairbanks-Morse Baby Trainmasters, and H-10-44 Switch Engines, and a Legion of Electro-Motive Units, from SW-1's to SD-45's, and a fleeting glimpse of engines of the Chicago Great Western, acquired by the C&NW through Merger in 1968, still wearing CGW's Red & Black, and Solid Maroon, paint schemes yet. Yes, Marshfield could be a Locomotive Watcher's delight, not to mention a Haven for Freight Car Buffs, and those looking for period paint schemes!
My first experience with Railroads in Marshfield was not of the Soo Line, surprise, surprise, but, rather, a C&NW one! My Grandmother, Mother and I spent our first night in Marshfield sequestered in the now-Demolished Downtown Motel-----of which the C&NW Main Line West to Merrillan ran right past! Across the street was the C&NW's distinctive Marshfield Depot. (Itself ending up Demolished in a very-oddly handled effort to preserve it.) All throughout that first night in Marshfield, I spent most of the time with my head out the Window of our Motel Room (Which Drove Mother & Grandma slightly nuts) watching the going's on right outside. An SW-1 was switching out there that night; my memory of watching it is still vivid 33 years later! I can't tell you what else arrived and departed out there that night, but, it seemed, the C&NW was very much alive in the City of Marshfield, Wisconsin.
My earliest memories of the C&NW may seem scattered----and they are, limited in those early years to whatever I could get a glimpse of on a trip to Johnny's Liquor Store or to Karau's Supermarket, with Dad, or, what Dad told me from his working with them due to his Employment with the Soo Line, or what he had heard via the "Gossip Grapevine" at work about the C&NW. Karau's---and the other Liquor Store Dad frequented, the Beverage Mart---were RIGHT BEHIND the C&NW's Marshfield Depot, affording you a view of whatever the C&NW was running to Marshfield in those days. (And, Yes, C&NW Employees made USE of the Liquor Stores AND the two Taverns within walking distance of the Depot---they were usually Tipsy, even on the Job!) Best yet, the C&NW's Rudimentary Locomotive Servicing Facility, for all it was, was a surreptitiously small shed for storing bags of Engine Sand and a stand-pipe for fueling the diesels, was right off of Marshfield's main thoroughfare, Central Avenue, which is also State Highway 13 through town, and almost always packed with traffic. Many Residents that have lived in Marshfield all their lives from the 1930-s/'40's on, are cause to remember the C&NW here, more so than the Soo Line, because of the proximity of the C&NW's Engine Servicing Facility here, that once included an 11-stall Roundhouse, situated as it was, right off of the Main Street through Marshfield, making that portion of the C&NW so much more visible to the everyday, non-rail person. Watching the goings-on around the C&NW's Roundhouse was easy for many in those days, and, today, where Copp's Food Center operates a Grocery Store in Washington Square, such once contained Washington School, (Hence, the "Washington Square" name) and countless school children watched the C&NW move locomotives around and switch freight cars within open sight of that School. That was, unfortunately, changed for the worse by the time I arrived in Marshfield, but C&NW's rudimentary Servicing Facility could still tantalize the viewer with numbers of locomotives, from at least three locomotive builders, sitting, idling, awaiting the next call to duty, and it was still very much within sight of the Main Business District and within walking distance of my home. It was hard, though, to get Dad to chase a C&NW Locomotive around Marshfield using City Streets while it was working, after all, dad worked for the Soo Line and had enough Railroads after a 40 hour week of working with it.
Always, it seems now, the switch engine sat in front of the depot while the crew ate lunch. Here I saw F-M H-10-44's with their distinctive rear overhang; Alco switchers, and, RS-1's being used as switchers; re-powered Baldwin VO-1000 & VO-660 switchers: SW-1's; and a host of unusuals such as the C&NW's SW-600 types, all bOTH (#'s 1280 & 1281) of which drew the switching assignment at least once while the C&NW still offered through service.
In our second full winter in Marshfield, the winter of 1968-69, I spied a switching locomotive idling away the chilly, overcast afternoon, just east of the C&NW's Marshfield Depot by itself on the end of one of the downtown yard tracks, that looked like nothing I had seen before, sporting the logo from Lucky Strike Cigarettes. Chicago Great Western, folded into the C&NW earlier that year, 1968, had added the their small "fleet" of Alco 539-engined S-2 model switchers to the ever-expanding C&NW Locomotive Roster. The member sitting in Marshfield on that winter day in late-1968/early 1969 was none other than Number 8, CGW's first Alco S-2, from a "Fleet" that numbered all of 3 units. 8 has stuck out in my mind after all these years, mostly because I sat in the car while Dad was inside the Supermarket, staring at # 8, trying to figure out why they were advertising Lucky Strike Cigarettes on the side of the cab!! Then it dawned on me to read the lettering in the orange circle: GREAT WESTERN, it read in black. I asked Dad about it when he returned; he made hasty mention that, "The C&NW Took "Them" (The Chicago Great Western) over about 3 or 4 months ago". To Dad, the CGW was old hat after working with it for over 20 years at that point; to me, 5 years old and discovering the world around me, the CGW was completely new to me, having been exposed to a HUGE dose of Soo Line with a smattering of C&NW thrown in. In those days, I really thought there were only two Railroads in this world, the Soo Line & the Chicago & North Western, photographs of other U.S. Railroads seen in Trains Magazine not withstanding!
C&NW would assign but three other ex-CGW Switchers to Marshfield: S-1's 12 & 15, and NW-2 # 26. Except for # 12, I was privileged enough to have seen the 15 and the 26 whilst they worked in Marshfield, still dressed up like they belonged in Oelwein, Hayfield, Waterloo or Fort Dodge.
That summer revealed many other wonders on the C&NW: Fairbanks-Morse "Trainmasters", although, many years later I found out that in reality they were "Baby's", but a baby to What, no one ever explained to me at that time! Over time, I have found that, to most all of us, the F-M H-16-66 Locomotives, as redesigned to reflect the Trainmaster Styling with High Running boards, looked bigger than they were; nothing revealed this more readily and broke up that illusion than when a GP-30 would be in tandem with one of those F-M's, and the Hood of the GP-30 was again so much higher than the Hood of the F-M.
That Summer also revealed ex-Great Western SD-40's still painted in the CGW red, but re-stenciled with ugly yellow C&NW numbers. I am lucky the late Joe Stauber had taken the time to photograph those CGW Engines while they were here; I have the slides he took in my personal photo collection. My God, the memories they bring back.
But, never mind that; at the time, the F-M's were about as large a diesel as one could see on the C&NW. Later, came the General Electric U-30-C's C&NW acquired, which seemed to overshadow anything sitting next to them, but when the F-M's ruled Marshfield, they not only were the King, they looked the part! F-M's didn't Bark at the World doing their daily chores, they went about their business with no more than the Drumming Hum of a Maid sweeping the Floor. GE's would Chuckle loudly to life, spewing forth a Black Froth that came in handy reducing the Mosquito population, where the F-M's may have spewed forth a Blue Hue which cleared off almost immediately and the locomotive was moving.
To this day, I cannot recall too many lash-ups of F-M Baby Trainmasters that matched in paint design! Some still wore their Factory-applied garb; others had countless variations of that yet. Yes, they were all, ostensibly, Yellow & Green, but, as I found out with all C&NW Power, that was where similiarity ended with the paint. Looking back, it seems, now, that the C&NW never, really, found a way to paint the F-M Baby Trainmasters to their liking, and the entire fleet went off to scrap wearing at least five very different, distinctive variants of the C&NW's Classic Yellow & Green paint.
And, for some odd reason, I have images of F-Units on the C&NW in Marshfield, although they were far, and away, long passed from the daily Rail Scene in Marshfield, but I cannot tell you for certain that there Wasn't an F or two working here on the C&NW. I am just a bit too young to be certain.
In those first years, My Late Father kept me informed as to what the C&NW was doing in Marshfield, and my scattered sightings have given me the impression the C&NW was always working, always running trains into or out of Marshfield. Dad was the "Swing Man" Telegrapher for the Soo Line in those days; because the Soo Line controlled the signals at the Crossing of the Soo Line Twin Cities/Chicago Main Line and the C&NW Line to Wausau, the C&NW Counterpart would call ahead to the Soo Line via GTE and let the Soo know there was a train coming in from the North, or a Northbound leaving Marshfield, and inform the Soo how long the Train was. This would lead to arguments between the Hapless Soo Line Operator in the Depot and the Soo's Train Dispatcher in Stevens Point; many times, as "Working Courtesy", the Soo Line man would have the sympathy towards the C&NW and would want to allow the C&NW across the Soo, only to have this request Loudly denied by the Dispatcher; C&NW did not operate through Marshfield at speeds any higher than 10 mph, and the trains they drug along behind were, sometimes, Astronomical in length! That knowledge, that the Interlocking, such as it was, with the C&NW at Marshfield could be--and, in those days, sometimes was--"tied" up, for up to, sometimes exceeding, an hour, sent even the most Mild-mannered Soo DS into a Tirade at the very thought of letting the C&NW across the Soo here in Marshfield! Dad was never afraid to play "Devil's Advocate" in his plaint for the C&NW's case, and eventually, the Dispatcher would give in, and allow the C&NW into or out of Marshfield.
But, time after time, the DS's fears were usually well founded.
Dad's favorite Memory of the length of C&NW Freights came with a night he was working as the Swing Man as Telegrapher in Marshfield, around the time Mother & I moved to Marshfield to join him here. The C&NW called the Soo on the 'phone, asking if it was possible to get the Diamond, as the C&NW was bringing in a REALLY long freight train that night from Eland, and the Crew was on "Short Time", and couldn't afford to wait sitting outside Marshfield's northern City Limit for the Soo DS to relent and allow them Across. Dad got in to a "To-Do" with the Train Dispatcher about the very idea of letting a Train Across the Soo that size, and, besides, The Soo Line DS argued, the Soo's Train Crews were on "Short Time", too. But, the Soo DS relented, Dad turned the little Toggle Switches on the Signal Case in the Marshfield Depot to line the C&NW through the Interlocking, and the C&NW should have had no problem getting in to Marshfield.
Thing is, the C&NW brought a train in to Marshfield that night of 235 cars! That was, as Dad always told me, the longest train to have ever operated into Marshfield on either Railroad through here at that time. In fact, in those days (1965-1972) it was COMMON for the C&NW to bring trains in that were WELL above the 150-car mark! Now you understand WHY the Soo Line Dispatcher in Stevens Point tended to get a little TESTY when considering the thought of allowing the C&NW to cross the Soo!
Well, the Train in Question made it's slow (10 mph from MP 60.1 all the way in to Marshfield, Milepost 63.5) way in to Marshfield, pulled by 5 F-M Baby Trainmasters. Almost as soon as the Locomotives crossed the Soo, the "FUN" began: the length & weight of the train began to succumb to the laws of Physics! Something found out years before by two Railroads notable for running unbelievably long freight trains, Kansas City Southern and the Chicago Great Western, began taking over: Drawbars and Coupler Knuckle Pins began Breaking under the stress & strain of the load. It led to the train losing it's air as air hoses parted, and with the loss of air, the Train ground to a halt in Emergency; train crew members then had to walk the train to find the trouble; then a fix had to be effected, put the Train back together, pump air through the Train Lines underneath it, start it forward again, perhaps they moved two-or-three car lengths, and it happened AGAIN. This went on for four or five tries. It was some THREE HOURS before the C&NW was able to clear North Central Avenue that night!!!!
Problem was, this kind of thing happened every time the C&NW ran long freights like this. All this was done with older, mostly worn-out-looking Freight Equipment, using Draft Gear underneath built & designed when FDR, and later, Harry Truman, were President, where Metallurgy technology wasn't what it is today. And it was done over track that hadn't been maintained very well since the 1930's, that tossed 140-ton locomotives around on it like a Cork on a Wave----at 10 mph! Mention the Chicago & North Western to any Marshfield Resident that has lived here for over 30 years and expect to see their eyes roll heaven-ward in the thought of those days! I will never forget the sight of a C&NW train coming in from Wausau in Marshfield approaching the Grade Crossing on North Central Avenue, and how Everything---locomotives included---rocked Voilently from side to side----at 10 mph!!
Such was the Rocking Situation so bad on the C&NW that I recall Dad taking me up Upham Street once, only to find a Covered Hopper Carload of Cement turned Completely Upside Down next to the Crossing! The car began rocking side to side so voilently it threw itself off the tracks!
Of course, the Car Department of the C&NW was in no mean hurry to clean that overturned car up and rerail it; it took about one month before that overturned car was removed!
I never quite understood HOW the Northwestern could manage to squirrel away Trains of 150-cars and above in Marshfield; Have Dad come home from working the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift or the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Shift at the Soo Line Marshfield Depot for the Soo, and he'd be excited by whatever goings-on had happened with the C&NW, because they had come in from the North with a train that took an hour to Clear the Crossing with the Soo. The Next Day Dad & I would drive off around town, looking for evidence of Long Trains all over, and, except for, maybe, seeing the Power that came in on the Train in question, maybe a few cars sat in the C&NW's Yard next to their Depot, otherwise, the C&NW cleared out everything leaving very little behind. Even the C&NW's "New Yard", built to replace the Grade Crossing-restricted (and Violated---in the Center, obviating any Holding Capacity this Yard may have had) Downtown Yard, to the Southeast of East Fourth Street, would have almost nothing standing in it. It was an amazing transformation.
But, since there were no Car Repairmen, or, Facilities to repair Freight Cars, in Marshfield, and since Marshfield was mostly a Crew--and Engine change point--in those late 1960's days, once all the Trains in Question had had in-coming cars for Marshfield (Which included cars going to Wisconsin Rapids, Port Edwards, Nekoosa, and eastward to Fond du Lac, and cars for Local Stations west of Marshfield to Merrillan) switched out with cars leaving, once the trains were reassembled, most everything that had come in had left one direction or another. Still, it was dizzying to watch, and, almost 30 years after I still am amazed at how quickly the C&NW Switch Crews managed to get everything moving so quickly.
But, there is a "Catch-22" to everything the C&NW did while performing Switching of Trains in Marshfield.
No matter what the C&NW attempted, it was always at Cross-purposes to each street that Crossed over them in Marshfield. The C&NW crossed 34 Streets inside the Marshfield City Limits---some Streets TWICE!!!---and most Track Switches were on top of a Street Crossing, somewhere. When working in the CRAMPED yard in Front of the Depot, the Engine would Foul either Central Avenue on the West End, or Vine Avenue & East Fifth Street on the East End---sometimes even East Fourth Street if the Cut of cars being worked was that long. The City of Marshfield excersized "Right Of Eminent Domain" over the C&NW Early in the Last Century, and rammed two City Streets across the middle of the C&NW's Downtown Yard, thereby taking away any storage capacity it had possessed, and forcing the C&NW to do the same thing the Soo Line did when their Original Yard, also near Central Avenue, became Cramped and Hemmed In by Street Crossings at Each End: Construct a New Yard farther away in Swamp land, of which there was much around Marshfield. This unacceptable arrangement, of the C&NW's Yard location between two Busy streets, with two other streets shoved across the Middle of the Yard, brought forth a litany of City Ordinances designed to keep Street Crossings from being Blocked for any length of time, which, oddly, the City still tries to enforce upon the Wisconsin Central Today. Like the Soo Line, the C&NW ended up using their inadequate Yard just off the Downtown for car storage, but the C&NW had the dubious chore of having to Cut Crossings in the Middle of the Yard for Cedar & Cherry Avenues, streets which the City had pushed Through the Center of the C&NW's Yard years before. It was not unusual, hence the Flurry of City Ordinances, for some hapless Footboard Yardmaster to forget to make an uncoupling to clear a street crossing such as Cherry or Cedar and leave it blocked with a standing cut of cars!
The bad part of this was, the original Yard was in the Perfect spot for trains coming in from the North via Wausau, and from the South-east from Fond du Lac via Wisconsin Rapids. In terms of Switching Efficiency, everything could be assimilated as needed at that Yard because of it's well-placed location. However, with Busy Streets on both ends of the Downtown Yard and through the Middle of it, the C&NW as forced to construct a New Yard about 1 1/2 miles away, southeast of East Fourth Street, along the Line that went off to Wisconsin Rapids, and, eventually, to Fond du Lac. This put the Main Classification Yard out of line with the Line from Wausau, even though both were connected by the North Leg of the Wye the C&NW had in Marshfield. The North Leg, however, was quite tight in radius, and the C&NW seldomly used the Wye for send entire trains into the New Yard. Yes, they did use it for that, though not very often, but one got curious feeling in the pit of one's stomach watching---and Hearing---a C&NW freight of any substantial length crawl around the North Leg of the Wye. I've often wondered why the C&NW hadn't elected to build their New Yard west of Oak Avenue, something that was never fully explained to me over the years. I still ponder what the reasoning was, especially when you consider the following.
The Solution as worked out by the C&NW was to run the in-bound train(s) from Wausau all the way through Marshfield, then tie up out on the Siding West of Oak Avenue, where the Switcher would work the Train apart and back together. It was an odd, obviously inefficient, way of Switching Trains out; those of us that are long-time residents in Marshfield will tell you that you prudently did NOT use Oak Avenue to go anywhere on the South Edge of town if one Knew the C&NW train from the North was in, for the Switch Engine would have Oak blocked and virtually impassable, as they broke apart the Train (s). This made for an awkward arrangement, of the Switch Engine having to pull/push cuts of cars through town to/from their "New" Yard.
Marshfield became Cut-off from the Rest of the Outside world when a C&NW freight train would enter town from the North from Wausau/Stratford, and that is not an exaggeration! Coming in from the direction of Stratford, the C&NW's Line from Wausau went, "Hither And Yon", a consequence of it's Construction by the Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western, the Forebearer of the C&NW coming in from the North. What ended up in Marshfield, was the original attempt by the MLS&W to add the "& Western" to their name, the extension to Minneapolis/St. Paul that never came to be. Instead of headed straight west from Marathon City, the Line turned south at that point. It was, and looked to be, a Branch Line built over rough terrain, crossing the outermost Drainage Pattern that ran into the Wisconsin River. Built with tight money, the Line wandered all over avoiding excessive gradient, yet it's profile resembled that of a Ship on mildly rolling water, as the Line presented a Roller Coaster profile crossing that aforementioned Drainage Pattern making it's way towards Marshfield and trying to find the Next Big Sawmill to service, which is how the Line ended up going over to Stratford, where there was a Large Sawmill operation at one time, and then into MacMillen Marsh to also service the MacMillen Sawmill north of Marshfield. From there, the line made a more-or-less straight run to Marshfield, and then, once the line got close to MacMillen Road, it began it's twisting again. The Line turned south-southeast just before Crossing MacMillen, then ran straight for about a mile, passing behind St. Joseph's Hospital, until it reached today's Ives Street, where the line, beset with the steep hill that divides the Southern portion of Marshfield from that which lies North of Arnold Street, turned South-southeast, skirting that Hill as far as Arnold Street, where the Line then turned South-east, Crossing the Soo Line at grade on a perfect 90 degree crossing, both the Main Line and Passing Siding, then the Soo's Nekoosa Line, before the Line connected with the North Leg of the Wye here, then it ran along a one-block stretch of South Ash Avenue. For a block the line was by itself again, then it took a hard swing to the South-Southwest, crossed East Fourth Street, and connected with the C&NW Line coming in from Wisconsin Rapids.
There was no Grand Junction here; not in my day, but a solitary Signal, long unconnected to Electricity, stood guard as the Approach Signal for the Diamonds with the Soo Line, instead of a Yellow indication, the C&NW simply disconnected the Electricity and painted the Signal Target Yellow.
If original planning had been followed, the C&NW from Wausau would have connected with the Rapids Line farther east of the spot I describe above, coming to Marshfield from Wausau via Halder and Rozellville, but events never turned out that way, much to the Detriment of vehicular traffic in Marshfield.
As Constructed, the C&NW presented a "Horseshoe" Curve coming through Marshfield, and Train Direction was actually far at cross-purposes to the actual, physical direction the train was headed. An Eastbound Train would be headed North East, then Northwest, then Northeast again, then directly North, before Stratford, where the train would slowly begin to point into an easterly direction. It wasn't until Marathon City that a Train truly began heading into the true Easterly direction again.
Because of the resemblance to a Horseshoe curve, it was Very possible to get stuck for the Same C&NW Train, on the Same Street in Two Different Places in Marshfield. Central Avenue, the Main Thoroughfare through Marshfield, crossed the C&NW Twice, about a Mile apart. If your luck was "against" you, you could get stopped by the very same train on the same street. Had my late Father not proved it to me, I would never have thought it possible! This could also happen to you if you were driving on East Fourth Street! You could get stuck by Brown's Bar by a New Yard-bound Train, then again about 1/2 mile later in front of Weyerhaeuser, for this portion of the C&NW Line to Wisconsin Rapids first headed directly Northeast, then swung around on a graceful curve to head directly southeast towards Wisconsin Rapids, along side of the Soo Line's Nekoosa Line.
Recently, I paced off the Distance from the Spot where the C&NW had crossed Central Avenue where the C&NW Depot had stood, and that where the C&NW crossed Central Avenue AGAIN as the Line to Wausau and beyond made it's twisting way out towards the Northern City Limit; the way the C&NW came in, it was Two Miles between those two points. Also, the C&NW crossed more than just Central Avenue Twice, but Central Ave. was the only North-South Through street. None of the others were through Streets, either Dead Ending at the Soo Line, or at the C&NW Right-Of-Way, or both, North of the Crossing with the Soo Line. It was more than possible, thinking back to the days of Mile-long--or MORE-- Freight Trains to be Stuck at, say, the North Central Avenue Crossing waiting for the Caboose to make it's way past, while the Locomotives were Pulling across South Central Avenue at the Location of the C&NW Depot there! Such were the Joys of Living in Marshfield 30-35 years ago!
However, Yarding a Train wasn't as bad as it sounds. Some Time before the period I refer to, back, already, in the 1950's, the C&NW used sound reasoning and had began putting the Cars bound for Marshfield from Eastern Points via Wausau to the rear of the Westbound Train, cutting down on Switching Time. Car Repair was moved out of Marshfield about the time the Roundhouse was Closed & Removed (1960 or so) so there was little need for the Switcher to be pulling out Cars that Needed repair. With no Carmen here, there was no need to have the Train "Walked", or, to put this in simpler, less "Railroad Slang" terms, Inspected for Car Defects. What Car Repair that was at Marshfield was effected here was by a Crew of 4 men that drove over to Marshfield in a C&NW Truck from Altoona, Wisconsin. Eastbound Trains had Marshfield Cars set in next to the Locomotives, so it was another "Take 'Em Apart & Put 'Em Back Together Again" Operation at Oak. At Oak, I should mention, the C&NW had a 120 car siding, which, in later years, the C&NW cut back to 79 cars. In those first years after we moved here, the C&NW Changed Engines & Cabooses here, as, from the Depot, West to Merrilan, the Railroad was Governed by the Twin Cities Division, although I'm old enough to remember MOW Vehicles lettered "OMAHA DIVISION" on their Passenger & Driver's doors yet.
In effect, Marshfield was a Division Point on the C&NW, the End of the Lake Shore Division, and the Twin Cities Division (Or, "Omaha" if you prefer). With that "Distinction", for all it amounted to, you would have thought there would be some Official---or, at least, an Assistant to some Official---assigned to Marshfield, but the only person that could have been remotely called "Official" was the Station Agent. That was it. This poor soul, during the time period I recall here, was Jim White, and the C&NW made up for yanking the Carmen out of Marshfield by assigning the dour task of Tying Down the Piggy-back trailers the C&NW had loading out of Marshfield in those days to Jim. He was also the Operator, Yard Clerk, Business Agent, Weigh Master, Computer Clerk---and how many other thankless tasks that he had to perform here. He, like the trains, always seemed to be working; you would see him at the Depot in Marshfield at 6 a.m., or at 2 a.m., or any time inbetween! I often wondered how he put up with it all in those days. It was, as I later found out, one of Many Reasons Jim drank like he did!
Marshfield, too, as at the Neck of a Funnel, as two Rail Routes from Eastern Wisconsin wandered their way to Marshfield and met here. From Green Bay came the Line from Wausau that wound it's way through the likes of Pulaski, Shawano, Bowler to Eland, thence West to Wausau, Marathon, where upon the Line turned South, thence through places like Edgar, Fenwood, then Stratford and then into Marshfield from almost exact North. From Fond du Lac, the Line that entered Marshfield from the Southeast via Wisconsin Rapids meandered through the likes of Ripon, Green Lake, Wautoma, Neshkoro, Almond, Bancroft and into Wisconsin Rapids, then Northwesterly to Marshfield. One would have thought that, being the Junction it was, funneling the Traffic from two Rail Lines coming over from the Eastern Edge of Wisconsin, that Marshfield should have been a great Bottleneck where two lines formed in to one, Compressing traffic from two rail lines, but it never quite worked out that way.
It was even less so when I was first exposed to it, although, according to Dad, and my Late Friend Joe Stauber, who was employed, briefly, by the C&NW in the Marshfield Roundhouse as a Boiler-maker's Helper--the C&NW did run Two Freights out of Marshfield to Wisconsin Rapids per Day. These two people have made my Study of the C&NW in Marshfield and my interest in their operations a little more confusing; Well-researched Articles on the C&NW's operations published in the Chicago & North Western Historical Society's Magazine, North Western Lines, do not support what I have been told. Both Dad & Joe told me the Trains to & from Fond du Lac ran every day; as published in NWL, they ran every-other, i.e., over to Marshfield on Monday, Wednesday & Friday, back to Fond du Lac on the opposite days. Dad, you see, as the one of the Operators for the Soo Line, had Contact with his C&NW counterpart, as the C&NW & the Soo shared track between Eastmar & Westrap. (A Bastardization of the wording, "East Marshfield", and "West Wisconsin Rapids",or, West Grand Rapids, take your pick). As such, the C&NW operated with Soo Line Train Orders & Timetables & Rules from Marshfield to Milepost 10 on the Line to Westrap; beyond that it was reverse, Soo Line operating with C&NW Timetables, Orders & Rules, from Milepost 10 to Westrap, so, when the C&NW was ready to send their train wobbling out of Marshfield for Wisconsin Rapids and beyond, the C&NW would call the Soo Line via GTE, and vice-versa for the Soo local to Wisconsin Rapids when it was ready to depart. Both Joe & Dad recall trains leaving TWICE in a day, about two hours apart: First, the train to Fond du Lac, followed about one hour later by the Train that would do all the Local Switching in Rapids, Port Edwards & Nekoosa. It has been a study in frustration to try to sort such, oftentimes conflicting, information out. I think everything I have uncovered is, actually, quite Correct; in my Study, I have found that the Chicago & North Western was quite Flexible in Train Operations and would assign an extra Job as warranted, usually without too much hesitation. Dad & Joe both remembered TWO Trains departing for the "Rapids" and beyond; in thinking back, I do recall seeing Single & Doubled units sitting side by side idling uptown, which could have very well been the Power for Trains to Fond du Lac & one to the Wisconsin Rapids area. I just can't be sure because of a lack of concrete evidence.
The Trains that went to Rapids and beyond were built and taken apart in the "New" yard on the C&NW, out of sight, and, basically, out of mind, from the Rest of Residential Marshfield. In fact, this yard was so basic, not to mention rudimentary, as to not have any lights to cast rays of Electric Light upon anything, other than the Hand Lanterns of the Switchmen and the Glare of the Locomotive Headlight! Nothing fancy here, not even a Yard Office, although the C&NW moved in the Shell of an old tool shed and plopped it, without a floor, or Foundation, on the ground over the Right-Of-Way drainage Ditch to serve as a shelter of some sort, but it was hardly an office. It didn't even have Electricity to it! It still was back there as of this writing (2-1-01) but it's lack of Floor has reduced it to a piled of rotted rubble with a shingle roof, laying in pieces among Maturing Saplings. It will disappear altogether when the City & the State Department Of Transportation build Marshfield's Boulevard Roadway in 2002.
Essentially, Marshfield, as I came to know it as far as the C&NW was concerned, was, truly, the "Great Shining Example" of a "Back Woods" Division Point. Nothing seemed to operate at a hurried pace here. The Track, for the amount of Trains, the tonnage carried and their length, was in Very Poor Shape. There was no Roundhouse or such to store Idle Locomotives in, rather, they were left sitting on the Western Ends of the Down Town Yard Tracks, in the Open, exposed to all sorts of Elements. There was no Engine Hostler assigned here permanently, rather, a Kindly Gentleman from Altoona, employed by the C&NW, drove over to Marshfield as needed to perform what work was necessary to keep the Locomotives fueled & sanded. By 1972 there wasn't even a Section Crew stationed here! But, that was the C&NW in Marshfield, an odd, anachronistic, Rail Line that deceived those who viewed it quickly as a withering Branch Line. It WAS a Withering Branch Line, but, at the same time, it wasn't.
But, in 1967-1972, who could have known that? In that period, the C&NW's financial woes were well known to everyone, Railfan or not. What we saw was a Busy operation, operating on Bad Track, of Trains of over 100 cars, limited by Track Conditions to 10 mph., of a Corporation teetering on the Brink of Bankruptcy, or Sale, or Merger, to another Railroad. None of those options happened, though, and the Mergers expected in the 1970's, one, and the most notable, to the Moribund Milwaukee Road, didn't materialize, and reality of the C&NW becoming part of another Railroad didn't become reality until 1995, long after the C&NW had departed Marshfield for the last time on it's own Trackage & Right-Of-Way, and then it was to the Union Pacific, whom all expected would have taken over the C&NW shortly after the Interstate Commerce Commision put the Classic "Thumbs Down" to a Union Pacific-Rock Island Merger.
After much Study of the C&NW in Marshfield on my part, they were a Deceiving Rail Line. At first Glance, you would have thought the C&NW to be bereft of any Line Side Business, which, technically, they were. But that's where much of the Surprise lay.
Using their "Alternative Routing" status to their advantage, the C&NW had Business in Marshfield, most of it on the Soo Line!
Soo Line got the Delivery & Switching Charges, the C&NW got the Long Haul to Marshfield. That was where the Money was. And, buried among the Swamp Grass on the Southeast Edge of Marshfield was the Original East Side Industrial Park, where the C&NW had long-time Customers that left older, cramped facilities elsewhere and moved in to modern buildings in the Park. Unfortunately, because the New Industrial Park had been located on the Nekoosa Line, the Customers in it were "Reciprocally Switched" with the Soo Line. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the Soo Line worked the Industrial Park; C&NW had it on the Off Days. Of the eventual 7 Plants that located in the Park, Six were good Customers of the Chicago & North Western! Phillips Industries, a Mobile Home Manufacturing Supplier, which had used the Marshfield Brewery as it's Warehouse for several Years; Alumax, an Aluminum Siding Manufacturer that had occupied the long, silver Warehouse that sat in the Spot of the C&NW Roundhouse near Downtown; Dytec, a Pre-fabricated, Concrete Foundation Wall Manufacturer, whose idea of pre-fab concrete foundation walls never bore fruit, but a firm, for the short time they operated, that got in MANY a carload of Dry Bulk Cement from the C&NW out of Iowa; Wick Building Systems Frame Shop, which accounted for all-C&NW movements of Steel " I " Beams for use in the Fabrication of Mobile Home Frames; H&S Manufacturing, another Steel User & Good C&NW Customer; Graham Manufacturing, a Finisher of Doors. In these cases, the only reason the Soo Line Switched these Companies at all was because of the Switching Agreements with the C&NW. Later, David Building Supply and Automated Products became C&NW Customers, and, still later, Hub City Foods, a Grocery Wholesaler, became almost-exclusive Customers of the C&NW. The near-loss of Hub City to the C&NW was a Slap in the Face to the Soo Line, as Hub City was a long time "Captive" Customer of the Soo. Oddly, by the time the C&NW abandoned out of Marshfield in 1982, Hub City got more Rail Cars in via the C&NW than the over the Soo. Hub City gave up Rail Service altogether about one year after the C&NW left Marshfield.
Most obvious of the C&NW's Customers in Marshfield was Great Plains Gas, which got in carload LP Gas. They were a Switch of at least twice per week; moreso, of Course, in the Wintertime. I was always dumbfounded by the Soo Line's lack of interest in trying to retain Great Plains Gas as a Customer of their own after the C&NW left in 1982. Great Plains is located not very far from the current Wisconsin Central Tracks, and the Soo Line could have either built a new Spur in to Great Plains from off of their Passing Siding, or used the spur still in place that had serviced the People's Gas Company, of which Great Plains acquired the property from. Soo Line wanted Nothing to do with the LP Gas business Great Plains presented, which was far more inbound carloads than Superior Gas gave the Soo Line. Located on the far northern reaches of the C&NW's Yard Limits in Marshfield was Wisconsin Homes, which got in car loads of Lumber, Drywall and Paneling.
The C&NW moved many a finished Mobile Home out of Marshfield from the C&NW's Version of a Piggy-Back Ramp: The C&NW had buried Two 50' flat cars on one end of the car into the ground by digging a hole in the earth, Jacked the Flat cars into this hole, added granite approaches, and, VOILA! A Pig Ramp! There were, as mentioned, two ramps: One behind the Depot where the Mobile Homes were loaded, and the second east of the Depot on the old RPO Track, where Figi's used to load Semi Trailers. C&NW lasted far longer hauling Mobile Homes than the Soo Line did; C&NW was still handling these cars as late as 1973. Soo had given up on those by 1970 already.
The C&NW got the Long Haul on Southern Illinois Coal to Marshfield for the Municipal Power Plant; the Soo Line got it for the Anthracite used there, from Chicago Interchange. Soo Line did the Switching, no matter which type of coal it was that arrived in Marshfield for use at the Municipal Power Plant, as they did on most everything. All that leaves is Mall Furniture, that got in one carload of Furniture per month in their old Wisconsin Buttertub Company building they still occupy. Bauer's Farm Service, on a Switch back off of the Ramp Track that ran to the rear of the Depot,. never did a lot of business with the C&NW after 1970; more of a consequence of Purina getting away from shipping over rail than anything else.
Such was the C&NW prior to 1972: Long, long Freight Trains, drawn by Exotic Power, followed up by a Classic C&NW Bay Window Caboose, on track that had been sparsely maintained for 30 years or more. Fairbanks-Morse Power, re-powered Baldwin Switchers and Roadswitchers, 539-model Engined Alco Switchers, Legions of GP-7 & GP-9 Locomotives, SD-40 & SD-45 behemoths, GE U-30-C types, Odd working hours; surprising amounts of local Business; Extra Freights one never knew were coming. It was a confusing, though thoroughly entertaining, sight to watch, and I'm still fascinated by it all.
Then came the Summer of 1972. C&NW was bad enough off by that time that the Management decided some drastic retrenchment was needed; in particular, the Area around Marshfield, and this region of Central Wisconsin, in Particular.
In Early Summer that year, we experienced a Mid-summer DRENCHING in this region of Wisconsin that washed away portions of the C&NW Line from Wisconsin Rapids to Fond du Lac at around Kellner, Wis. C&NW, which had enjoyed a large amount of Finished Paper Traffic over this Portion, Eastbound for Fond du Lac for movement to Chicago, simply turned it's back on this line after the Storm Damage. C&NW trains to Marshfield from the Rapids area had never been long; most of the Traffic moved Eastwards. Marshfield saw the Empty Cars, the Pulpwood Gons going back to Spooner, Mercer, Lac du Flambeau, Laona, etc. Very little paper came to Marshfield.
But the trains going to Fond du Lac were Stuffed with Finished Paper products. Eastbound tonnage leaving Wisconsin Rapids overshadowed that which left Northwestwards towards Marshfield. It is one of those wonders one is left with after Research & Careful Study, that you wonder Why the Chicago & North Western allowed the Line from Wisconsin Rapids to Fond du Lac to slowly Deteriorate, even with the obviously profitable Finished, Eastbound Paper Traffic, but that was the C&NW! When the Line between N.E. Junction in Wisconsin Rapids and Bancroft washed out, C&NW first embargoed that Portion, then, later, Applied for Abandonment, which the ICC Gave it's blessing on. That was funny, given the C&NW's preclusion to Steal as much Traffic as they could leaving Wisconsin Rapids for mostly Eastern Markets, from the Milwaukee Road, which had had almost total exclusivity to the Finished Paper Traffic for years, which now made up the bulk of the C&NW's Traffic between Rapids and Fond du Lac.
C&NW made the erroneous affirmation to the ICC examiners that examined the Abandonment Application from the N.E. Junction-West Bancroft Trackage, that it could handle the Paper Traffic Backward to Marshfield then to Merrilan, where it could move to Chicago. As it turned out, this claim was, "A Lot Of Hot Air" on the C&NW's part, and is clear evidence that Upper Management had not an iota of realization of the harsh truths about moving traffic in the manner they were choosing. Perhaps, after all, it seemed, the Management of the C&NW WAS, truly, trying to get out of Central Wisconsin, period, lucrative Paper Traffic or no.
At the same time, the C&NW commissioned Sperry Rail Service to Inspect the Track from Marshfield to Wausau. Behind the Sperry car was a Rash of problem spots painted Yellow where Broken Rails were. There were so many between Marshfield and Stratford, the C&NW estimated it would need to replace ALL the rails, and the majority of the ties, between Marshfield and Opal, a 80-odd-car capacity siding in the Middle of MacMillen Swamp to the North of Marshfield at Milepost 58, not to mention a plethora of Bad Spots beyond those as far as Edgar!. That revelation was too much for the C&NW to handle; out-of-the-pocket costs were placed in the Millions of dollars, something the C&NW neither had at the time, nor could they justify spending it on trackage the Company itself thought to be Redundant. So, the C&NW also put the Marshfield-Stratford segment out-of-service at the same time it applied for an Embargo of traffic beyond Wisconsin Rapids east to Bancroft. For all intents and purposes, the C&NW was severing Marshfield and ending it's Junction/Division Point Status, and trying to service Wisconsin Rapids, Port Edwards & Nekoosa from Merrillan. Cars loaded in traditional points located on the Laona Line or the Line to Ashland via Eland & Antigo had to route cars destined for the Rapids area via Green Bay to Butler Yard, thence have it back-hauled via Clyman Junction to Adams and Wyeville to Merrilan, where it was set out for the Job working out of Marshfield to pick up.
This was an arrangement that didn't work very well at all. It took three times longer for cars destined for the Rapids Area to arrive there, seeing as to how the cars had to trapise all over Wisconsin before getting to Merrilan. C&NW's business in Rapids began to slip, noticably, by 1973.
All these events had their effect on Marshfield. From a busy spot, Marshfield became somewhat Sleepy looking so far as action on the C&NW was concerned. Where we once sported a Switch Engine, we had but One locomotive for a short period the two crews working here used; in the Daylight, the Crew that went to Rapids used it, after returning, the Night Crew used it to Switch Out the Cars brought Back to Marshfield, put their train together for Merrillan, and depart, doing all the Local Switching over to Merrilan along the way in Chili, Granton and Neillsville, and then Swap Cars in Merrillan and return to Marshfield. What we did get to see was not Locomotives in Quantity, but Freight Cars needing Repair, by the Bushel-basket Full!
During 1972-1974, the C&NW in Marshfield Became the Nation's Largest RIP Track. Freight Cars of all types, shapes, sizes, various ages, all ended up stored in the Downtown Yard, awaiting orders to move to the big C&NW carshops in Clinton, Iowa. Cars from the C&NW, CGW, Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern, Litchfield & Madison, Des Moines & Central Iowa and Minneapolis & St. Louis, all ended up here in varying states of Disrepair. It was in Marshfield, Wisconsin, not Marshalltown, Iowa, nor Oskaloosa, where I saw Fire-engine Red M&StL 40' box cars with the 6 ft. M&StL splashed across their sides. One of these cars was evidently "Bad Ordered" and sent to Marshfield because it had been alongside something that had caught fire and Burned with this car next to it. One side of this car was totally scorched beyond recognition, but the opposite side was untouched! There was an older Bulkhead Flatcar with the wood facing on the upright Metal End Bracing for the end Bulheads was so badly rotted that on one end of this car there was no wooden facing at all! A C&NW Pullman PS-1 box car, so badly weathered all that was left of the White Lettering on the Black Background of the herald was streaks of white down the Carside where the Paint had run off. Gondola cars so badly mauled from Loading/Unloading there was no lettering to be seen anywhere except on the ends. Flat Cars without a single fibre of the Wood Decking left in place. And, of course, there were the cars that had only recently rolled out of the C&NW Car Shops at Clinton, Iowa, that looked perfectly fine, but, yet, here they sat, stored, for no visible reason. It was all so Odd.
C&NW simply Plugged Marshfield Full of Bad Order cars; the Downtown Yard was Full, the one remaining Track that remained that had served the C&NW's Marshfield Freight House was Full, the Track to the Piggy Back Ramp where Figi's had loaded trailers (C&NW lost the remainder of Figi's Business to the Soo Line in 1971) was Full, and the spur into Mall Furniture was packed in tight at the end. Even the Siding at Oak Avenue was stuffed full. Everywhere you looked, Bad Order Freight Cars.
And four of the cars, two Pulpwood Gondolas with a weird, Side Stake & End "Bulkhead" arrangement installed for hauling Pulp Sticks, and two 50' SD Box Cars, Strange-looking beasts with a 3 ft. Superior Panel Door added to the 7 ft. corrugated door already in place to extend the width of the Opening, stayed in Marshfield from 1973 until the C&NW abandoned out in 1982! No wonder the C&NW was "Chronically" short of Freight cars. For a time, one found it prudent to watch those rag-tag Freight Cars, as the C&NW did move a majority in and out of Marshfield as needed. You never knew what Freight Car in rotten shape to expect next!
But, it was during this period, I was introduced to the "Katy's".
Marshfield went from a Spot to see just about Any type of Locomotive to a place where you saw but One type, Rebuilt Baldwin Roadswitchers. Oh, the ex-Katy units had come to Marshfield, at first, still Painted Katy Red, and creating a stir with local Railfans thinking they were ex-Chicago Great Western Units, and, always, at first, it seemed, in Tandem with the Early, Ramond Loewey-designed F-M H-16-66 Engines, but during the 1972-1974 period they were Only power in Marshfield. Pairs of them, either a Pair of ex-Katy Units or a Katy paired with one of C&NW's own Six-axle Baldwin Units. The Katy units on their second go around through Marshfield as the primary power here had all been repainted into C&NW Yellow & Green. When paired up with one of the C&NW's older six axle units, they stood out because, the Katy Units wore relatively Newly applied paint, applied in what I call, "the Cigar Band Scheme" (i.e., the Cab was Yellow instead of green, making the unit look like a Yeliow Band in between the Green Upper reaches and the Green Running Boards & Frame), with the C&NW-proper unit wearing badly weathered paint, most likely applied by EMD when the unit was re-engined. Coming at you long hood forward (which was Front on these units), you thought, both from first glance and from the sound, you were seeing a standard GP-something-or-other bearing down on you, but you were quite surprised by the Awful profile presented as the unit passed.
Also during this period, it has been claimed the C&NW assigned GP-7 1526/Slug BU-1 to Marshfield for use on the Line, although I have no recollection of seeing it. The Late Jim Vogel, a personal Friend and Local Railfan, told me of it; Paul Behrens, whom authored the First Series in North Western Lines about the Branch Line to Marshfield from Merrillan, also claimed that unique set worked here during this time.
A regular Switch Engine type was re-assigned along with the Road Power by the end of 1973, which was odd in itself seeing as how the C&NW's business was slowly contracting due to the longer transit times. But the C&NW had enough sense to see their idea of handling everything through Merrillan was costing them business, so by late 1973 the C&NW worked out a "Temporary" Running Rights agreement with the Milwaukee Road to run strictly a Haulage Train up the Milwaukee from South Necedah to Port Edwards, where the C&NW got back on their own bad track. This allowed the C&NW to service the Rapids area from Adams, Wis., where the C&NW had a Large Yard and Division Point, instead of back-hauling everything to Marshfield and then to Merrillan. Traffic to the Rapids area began to move faster overall, and this arrangement, in effect, sealed the fate of Marshfield being on the C&NW rail map by 1982. Trains coming home to Marshfield from Rapids became, as they always had prior to the Stubbing of the Line Between Wisconsin Rapids and Fond du Lac, very short. Although they may have left Marshfield bound for Wisconsin Rapids with a train very near the 100-car mark, what they came home with was well out-of-proportion with what they had taken down to Rapids with them. Returning trains seldomly returned with more than 50 cars, most often the returning train consist could be easily packed away on One yard track in C&NW's New Yard here. That arrangement, of moving fewer cars westward than Eastward, remained right up until October 1976 when Through Service was cut between Marshfield and Merrillan and Marshfield-Opal.
Somewhat Surprisingly, Through Service between Marshfield and Eland, stubbed just out of the Yard Limits to the north in Marshfield, was reinstated in the Spring of 1974. With the re-instatement of through service from Wausau to Merrillan, seemingly overnight, all those "Bad Order" freight cars disappeared, except for those in real need of extensive repair, or those deemed surplus.
But the C&NW had instituted changes. Gone was the need to Switch out the train here, as well as the Need to Change Power here. The Rapids Train would still draw two units, but one of the Pair, for a Short time, became a GP-30. Shortly, the Rapids Train was home to Pairs of GP-30's, and nothing else. In fact, all the Road Power on the through trains became GP-30's, the only break in this was the use of a Baldwin VO-1000m or VO-660m reengined Switcher in Marshfield. At one time, and it did have this effect on me personally, that, between the Soo Line & the C&NW, you could get Veery sick of seeing the GP-30 locomotive! Power on the C&NW's re-instated Through Train would continue on straight through Marshfield. Only the Crewmen Changed. This train became a "Local" beyond Wausau, although it carried the Designation of 471X. Eastwards the Train, between Marshfield and Wausau, was 472X. The Soo Line people referred to the Trains by Numbers long henceforth forgotten in 1972 when Through Service from Wausau/Eland was suspended: 71 & 72, numbers the Train from Wausau to Marshfield had carried since before World War II.
I need to intone, however, that during the period the C&NW had ended through Service between Marshfield and Wausau, there were road trains that DID run between those points, from and to Merrillan, as needed. Dad said he had heard these were "Test" runs; exactly what was being "Tested" is lost on me. I recall listening to the C&NW Operator stage a meet between trains one evening on one of those Cheap-o radios you could win at the Local Fair that picked up Radio Channels other than Commercial Broadcasts. Both Trains were unbeilevably long that night; one was 123 cars long, the other 96!! I tried to get Dad to take me out to watch the Fun on the C&NW, but he was, shall we say, Most reluctant to do so.
Cars to be set out at Marshfield were still placed at the rear of the train, only, now, the Train would stop in Marshfield after Changing Crews, then cut off the rear-most cars, Plus Caboose, and continue on Westward to Merrillan, doing all the Local Work westward as it went, sans caboose. The Yard Engine would grab this cut, pull it through town to their New Yard where they would spend the large part of their Shift taking these cars and assembling them into the next day's run to Rapids & Nekoosa. The train from Rapids most likely hadn't come home with much, mostly cars destined for points Northeast of Marshfield towards Wausau and beyond, or cars headed back northwest to Spooner (Spooner cars, and most cars destined for western points west of Eau Claire, though, long before the end of Through Service, went back with the "Haulage Train" from Adams and were routed back home from there lest it take too long to return these cars to their home point by back-hauling these cars to Marshfield and having them sit in Marshfield at least one full day before they would be picked up by 471X.). These cars, plus the caboose left behind by the Westward Train, would be dragged back out to the now-79 car siding at Oak Avenue, cut back during 1973, where the Westbound Train had left the previous set out, to become the Eastward 472X Pick-up early (around 3:00 a.m.) the Next Morning.
And, the C&NW became, for all intents and Purposes, a Strictly Night-hours Railroad. The Switch Job here went to work at 6 p.m. and was scheduled to work 12 hours. The Train to Nekoosa went to work at 6:30 a.m., not expected back until about 6 p.m. 471X was the odd "Duck" in all of this, showing up in Marshfield anywhere from 1:30 p.m. to as late as 6:30 p.m., but, generally, 471X made it's appearance around 4 p.m., about the afternoon rush hour for Vehicular Traffic in Marshfield. In that instance, the C&NW made no friends as a long freight snaked in to Marshfield when Rush-hour traffic was on the move!
By this point, I had become aware of an on-going Rift between the Soo Line and the Chicago & North Western over Maintenance of the Nekoosa Line between Milepost 10, south of Arpin, to Werstrap, the C&NW-owned portion of this Line. As is per usual where Railroads share track, there were questions as to what an acceptable standard of Maintenance was. Soo kept their section, from Marshfield to Milepost 10, south of Arpin, up to a 25 mph standard, where the C&NW, which did very little with the Track from MP 10 to Westrap, allowed the Railroad to fall to 10 mph track...if it was good for that. Considering both the Soo & the C&NW hauled good sized trains to Wisconsin Rapids, one wonders the C&NW's wisdom in not maintaining the trackage. Perhaps the C&NW was looking to adjust their operations out of Wisconsin Rapids to Adams instead of Marshfield by that time, who can tell for sure.
Eventually, the Soo Line, too, gave up trying to maintain their section of the line, so that by 1976 the entirety of the Nekoosa Line between Marshfield and Westrap was all 10 mph trackage, even after the Soo Line purchased the ex-C&NW section in 1982 and put Welded Rail in on it, until Soo/Lake States suspended service over it in 1985. Wisconsin Central pulled up everything from MP. 2.5 in Marshfield to Westrap in 1993.
It was an incongruous sight of a 100-plus car freight train waddling along at 10 mph along this stretch, be it Soo Line or Chicago & North Western, powered either by the Red & White F-Units of the Soo or the ever-present GP-30's of the C&NW.
This arrangement, however, had it's drawbacks, especially when you consider the intense rivalry between the Soo & the C&NW.
C&NW didn't try very hard to maintain their section of trackage, but, year after year, practically, it was the Soo Line train to Rapids that ended up derailed or, Worse, wrecked!! Please, do not laugh, but the yearly wrecking or derailing of Soo's local to Wisconsin Rapids was as reliable an indicator that Springtime had come to Central Wisconsin!! One knew when that happened the Frost had come out of the ground for good!
Soo Line would then Embargo their traffic over the MP 10 to Westrap Portion, while the C&NW would effect repair to keep their own trains moving. Soo Line would try running their Nekoosa Line trains out of Stevens Point, down the Plover Line to Whiting, around the Interchange Wye there with the Green Bay & Western, thence to Plover proper, then Westwards over GB&W to Wisconsin Rapids. This worked so long as the Soo Line didn't abuse the grace given them by the GB&W, which the Soo did every time!
One year, the C&NW didn't have a wrecking outfit handy quickly, and, apparently, Hulcher Wrecking Services was busy elsewhere, so for one full week, the C&NW's Rapids Train detoured via the Soo from Marshfield to Stevens Point, thence down the P-Line to Whiting, then over the GB&W to Plover and on to Wisconsin Rapids. The whole affair getting out of Marshfield made for a Frightening Back-up move up the Nekoosa Line from Eastmar, out of the C&NW "New" Yard, onto the Soo Line's Twin Cities Main Line, but it made for an Interesting sight to see a pair of C&NW GP-30's hustling along on obviously Soo Line High Iron through places like Auburndale or Junction City. This, back at a time where today's present left-over Union Pacific, ex-C&NW Trackage Rights from South Necedah to Junction City and on up to South Itasca were never even contemplated! A touch of Irony, perhaps?
Perhaps even more Ironic, is Wisconsin Central GP-30 # 2253 is a former C&NW unit, treading upon trackage it Crossed at one time!
Alas, it was never a secret, after the Cutting of through service through Marshfield in 1972, that the C&NW was quite adamant to Abandon all of their trackage to, and through, Marshfield, from all directions. C&NW filed for Total Abandonment in 1973, only to be turned down by the ICC. Then, C&NW decided to do something far more detrimental to the Lines into Marshfield: Stub them.
C&NW applied to remove only short sections of the Lines to Marshfield, with their eye on retaining the profitable Paper Traffic out of Wisconsin Rapids. Word came down in early 1975 that the C&NW would be eliminating through service between Marshfield and Chili, and Marshfield and Stratford. Once I accepted the C&NW was going to get their way no matter what, I paid my own sort of Homage to the C&NW by being Trackside at Central Avenue as often as I could. As 1975 became 1976, the visible changes began.
During the time left to watch and admire the C&NW in Marshfield, I did come to acquire a Fetish for the Re-powered Baldwin Switch Engines the C&NW had and used here. About as much Baldwin as a Horned Toad is mostly Toad, I found their uniqueness of the "Real-life Kit Bashing", of the blending of Electro-Motive Long Hood and Engine underneath with the Baldwin Cab & Underframe to be a pleasing esthetic. Only the gutteral, business-like sound of the EMD engine under the hood spoiled the Sewing Machine-like sound that came from the original Baldwin VO. These ugly little morphidytes had personality all their own, and were quite capable to shoulder the tasks asked of them.
It will always be a favorite memory of mine, recalling how these engines could throw up a CLOUD of oily, yellow-ish-white Exhaust after being moved after sitting at idle for 12 hours; it was a cumulus cloud that covered the neighborhood! More than once, I watched as one of the Re-powered Baldwins dragged the Set-out from train # 471X through town, and how the Switcher would throw up a cloud of white exhaust as the train behind began to settle in to the down side of the grade it was on and resist the Locomotive; many times the last car over Central Avenue would crawl across at less than walking speed, and the Cloud of pollutants from the Switcher blocks away resembled Exhaust from a Steam Locomotive!
And, I can't forget watching the Rapids Local return home each night, trailing their caboose. Two GP-30's waddling side to side on the frail, worn track, trailed by a Red Bay Window Caboose, # 10925. The crew would slow down enough to pitch off their Grips, and the Head Brakeman, Fireman and Conductor would get off before the two Engines and caboose would cross Central Avenue to clear the Switch on the West End for the Downtown Yard. They would reverse, ease in far enough to close the Switch to the Main Line, then Continue back to push their caboose onto the short Caboose Track that also served as the track to spot Loaded Tank Cars of Locomotive Fuel, come back out, relign this switch, then put their two engines "away" on the Track that had formerly been the Ready Track in the days of the Marshfield Roundhouse.
And I cannot forget how the C&NW wired up the Crossing Signals; the majority were still timed for the days when there were speeds of 25 mph or more. Part of the oddness of the C&NW was that the Crossing Signals would come to life Looonnnggg before the locomotives crossed the Street!
The Changes began with the removal of parts of two Downtown Yard tracks in late 1975. It was unsettling to see, but the C&NW hardly used these tracks for too much of anything other than Car Storage. From the Cedar Avenue Crossing Eastward to the Yard Ladder Switches, the C&NW removed significant parts of two yard tracks-----and, somehow, months later, ran a GP-30 off of them, puncturing the fuel tank! (My introduction to Hulcher Industries) This engine sat, shut off, for some two days, partly fouling the Cedar Avenue crossing; after school one Monday, a group of us nosey types watched as Hulcher's Side-boom-equipped Cats re-railed the Locomotive in a process that lasted less than 5 minutes. The the dead-locomotive was rolled clear of Cedar Avenue, and two Carmen attempted to effect repair with a Welder on the ripped-open Fuel Tank, long drained onto the ground. Problem was, it was a Dry Fall that year, and after lighting off the Acetylene, these two Men spent 10 minutes putting out a Grass Fire! It was funny to watch, really.
Train 471X got shorter and shorter as the C&NW diverted more & more traffic to Wisconsin Rapids to Adams for Wisconsin Rapids, Port Edwards and Nekoosa and serviced this area from South Necedah via the Haulage Rights trains operated from there northwards to Wisconsin Rapids. I recall Pedaling my Rear-end off once to get ahead of an in-bound 471X one late summer day in 1976, inspired mostly because the Lead Engine had a one-note Claxon Air Horn!! I thought it would turn out to be an F unit or an older GP-7, but, alas, it turned out to be GP-30 # 823, dressed in the "Yellow Cigar Band Scheme" adopted by the C&NW in the Late 1960's, leading three mates, 20 cars and caboose. All that pedaling on my Bike for NOTHING! But, the sight of a fore-shortened 471X was unsettling; I knew the end was very close by then.
Yet, Trains on some days became unbelievably long, and, without warning, C&NW extended their closing date from August 1976 into late September.
In the Midst of all this, came New wonders to marvel at, in the form of GP-15-1's, ex-Frisco GP-7's and Quebec, North Shore & Labrador GP-9's.
It was Dad that told me one day that the C&NW was running Brand New Power through Marshfield, a type no one had seen before. He wasn't sure what these new types were (no one was, not even us local Railfans), but he gave me the advice to "Watch The C&NW A Little More", which I did. Sure enough, one Tuesday at promptly 3:30 p.m., in came 471X with Brand-spanking New Diesels on the Point, Four of them, accompanied by a Pair of GP-30's. The Lead Unit was numbered 4413, followed by 4414, 4415 and 4416. Folks, these engines were Soooooo New, you could still SMELL the Newness of the paint on them as they slowly passed by!
Alas, after trying to uncover whether this was these units Actual First Trip on the Road, the GP-15-1's disappeared from Marshfield forever. It wasn't for a good part of a year before I found out what type of Diesels these were! By then, both the C&NW as a Through Route and the GP-15-1's had passed from the Rail Scene in Marshfield.
As if to make up for removing the GP-15-1's, along came Used Frisco Geeps. Still wearing their Mandarin Red & White Frisco Paint, these, too, showed up with remarkable consistency then vanished without word. They, too, came to Marshfield in Sets of three or four, again, Trailed by one or two GP-30's. I saw the ex-Frisco & QNS&L Geeps on Sundays; During the Week, trains were in charge of GP-30's, always GP-30's.
As things drew to their inevitable close, it was on the Weekends you got to see the unusual power, such as GP-7's & GP-9's, the C&NW-owned power. Both types had, for all intents and purposes, disappeared from Marshfield after 1973. Suddenly, alarmingly, at least, one could spy an old, unrebuilt, C&NW-proper GP-7 or 9 trailing along in the Engine Consist behind the GP-30's. Alas, none of the Locomotives being rebuilt at the great Oelwein Edifice were to be seen in Marshfield before the close of through operations. I knew the C&NW had 'em, they just never came over this far!
It all ended so unexpectedly one Cloudy, Chilly September night, the 30th as I recall. Coming Home from School I spied the Switch Engine on duty already at 3:30 p.m., Very Unusual, and this day they were pulling the "Camp Car",-- the C&NW version of an MOW Sleeping car, an aluminum body, like a Trailer Home, mounted on an old 50' ft Flat car,----which had sat, undisturbed, on the end of the Station Track next to the Flatcar TOFC Ramp where Mobile Homes had been loaded on Flatcars behind the Depot from 1973 on, out to the New Yard. Something was up.
Later on, around 6 p.m., I left the House on my Bike, intent on finding out where that Camp Car had gone. I ended up pedaling all the way down to the New Yard, where I caught Both Switch Engine and the Power for the Rapids turn in the Yard; the Rapids Train had just gotten back. The Train they pulled consisted of about 12 San Luis Central Iced Refrigerator Cars----the same types I had seen sitting stored, west of Highway 41 outside of Oshkosh on the Line that entered Oshkosh by way of Hortonville, Larsen and Allenville around 1973 after this line was approved for abandonment!!!!! As was Standard procedure, the Train pulled up short, cut off caboose # 10925, pulled the "train" in to clear, cut off the engines, pulled ahead, realigned the Switch, and took reverse routing through an empty track, of which all but one were that night. They grabbed their caboose, and headed "Uptown" to put Caboose & Locomotives away.
The Switch Engine that night was Rebuilt Baldwin # 1037. They sauntered in through Eastmar with two empty N&W box cars and three other now-forgotten road named cars, having just completed their Switching at Hub City Foods and the Industrial Park, Switched out the three cars staying with the C&NW then headed up to Third Street to Interchange the two N&W Box Cars to the Soo Line. This done, the Switch Engine, too, headed Uptown and took Lunch, leaving the 1037 tied up on the Scale Track in front of the Depot.
Those San Luis Central Refrigerator cars sat in the New Yard, on the same track, in the same Spot they were left on the night I watched in 1976, until late 1980.
Little Did I know then, this was the end. The next morning, as Dad took me to School at Junior High, both GP-30's and the 1037 were gone, replaced by GP-7m 4328.
For about the period of one month the C&NW operated the Train to Wisconsin Rapids out of Marshfield. Each morning as Dad took me to School, the Train Crew would just be getting ready to leave. Before Christmas that year, the C&NW shifted Operation of the Train to Adams, with the trip to Marshfield as the side-line. At first, until around 1978, the C&NW still had to come to Marshfield 5 days per week. After that year, it dropped to three days per week, then to "as Needed", sometimes only once per week. By the time the line was pulled up, I can't really say the C&NW was coming to Marshfield more than Once per week----IF even that.
There really wasn't too much to see during this period. Not long after closing Through Operations, the C&NW Ripped Up all the Down Town Yard Tracks, leaving only the spur that serviced where Alumax had been, but, by this time, Alumax had moved out to their New Building in the Industrial Park and had sold the Building to a private individual that leased the space within to Figi's, which used the building to Assemble the Gifts they send out every year. Figi's didn't need rail service, but this spur stayed in even After the C&NW abandoned out of Marshfield forever in 1982. Only what was the Former Main Line West to Merrillan still wobbled it's way through Town, stopped short on the West before Oak Avenue. The C&NW tore out the Crossing with the Soo's M&T Spur the day after Through Operations ceased.
The Local, as it operated to Marshfield in those closing days, was a hard one to catch if they were in town. Generally, C&NW's Business was out in the Industrial Park. They would come in, do all the work out there, sort out the cars going back to the Soo Line, tote these up to Third Street, shove them in to the Soo, then head back home towards Adams. If the Train came in to Marshfield before the Crew had eaten Lunch, then they would shove the returning train, Caboose & All, up to the Depot, and walk over to Karau's Supermarket and pick up groceries. Then, after picking up their eats, the crew would reboard the train and leave. It during one of these maneuvers the C&NW had a leased (?) Bessemer & Lake Erie Bay Window Caboose, fully lettered as such, on the rear.
I stood gazing at this car for a long time, and I never did get an explanation WHY it was here.
Most of the time, you barely knew the C&NW was here. They came in as early as 6:00 p.m., or as late as 10:00 p.m. If they didn't have to go out to Wisconsin Homes, or Spot the Once-Per-Month carload of Furniture at Mall Furniture, you didn't know they had even been here. The off-sounding Air Horns C&NW used were a clue as you heard them in the night, but, unless you knew where they were, and were 100% certain of their location, it was a Futile Gesture to try to track them down.
I actually stopped paying attention to the C&NW at this point, and I have no regrets for doing so. Their operation became, it seemed, sporadic. Catching the Local in town was pure happenstance in those days; Once, while standing outside the Bowling Alley where I hung out as a Teen, I heard them coming through town, with a Car for Mall Furniture. Another time, I stood outside of a Friends Home I was Baby Sitting at and could make out the Locomotive about a mile away as it both went out to Wisconsin Homes, and, then, came back with the empty cars, running behind St. Joseph's Hospital as it crossed Ives Street. On another occasion, I was standing in the Soo Line Marshfield Depot "Shooting The Breeze" with the Operator one night when a slightly tipsy Gentleman entered the Depot to Complain about the Crossing Signals being on by Popeye's Pub, about 5 blocks north. I walked off to investigate; the Local was in town that evening, and had Tied Up Locomotive # 4333 between Maple & Central avenues and the Crew walked down to Krause's Inn, a bar & eatery, about four blocks North. The Crew apparently, mistakenly, thought the Crossing Signals would shut off by themselves after a few minutes, but, such was not the case! I got there about the same time a Marshfield Cop pulled up, and was asked if I worked for the Railroad! I told him, no, and explained the Train Crew had gone off to eat. They showed up about three or four minutes later, and the Police Officer took off to complain to the Crew about the Crossing Signals!
Outside of that, I didn't go out of my way to Fan the C&NW. There was no need anymore. There was nothing to see. I also, still, to this day, hold some resentment toward the C&NW for leaving this area as they had. By the time the C&NW started Abandonment Proceedings, I was well-versed on the Business the C&NW had outside of Marshfield in the small communities outside of it's borders, and felt the C&NW was wrong in trying to remove all the trackage. Yet, as Hub City Central Member Jim Hasz pointed out to me once, none of the said Business that the C&NW serviced in those small communities was anything worth retaining, nor did it produce outstanding profits for the Company. Was the C&NW Justified in removing these Rail Lines? If anything, after all the research I have done myself and the Study, Yes, C&NW was Justified to pull the rails out. It is very doubtful the Lines would have lasted, even with through Service, much past Staggers Act deregulation. And these lines, particularily the Line from Marshfield to Wausau, had enjoyed staggering amounts of Traffic that went across Lake Michigan on the C&O & Ann Arbor Car Ferries, traffic the C&NW competed Head-to-Head with the Green Bay & Western for at one time. When the Chesapeake & Ohio began to actively solicit traffic away from the likes of the Spartan and the Badger and actively promote moving that traffic through Barr Yard in Chicago, the C&NW was one that much preferred the all-rail routing to Chicago, versus the cars making the long trip all over Central & Eastern Wisconsin. Much of this traffic was still very much in evidence on the Trains bound out from Marshfield for Wausau and beyond, yet, in 1967-1970. Thereafter, these "Overhead" cars traveled more and more to Chicago, and the Road Freights to and from Marshfield were more inclined to contain loaded or empty cars destined from or to the Paper Mills. The C&NW even found a way to avoid moving those cars through Marshfield as well.
I didn't even pay attention when the C&NW got the OK from the Interstate Commerce Commission to Abandon Marshfield to Merrillan, and Marshfield to Wausau. Even the C&NW route to Wisconsin Rapids was included on the Petition, Trackage which was shared with the Soo Line! Even harder to believe was the Soo Line seemed to not care, and waited, for what seemed to be an interminable amount of time, before entering in to negotiations to buy the MP. 10 to Westrap portion! Then, the C&NW SOAKED the Soo Line for that portion of line, which the Soo probably expected in the first place, which is why they hesitated so long to begin with.
One day, by accident, I was walking through the C&NW Station Grounds around the Depot to find Both Flatcars, buried on one end, that had served as the Piggy Back Ramps, had both been jacked back out of the holes they sat in, had new Coupler Knuckles installed in the coupler on the end that had served as a Bumping Post, and had been rolled off a few feet from where they had sat. I could see work had been done on the cars; all the Journal Boxes showed the Bearings had been repacked and oiled. These two flats were moved off to the very eastern end of the Downtown Yard, coupled to two C&NW-versions of Pulpwood Cars, and left to sit until 1981, when all four cars were toted off to who-knows where. What the fate of these cars became is anyone's guess. I would assume all four were scrapped. The Granite approaches were graded into the Holes the ends of the cars had sat in to fill them.
But I was on hand on Christmas Day 1982, standing amid the Reclaimed Ties, Rail & Fish Plates stacked on either side of the Main Line, being loaded into C&NW Gondola Cars for transport elsewhere, thinking back on the things I had seen. Fairbanks-Morse H-10-44 Switch Engines, H-16-66 Loewey Styled "Baby" Trainmasters, and The "Real Baby", Trainmaster-Styled later versions; Chicago Great Western S-series Alco Switchers, and SD-40 locomotives; GE U-30-C's; SD-45's; Brand-new SD-40-2's; Rebuilt Baldwin VO-660 & VO-1000 Switchers, and the Roadswitching locomotives of DRS-6-6-1500 and AS616 types; the ex-Katy AS-16m repowered Baldwins; a plethora of GP-7 & GP-9 locomotives before the C&NW rebuilt them; RED Bay Window Cabooses. Freight Cars carrying "Route Of The 400 Streamliners" blurbs on their sides yet. A slightly anachronistic, somewhat backward looking, operating Railroad, but fun to watch in any case. The Chicago & North Western never quit making me guess what I might see next. I stood at the Central Avenue crossing Many times, Too many times, in the years leading up to this conclusion, hoping to see an Alco RS-3, or, even, a GP-7 or a GP-35. I missed those GP-types that did come through, as it seemed it happened when I was in School. The Alco's never got here; they were banished to the Line from Winona to Huron, South Dakota.
I have found out many things about the C&NW in the ensuing 20 years since their abandonment, but I really wish I had known these things when the C&NW was still here. I would've understood it all so much better.
Once the C&NW was gone, for, at the time, what seemed to be "For Good, For Ever", The City Of Marshfield acquired an obsession with eradicating any, and all, traces of the C&NW. It is very hard to find too many traces of the C&NW in Marshfield anymore. In fact, the New Building the Hub City Central is hoping to occupy in March of 2001, Sits Right In The Center of where the Wausau Line of the C&NW came in on the North Side!
The City of Marshfield pushed streets through, and across, where the C&NW had been, of a necessity. Such construction paved the way for New Housing developement, as such, the Long, high embankment the C&NW ran atop of from Doege Street all the way to Arnold Street is gone, but for a short, one block stretch between Maple and Cedar Avenues. This exists only because the Property Owner adjacent the ex-C&NW Right-Of-Way couldn't stand his less-than-well-to-do neighbors on the other side of the ROW embankment, and so purchased this stretch to conceal himself from the "White Trash" behind. No Kidding, folks. Houses now sit where F-M Baby Trainmasters used to urge along trains of gargantuan sizes.
An Elderly Housing Apartment Building is now nestled in between Cedar and Cherry Avenues on the odd-shaped lot that once contained the C&NW's Downtown Yard, and the Freight House. The problem of the Lot's odd shape has plagued this Housing Development since it's inception.
Where the east Yard Ladder had been between Cherry and Vine Avenues, there is now a Business Plaza, it, too, suffers from the odd shape of the lot due to the way the C&NW traversed Marshfield. Where the Line to Wausau merged with the Line to Wisconsin Rapids, there is now a Large Home.
To the West of Oak Street, somehow, the Owner of Rogers Cinema, Paul Rogers, acquired the C&NW's ROW from just West of Oak Avenue out to Lincoln Avenue and where the C&NW was in a Deep cut, Main Line along with the Siding. New homes are going up here as well. A home moved from the North Side was plopped in the Center of where Main Line and Siding had been about a Block off of Oak Avenue. It looks kind of odd, really.
The most tragic episode since the Departure of the C&NW from it's own rails was the Foolishness surrounding the C&NW Depot.
This was very sad, not to mention how it enflamed tempers the way it was handled and the ultimate outcome.
The C&NW vacated the Marshfield Depot in 1978, and leased office space in the Wood County Court House Annex on East Fourth Street, which the Line to Wisconsin Rapids went past. (Jim White was Bumped out of Marshfield in late 1976 by the former C&NW Agent from Merrillan, Clint Burkhardt.) C&NW put the Depot up for sale shortly thereafter, but it was never advertised in the Local Paper. The Alderman from the 4th Ward, Bud Heiting, got wind of this before anyone else got a chance to snap at the building. (Bud, by the way, also owned & operated the Beverage Mart Liquor Store Behind the C&NW Depot) Bud planned to turn the Depot in to a Restaurant, which he eventually did, and Named it, "The End Of The Line". I can't say The End Of The Line made significant profits as a Restaurant/Lounge, but I doubt anyone was losing money at it, either. Bud passed the business on to his Son, Steve, around 1985 or so. Steve ran it, supposedly, into the ground. Steve added Volley Ball courts outside where the Scale House had been and ran Volley Ball leagues in the Summer, right up until the year the End Of The Line was closed, 1998 or so. As turned into a Business, the Depot had received new Insulated Thermo-pane windows, constructed to look like the old metal-framed multi-paned windows they replaced.
As Steve Heiting prepared to Abandon the Business, there was a noticeable LACK of response to save the C&NW's Marshfield Depot, a True one-of-a-kind building. In fact, what was done was done at the last minute in a hap-hazard way. The conclusion was, made by a Local Contractor versed in moving buildings, that the C&NW Depot would never be able to be moved. This was awful news to the Depot's new owners, Phil & Don Hiller of Hiller's Hardware, who had been pressured into Buying the Depot from the Chamber of Commerce, in "The Name Of Historical Preservation". The Hiller's purchased the Depot with the specific idea of seeing it saved, only to have to have the building torn down----at extra cost to themselves added to the cost of their new Hardware Store that went up next to this site. This remains a Bitter Pill with the Hiller Family. Portions of the Interior were saved, and have been integrated into Member Mark Meyers's Full-scale replica of the Soo Line Hewitt Depot.
Perhaps what made Tempers flare was it took One Full WEEK to try to demolish the C&NW Depot. Once started, we all found out the Depot could have been saved, and moved, very easily. More Coy Subterfuge on the part of the Local Chamber of Commerce to remove an "Eye Sore". The Director of the Chamber had always groaned that the C&NW Depot, both as a C&NW Structure and, later, as the Restaurant it never quite became, "Looks Out Of Place", and "was Not Pleasing To The Eye Where It Sits". As Mayor, this same individual resisted the Heiting's attempts to bring in old Passenger Cars to add to the facade of the Business, saying, "That Idea Does Not Fit With MY Plans For The Downtown In This Area".
So it went and has gone. Unless you know where to look, the C&NW in Marshfield has become quite invisible. I don't know how I'm going to explain where the C&NW was to a younger generation, now, anymore. So complete has the eradication of the C&NW been in Marshfield that it has become nearly impossible to see it any more.
In 1992, the Chicago & North Western RETURNED to Marshfield, running their trains to South Itasca from Adams on the Trackage of their former competitor, the Soo Line, which had, itself, left the area in 1987 with the sale of the Line through Marshfield to Wisconsin Central! It was not, and never, will be, the Operations I saw on the Original C&NW 8 blocks farther south, nor were the Locomotives the type I had seen on the C&NW. But, we are talking nearly 20 years after the final Train departed Marshfield for Wisconsin Rapids, and time continually changes in it's onward march. And the C&NW itself disappeared in to the Colossus of Union Pacific in 1995.
I still have fond memories of F-M's, Alco's and Baldwins going about their daily chores in Marshfield. Those I shall never forget. It was, after all reflection, a kind of Bittersweet Experience watching the Chicago & Northwestern in Marshfield, but I would repeat it all over again if so given the chance."73"
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