Matt finds the trains in TRAINS’ backyard: Milepost 0

Posted by Matt Van Hattem
on Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Last month, Drew Halverson embarked on a fantastic photography project, taking a different railroad photograph each day and sharing the results with you. He did a great job coming up with new and creative ways to photograph in familiar locations.

This month, I thought I would try a photography project of my own with you that involves finding out more about the trains in TRAINS Magazine's backyard.

The TRAINS office is 20 miles west of Milwaukee in a suburb called Waukesha. TRAINS moved to this location in 1989, after spending 46 years at the well-known downtown Milwaukee address of 1027 North Seventh Street. Now we're at 21027 Crossroads Circle in Waukesha.

What's interesting is that our former city and our current city happen to be the two ends of Wisconsin's first railroad, the Milwaukee & Waukesha (which had been renamed the Milwaukee & Mississippi by the time it linked the two cities in 1851). It is the earliest predecessor of the Milwaukee Road (now Canadian Pacific), and more than half of that original line still exists.

For this project, I decided to draw a hypothetical circle with a radius of 10.27 miles from downtown Waukesha, and confine the photographs to within that circle as often as possible. So while no trains go past Kalmbach's actual office building, you'll get to see the trains in TRAINS' figurative backyard.

Like Drew did last month, I will not repeat the same angle more than once, although I will revisit a location.

Here is my "milepost 0" for the project: the old Wisconsin Central (later Soo Line) depot in downtown Waukesha. The rail line shown here runs north-south from Chicago to Duluth, Minn. It's part of Canadian National's Chicago-Vancouver main line. When TRAINS ran a "then and now" map of Wisconsin in our November 2004 issue, this line was the second highest tonnage main line in Wisconsin (BNSF Railway's line along the Mississippi was first).

CN sends more than 20 trains a day through Waukesha, although intermodal traffic, such as this southbound from British Columbia photographed on July 26, is actually the rarest of major rail commodities on this route.

The depot sits at milepost 97.7 (as measured from Chicago) on Canadian National's Waukesha Subdivision, which runs 147.5 miles from Forest Park (near Chicago) to Fond du Lac.

What I like: 

The classic downtown depot, which still functions as an office for local train crews and maintenance forces.

What I don't like: 

I should have used a zoom lens to come in more and show the train closer to the depot.

I'll welcome your comments as the month progresses. Thanks very much!

Flickr: Matt finds the trains in TRAINS' backyard album
Facebook: Trains Magazine Facebook Page 

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