Sparta to Reedsburg

Point of Interest

GOOGLE MAPS no longer available: With apologies, I am unable to continue showing Google Maps. Google has forced my hand by increasing their map usage fee from nothing/free to OVER $300 A MONTH for the Abandoned Rails website! This is an expense that I simply cannot afford. Rest assured I am looking at available open source alternatives, so maps should be back online soon!

Greg Harrison

This railway was built by the Chicago and North Western Railroad and was completed in September of 1873. Its completion gave a direct route over the C&NW between Saint Paul and Chicago, IL. It was abandoned by the C&NW in 1965.

The line is well-known locally for a couple of reasons. First, it not only has three tunnels on its route, but each tunnel was dug by hand. Second, the portion of the grade between Sparta and Elroy hosts the Sparta-Elroy Rail-trail, long considered to be the first instance of an abandoned railroad grade that was converted to pedestrian/bicycle use in the nation, and thus the original rail-trail; it remains a popular trail today. The remainder of the line, between Elroy and Reedsburg, also serves as the 400 Rail-trail.

The Sparta-Elroy portion was abandoned around 65-66, but the Reedsburg portion was actually part of the line that split off in Elroy and continued north to Wyeville and connected with the Adams line. The portion between Camp Douglas and Reedsburg was abandoned around 1987. CNW operated ballast trains on the line from Rock Springs to IL. The portion from Evansville to Madison is railbanked, but UP operates ballast trains with WSOR crews from Rock Springs to Madison. WSOR operates the old Madison line up to the end of the line in Reedsburg. The 400 Trail runs from Reedsburg thru to Camp Douglas, with the Elroy-Sparta trail branching off in Elroy. The Union Pacific still has track from camp Douglas to Wyeville, but is just used to store cars.

Matt Dreessen

[Thanks Matt; you can see a map of the Elroy-Camp Douglas line here:  —Greg Harrison]


Actually, the section that runs from Elroy to Camp Douglas is indeed a bicycle trail but it is known as the 'Omaha Trail' and is owned and maintained by Juneau County.

The other trails (the Elroy-Sparta Trail and the 400 Trail between Reedsburg and Elroy) are state trails owned by the State of Wisconsin and run by the DNR.

Bicycle Bill
Onalaska, WI


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Do you have any pictures or information about Sparta to Reedsburg? Please . You will get credit for anything you contribute.