Matt finds the trains in TRAINS’ backyard: A Waukesha water wonder

Posted by Matt Van Hattem
on Friday, August 26, 2011

It's fun to watch kids watch passing trains in the park, as these two boys are doing while a southbound CN freight rolls by in Waukesha, Wis.

Throughout the month of August, I want to try a photography project that focuses on the trains in TRAINS Magazine's backyard. How many different pictures can be taken in a circle extending 10.27 miles from downtown Waukesha, Wis.?

On a summer day, few places are more relaxing than Frame Park in Waukesha, and Canadian National's main line goes right by the park's edge. This park is the closest active railroad track to the Kalmbach office, a little more than 3 miles away.

It's fun to watch families with young kids watch passing trains in the park, as these two boys are doing while a southbound CN freight rolls by.

The boys are standing by the remains of Hobo Spring, one of 50 natural springs once found in the city of Waukesha. The abundance of springs made Waukesha a popular 19th century resort community for vacationers and those seeking healing waters - all of whom naturally arrived by train, to the tune of hundreds a day in peak season.  

(Not everyone arrived on a passenger train, though, as the name Hobo Spring suggests.)

Soo Line freight service also got a boost from the city's watery reputation, thanks to the White Rock Water Co., which took its name from a natural mineral spring and surrounding 60 acres it purchased in Waukesha in 1871. By the 1880s, the company was bottling its natural mineral water and shipping it by rail throughout the country. Thanks to Waukesha's excellent rail service, White Rock became the largest-selling mineral water in America by 1890.

1926 photo of a United Refrigerator Transit car built by American Car & Foundry, with a White Rock Water advertisement on its side

TRAINS' freelance illustrator Bill Metzger sent me this 1926 photo of a United Refrigerator Transit car built by American Car & Foundry, with a White Rock Water advertisement on its side.

White Rock Water continued to be bottled in Waukesha until the early 1970s. You can still buy White Rock beverages today - the tonic water will mix nicely with your favorite gin, in fact - although the company is now headquartered in Queens, N.Y.

Yet trains still roll by the old foundation of Hobo Spring, one of the few reminders of the city's water legacy.

What I like: There's a narrow window of time in mid-afternoon, where both the spring and the train will be lit. I was lucky enough to have a train come by when the light was perfect. The kids in the foreground are a bonus.

What I don't like: The parking lot between the spring and the tracks creates a distraction. But in this case, there was not much I could do. What do you think?

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

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