Wisconsin Central Railway (1897–1954)

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For the modern railway, see Wisconsin Central Transportation.
Wisconsin Central Railway
WCRy logo.png
Locale Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois
Dates of operation 1871–1961
Successor Soo Line Railroad
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The original Wisconsin Central Railroad Company was established by an act of the Wisconsin State Legislature and incorporated in February 1871. It built track throughout Wisconsin, connecting to neighboring states, before being leased to Northern Pacific Railway between 1889–1893. It became the Wisconsin Central Railway Company in 1897, and back to Wisconsin Central Railroad Company in 1954. The railroad was merged into the Soo Line Railroad in 1961.

History[edit]

Wisconsin Central Railroad Lands 1881

The Wisconsin Central's existence as an independent carrier was short-lived. Much of the Wisconsin Central right of way was built over land obtained through a Federal land-grant. It was the only land-grant railroad in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Central Railway's tracks reached Ashland in 1877, St. Paul in 1884, Chicago in 1886 and Superior in 1908. The line was leased from 1889-1893 by the Northern Pacific Railroad. The lease was terminated when the Northern Pacific declared bankruptcy during the Panic of 1893. After a proposed merger with the Northern Pacific fell through in 1908, the Wisconsin Central was leased by the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railway, commonly known as the Soo Line, in 1908. Controlling interest in the Soo Line (along with the Wisconsin Central) was held by the Canadian Pacific Railroad. The Wisconsin Central entered receivership in 1932, declared bankruptcy in 1944, and finally re-emerged from administration in 1954 as the Wisconsin Central Railroad. The Wisconsin Central was entirely merged into the new Soo Line Railroad in 1961.

Sheep are unloaded from the upper level of a Wisconsin Central stock car in Chicago, Illinois, in 1904.

While under the control of the Northern Pacific, the Wisconsin Central Railroad constructed Solon Spencer Beman's great Romanesque Grand Central Station (Chicago) in 1889 as its southern terminus. When the Northern Pacific defaulted on its lease terms in 1893, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad acquired the several Chicago properties of the Wisconsin Central including Grand Central Station.

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Bibliography[edit]

  • Gjevre, John A. (1990) [1973]. Saga of the Soo, West from Shoreham. Moorhead, Minnesota: Gjevre Books. LCCN 90-090283.