West Bend to Fond du Lac

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Looking north from Scott Street towards the CNW yards in Fond du Lac, WI. CNW and Soo Line had adjoining yards in this area. Line at left is active Canadian National line, formerly Soo Line. Photo by Beaver, December 2008.

This abandoned railway line was completed in the 1850s as the Milwaukee and Fon du Lac Air Line; this railroad was a subsidiary of the larger Milwaukee and Superior Rail Road. In 1881, both lines came under the ownership of the Chicago Milwaukee and North Western Railroad, which in turn was purchased by the Chicago and North Western in June, 1883.

The line from West Bend north to its terminus at Fond du Lac was abandoned around 2003, with the tracks being pulled up soon after. The remainder of the line between West Bend and Milwaukee is still in use by the Canadian National in order to serve an agricultural dealer in West Bend.

The line is still active from FDL South to Eden to serive the Pit mines there. There is a new Connector from the old CNW to the CN (ex WC, ex SOO)just north of Pioneer Road in FDL.

Josh
Sheboygan, WI
1/23/2011

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The Air Line hosted four passenger and four time freights daily when I hired out as a brakeman in 1967. There was also a way freight that worked the line called the Eden Turn. It was one of the best jobs on the Wisconsin Division. It worked six days a week at the time. When I left Milwaukee in 1985 it was down to 3 days a week and was the only train on the line. I have many fond memories of working this line.

Dan Sylvester
Waukegan, IL
8/19/2013

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James H Yanke wrote a wonderful hardcover book dedicated to this specific line of railroad:

The Chicago & North Western's Air Line Subdivision

Author: James H Yanke; Chicago & North Western Historical Society.

Publisher: Ethel, Mo. : Chicago & North Western Historical Society, ©2009.

ISBN: 193280403X 9781932804034

Josh Straub
West Bend, WI
10/5/2013

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Very nice , started working this sub in 1980 on cnw engineering dept . still working it today as conductor on local for cn between granville and rusco road . Hello jim Y.

Barry
Butler, WI
12/21/2014

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Hi Barry, are you the conductor I see every week operating those bright orange EJ&E SD38-2s like #660?

If so, that's really cool. I was so shocked to see a train in my home town, I haven't seen any since the late 80's or 90s. I watched your train shove a small cut up the hill to the big distribution center warehouse at the very end of the line at Rusco Road, I could hear that SD38 was not turbocharged as you throttled up to get them going up the hill!

Those SD38s also seem to have LED ditch lighting installed now?

Josh Straub
Milwaukee, WI
2/18/2015

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Hello Josh ,

Yes that is me with the EJE 660 it will be gone in another week for service .

Barry

Barry
Butler, WI
2/21/2015

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I was born and raise in a small white house on 3 acres of land west of the old Lighthouse Lanes bowling alley. I still remember the old steamers on that line from early 50's till the last steam train which was a way freight in late summer or early fall of 1956. Wish Dad would have(which he deeply regrets)taken some pictures of them. Nostalgia was not in vogue at the time. I do have pictures of a morning northbound and a southbound passenger train. I filmed an afternoon northbound passenger train shortly after I return from duty in Vietnam around March of 1971 and B/4 the dreaded Amtrak Era took over. The track there was removed in the summer of 2000. Dad moved out that year and my Son bought the old homestead. When in visit there, I observe bicycles in summer and ATV's during winter seasons, on the the old ROW. Sure do miss seeing trains on the old line.

D. marks
South Milwaukee, WI
7/5/2015

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I was born and raise in a small white house on 3 acres of land west of the old Lighthouse Lanes bowling alley. I still remember the old steamers on that line from early 50's till the last steam train which was a way freight in late summer or early fall of 1956. Wish Dad would have(which he deeply regrets)taken some pictures of them. Nostalgia was not in vogue at the time. I do have pictures of a morning northbound and a southbound passenger train. I filmed an afternoon northbound passenger train shortly after I return from duty in Vietnam around March of 1971 and B/4 the dreaded Amtrak Era took over. The track there was removed in the summer of 2000. Dad moved out that year and my Son bought the old homestead. When in visit there, I observe bicycles in summer and ATV's during winter seasons, on the the old ROW. Sure do miss seeing trains on the old line.

D. Marks
South Milwaukee, WI
7/6/2015

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D. Marks, do you have any photos of the wye that used to exist between Lighthouse Lanes and West Bend Elevator?

Do you know if there is any remaining evidence whatsoever of this wye? I was there in person in 2014 using GPS and a historical map from 1930 (which surely isn't a highly precision source) and I could not find any sign of the wye roadbed.

Josh Straub
West Bend, WI
7/6/2015

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Josh:

Sorry I don't. If you have or I suggest buying the book 'AIR LINE SUBDIVISION" by James H. Yanke, go to Chapter 128 page 130, there is an illustration and a good description of that wye/spur then go to page 132 shows a way freight backing up to WBE. Basically it was a spur to the old Northern Sand & Gravel Pit till the late forty's. All I remember the spur or siding was cut back to 3 oil tanks that stored fuel for the surrounding area. In 1966(personally I think it was later) the West bend Elevator was built there. They used it as a spur till the 45 by-pass was built. The spur was abandoned. After which they constructed a concrete loading dock by the new BR siding north of Friendly DR. All abandoned in 2000. I'd be more than happy to give you info if you so desire. D. Marks.

D. Marks
South Milwaukee, WI
7/7/2015

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EJE 660 IS BACK , Barry

barry
butler, WI
7/12/2015

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Barry, I'm curious if you were able to share what EJE #660 had done to her? And those SD38s also seem to have LED ditch lighting installed now, is that true?

Thanks again.

PS: Maybe 2 weeks ago I think real late Friday or Saturday night (foggy memory) I heard someone absolutely blasting the horn from the area near the end of the line by HWY G and Rusco Rd. It sounded like perhaps there was someone on the tracks. I have never heard a train horn blown like that in recent years. Any idea what it might've been? I know for sure it was surprisingly late at night, maybe 10PM-1AM. And the horn blasts were very long and urgent sounding.

Josh Straub
West Bend, WI
7/13/2015

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Josh:

The horn blast is usually blown at an emergency situations such as a deer on the track or some crazy nuts goofing around the tracks at the north freight terminus on Rusco Road.

D.Marks
South Milwaukee, WI
7/13/2015

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eje 660 had the fra 92 day test .

barry
butler, WI
7/16/2015

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Thanks Barry

Now that mystery was solved.

The case of "Horatios Hornblowing.

A little humor a day keeps the rail abandonments away.

I wish!

D.Marks
South Milwaukee, WI
7/17/2015

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I finally got a copy of Jim Yanke's book "CNW Air line Subdivision. It is highly recommend! Excellent Book for anyone researching the line.

I live on the line and really enjoy watching the DBR Local when I can catch it. Berry,has there been a speed restriction on the Westbend sub as of lately? Also, can you give a run down of the Industries you serve on the line? The two switches in Jackson,do the receive regular service? I'm aware of the lumber and boxcars at the Distribution Center,who uses the trans-loading facilities and is that a seasonal operation because I rarely see hoppers or tankers on your trip up? I'm also curious what is considered the normal amount of cars for this local?

Thanks in advance!

Scott

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
11/15/2015

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Scott; kreilkamp owns warehous ,transloaders , Campbellsport building supply , metro hardwoods - flat cars , various lumber yards . at end- Helena co-op ,spring valley co-op. Jackson - metro hardwoods box's ,weeks lumber . Germantown - waste management .1 to 25 cars , varies .jims book very good.

barry

barry
butler, WI
2/7/2016

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Scott. Speed restriction on West Bend Sub? Possible condition of rails. I remember when Wisconsin Central took over from Fox River Valley RR. The trains ran mostly at night, at a 15 MPH or less. I walked the rails, at that time, between the Lighthouse Lanes to Friendly DR. Those tracks were really in bad shape. So I assume the rails from Rusco Road south aren't any better.

Dale Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/9/2016

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Thanks for the information Berry! I really appreciate it. It is also good to see Gehl's finally get some inbound hopper loads!

Keep up the good work L507!

Scott
Jackson, WI
2/9/2016

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Dale,That is probably the case. A few months ago I just noticed a more consistence slower speed. The tracks from Rusco Rd to Jackson are in decent shape(I hiked that portion of the line) from what I can tell. I found two ties with 83 and 87 branded into them and I believe that most of the stick rail had the date 1957 on it.

Let's hope the CN local has a bright future on the branch, even if it is at 10mph.

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/9/2016

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Scott:

Back around the late 50's or early 60's, the North Western

laid heavier gauge track from Jackson or further south down the line, to as far north before Campbellsport. It looked like that they welded every other rail joint. I remember once I took the evening southbound out of Oshkosh. Speed averaged about 40 MPH, tracks seemed rough till we got to a point between Campbellsport and Kewaskum. Then the rail suddenly smoothed out and train speed increased to about 60 MPH or so to West Bend. I wish WC would have not abandoned the line between Eden and Rusco Rd. This would have relieved some of train congestion that runs through Waukesha. I heard WC sold the line for money to pay for damages with the railroads' accident that happen in Weyauwega. The original plan was to go as far Jackson, but customers in West Bend needed the service. For a time the line was still active(2000-2004) from West Bend Company(now Regal) to Freight yard in West Bend. West Bend's city fathers wanted to get rid of the so called blight at the freight yard. They won out and line was then taken up to Rusco Rd. The only thing that is left in West Bend, is the Depot, which was nicely refurbished, housing, a restaurant and packing lot now occupies the old freight yard.

D. Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/10/2016

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Speed limit on the Air line in 1967 was 79 for passenger and 50 for freight. (70 on curves) At MP 127 (2 miles north of Kewaskum) the speed dropped to 65 for passenger trains.

Dan Sylvester, retired conductor.

Dan Sylvester
Waukegan, IL
2/10/2016

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Dale,I couldn't agree more! Especially since the WC seemed to have a "can do" business attitude. I often wonder how many customers were left without rail service between Edens and Westbend. I read in John Leopard's book "Wisconsin Central Heritage" vol. 1 that the WC kept the Air line open as a through Fond du Lac- Milwaukee route in order to handle haulage traffic from the C&NW between Milwaukee and C&NW's isolated lines north of Green Bay and once the WC purchased the isolated trackage north of Green Bay from C&NW's successor Union Pacific in 96 the WC sought to move the interchange of cars with the UP from Butler to Chicago. After this was changed, the Westbend sub importance as a through route diminished. Last trip was 11-19-1999. Like you suggested, maybe the middle 20 miles were then removed to help cover that mishap coupled with political pressure from Westbend City leaders,whatever the case may be I also agree that they should have remained in place especially if there were customers in that 20 mile segment that was abandoned.

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/10/2016

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Dale,You also brought up a good point about the fact that the Westbend sub could have helped relieve the Waukesha sub if it was left intact. I agree but wonder how that would work since the Westbend sub ends at Grandville? The traffic would have to be transferred to the UP or WSOR or some kind of trackage rights. Do you think this also had apart of the route losing its importance since ownership terminates at Granville and the logistics of a through route made it non profitable? That would be some good Bridge traffic for another Railroad much like the former FVW.

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/10/2016

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Dan,I can't even imagine seeing a train going 50mph or 79mph on this line..Wow!

I thought I read that before the middle portion was removed, there was talk of Amtrak using the Air line to reach Fond du Lac and Green Bay via this route.

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/10/2016

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Amtrak on that line died around the late 90's or early 2000's because rail condition did not meet Amtrak's specifications, plus redoing rails and roadbed was cost prohibitive. I also read that rail banking was dropped on that portion of ROW, I might be wrong. Ridership/usage studies may came into a factor too. As far as speed restrictions on airline that year comes to question, But Dan should know.

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/11/2016

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The last time I worked the Way Freight was around 1985. RR's had been deregulated and single car shippers suffered most. The Air Line was all single care shippers. As I recall our last customers were the Quarry at Eden and also the cannery at Eden. The Malt House at Kewaskum, and salt for West Bend Elevator at Old Siding BR. We still got a few loads out West bend Aluminum and out of Libby's at Jackson. The train was only run 3 days a Week. A far cry from when I started in 1967 when it ran daily except Sunday. When Amtrak came along the CNW wasted no time in taking the elevation out of the curves and lowering the speed limit. The signals were next to go. I have many fond memories of working that line.

Dan Sylvester

Dan Sylvester
Waukegan, IL
2/11/2016

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D.Marks, I'm not sure either about the rail banking but I'm sure it is pretty safe to say it will probably remain a Recreation Trail. Thanks, I have really enjoyed this conversation.

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/11/2016

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Dan,I went looking for and evidence of former switch into Libby's but found nothing. Libby's was razed some years ago. I did find the ties still in place at the Mill in Jackson but the switch and rails removed. I'm not sure when the Mill last received service? Currently the local runs 3 days a week and I enjoy seeing them if I'm lucky enough to catch them. Thanks for sharing your memories, I have really enjoyed reading them.

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/11/2016

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Dan; Would you remember a Robert(Bob)Moore? He worked on the way freight to Eden. He and I did TV repair work in Cudahy, WI. He lived in in St Francis, WI. I remember also a conductor, a Mr Shultz(spelling?), for what they called the Kenosha passenger run after Amtrak in 1971. You would have passed my old homestead, little white house with pine trees, just west of Lighthouse Lanes on south side of the tracks and if you look north was Leo Bruner's strawberry farm.

I still remember the tracks were super elevated at the old BR siding and the semaphore east of that old siding. Now I know I'm getting long winded here, but the 2 evening 400s use to meet at that old BR siding before they moved it north at Friendly Dr.

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/12/2016

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Yes I remember Bob "Dinty" Moore and Ed "Shaky" Shultz. I worked with both of them. Both have past away. Most of us had nick names. Ed (Everett) retired off the same commuter run I did. He pulled the pin in 1977 I left in 2004. If you go to cnwvets.org and scroll down to retirements you'll find a picture of Ed and his co-workers. To answer the question about the mill at Jackson, I only recall spotting cars of potash there during the planting season. Libbys was the main player there.

Dan Sylvester

Dan Sylvester
Waukegan, IL
2/12/2016

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Thanks everyone, I have enjoyed reading all the comments. I appreciate the conversation.

Scott

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/12/2016

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To Scott and Dan:

If you want of discuss more about the Air Line, you can e-mail me at shocktester@hotmail.com if you so desire. Please leave some type of airline rail term because all new e-mails go to junk mail. I have a lot of info because I lived near the line from 1950 through 1968. Pa was there till 2000. Incidentally the year Pa left, was sadly the year they tore up the tracks. My Son bought the homestead in December 2000. Just not the same with the rails gone. To bad about Bob, Didn't see much of him after 1980.

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/13/2016

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D.Marks, Thanks! Sounds good! I also want to mention that I have posted some photos of current operations on the Westbend sub on Flickrhttps://flic.kr/p/D2hSnV if anyone is interested. There is also many others who have captured the C&NW,FVRW,WCL and current operations with CN as well.

Thanks.

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/13/2016

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Scott:

Did you know what the old Germans called Mayfield, just west of Jackson? Should be some seniors out there that may recall. I have a lot some relation that live there.

My apologizes to all the rest of C&NW Buffs for diverting from the subject of railroading.

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/14/2016

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D.Marks, Did they call it Katzbach? That is Swiss, maybe the local Germans had a different name for it, the one in which you are inquiring about? I will try and find out because now I'am curious about it.

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/14/2016

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You are correct It was a Swiss settlement and for some time was called Katzbach. I was quite young at the time and I thought it was German because of my German relatives that lived there. I would like share more info, but I think the readers on this site are more interested in Railroad facts. Feel free to e-mail at shocktester@hotmail.com

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/14/2016

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No worries,It still is History and related to the early settlers and the towns and villages that began and established themselves along the C&NW Air line. O.k sounds good D.Marks!

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/14/2016

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Mayfield, as told to me by the old timers that it was built for the coming railroad but for some reason whether possible access for industries or politics, the railroad decided to go east to Jackson. My relation a farmer at one time owned most or all of the land around Tilly Lake. Cedar Creek was known as a good place to catch trout. Another relative work on the C&NW section crew on the Jackson line,

but retired some time in the early 60's

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/15/2016

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S.Marks,Interesting..in Jim H Yanke's book he goes into depth about how the land to reach Jackson was offered by a German immigrant(His name is in his book) only on the grounds that he pick the location of the Jackson Depo, the C&NW agreed. Maybe that deal set the route for the the line? Yeah, probably Political? Interesting history. My heritage goes back to early Richfield. The C&NW got rid of way to many lines in WI! It is a damn shame!

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/16/2016

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Scott:

I guess I should read more and not just look at the pictures. I admit I'm not much of a reader even though I have books on Milwaukee's Hiawatha, North Shore line, C&NW and the 400's. Funny, just this morning, before I went to my e-mails. I read an article posted in The C&NW Historical Society, clicked on Veterans 'Association of the C&NW, then scrolled down to "Historical Notes", to The C&NW Ry. Comes to Jackson, Wisconsin. I guess free land carries a lot of weight. So, I will take your suggestion and read the article Jim Yankes' wrote.

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/16/2016

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D.Marks,Haha! No worries, I'm with you. It is a wide topic and anyone into history is usually all over the place. Good stuff! I'm going to check out the C&NW page now..Thanks.

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/16/2016

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Scott:

Looks like you, Dan and I, are the only ones presently communicating on this site. Would like to hear from more people out here! Hey out there!!! Your thoughts will be more then welcomed!!! As they say the more the merrier.

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/16/2016

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Scott:

I don't know if you were around Jackson at the time, but Here's some history that may interest you. Before it was Heidle's, Old 45(P)and Sherman was called Gumm's Corners. The red brick building(1950's) on southeast corner, was a gas station, with 2 pumps under a canapé. The house just south was the old bar/restaurant. Between these buildings is an artisan well. Where Heidle's is now was a fish farm. Just north of Sherman before Hwy 45(P)was a motel. West out of Jackson Hwy 60 turn south following old 45(P)south to what is now Sherman then turn west on to Slinger. The road west of old 45(P),at that time went directly into Mayfield.

There use to be a church on the southeast corner of Hwy60 and Hwy 45(P). Coming home from Milwaukee to West Bend at night, the cross on the steeple was lite up, unusual for a church I thought. More info later if you want.

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/17/2016

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Scott:

Correction, Hwy 60 went on to Hartford. You could get to Slinger turning north via 175(old Hwy 41).

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/17/2016

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Interesting because I saw "Gumms" in the brick on that exact building and thought of what it could have been. Great info.Thanks

Scott Kunz
Jackson, WI
2/17/2016

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I remember the train wreck(freight derailment)in Jackson. Dad took me to see it after it happened in the late 50's or early 60's. At one time the evening Bi-levels would meet in Jackson, then before Amtrak took over they would meet in West Bend, I still have a West Bend News Paper article with illustrations taken on the last day of passenger service on the line. I do remember when the Bi-levels met at the old BR section just west of my old home say about the early 60's. Going back to the 50's, at night I would sometimes hear two steamer trains blowing their whistles while meeting on that siding quite often. I was a small lad and was in bed by that time so I never saw if they could have been passengers or freights, I do remember Dad saying there was a north bound passenger train around 9PM or so. During the winter season, while eating supper(I had a nice view of 400's from table), I often could see sparks coming off the wheels of the northbound Bi-level when it was braking for the sharp north curve to Kewaskum. I sure miss those times.

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/21/2016

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Late Sunday evening (technically early this Monday morning) around 2-3am CST I heard the train horn numerous times across a period of perhaps 25 minutes. Do you guys really start that early?? The end of the line at Rusco is only 2-3 blocks away from me, but sometimes the wind blows such that I hear Slinger's CN & WSOR traffic on certain days even though it's 10 miles away from here. Nevertheless this horn indeed seemed to be coming from the east (Rusco direction).

Josh Straub
West Bend
2/25/2016

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Let's hope that CN wasn't that stupid to do a FRA 92 day test that early. Surprising that the decibel level on trains horns is around 140 DB, that people don't hear them more often.

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
2/26/2016

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My Dad owned an office supply store in down town West Bend, and I could swear I remember Milwaukee Road locomotives running through town in the 70s. Did they share this line, or serve any industries along this route? They aren't listed above. Thanks!

Dave
West Bend, WI
5/8/2016

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I do recall seeing some Milwaukee diesels on freights mixed with C&NW units. I believed C&NW purchased those units from Milwaukee. If any MILW did run on that line, they may have had a wreak that disrupted service on that line which ran through Fredonia. I think they would have ran those trains via the C&NWs' Shore Line Route through Port Washington. The

SOO Line did run a few trains through West Bend in the 70s do to train wreaks on the line that went through Allentown. I did see 2 SOO trains on that line in 1976.

D.Marks
South Milwaukee , WI
5/10/2016

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