Matt finds the trains in TRAINS’ backyard: Junction and journey

Posted by Matt Van Hattem
on Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wisconsin & Southern road freight T003, which originates in Horicon, Wis. (the operating hub of the regional railroad’s northern division) runs to Janesville, Wis., the southern division base.

Throughout the month of August, I want to share photographs of the trains in TRAINS Magazine's backyard. How many different pictures can be made in a circle extending 10.27 miles from Waukesha, Wis.?

In today's picture, you're seeing a train navigate through the only railroad junction left in Waukesha, Wis. This is Wisconsin & Southern road freight T003, which originates in Horicon, Wis. (the operating hub of the regional railroad's northern division) and runs to Janesville, Wis., the southern division base. From there, most of these cars will continue on to Chicago. The train has just come 25 miles south on Canadian National trackage rights, and is about to veer west onto its own line to head to Janesville. The interlocking's name is Grand Avenue.

 Historically, three railroads intersected in Waukesha, forming an iron triangle, within which the downtown area was contained.

Wisconsin Central was the last to arrive, extending its route from Duluth and Minneapolis due south to Chicago. This line is the only one that has survived intact as a through route. Today, it's run by Canadian National.

Chicago & North Western crossed the Wisconsin Central on a diamond here at Grand Ave. North Western's line ran east-west between Milwaukee and the state capital at Madison, Wis. Most of the line through town is ripped up, and a portion of the line west from Waukesha is a bike trail.

Slicing through on a diagonal was the Milwaukee Road, Waukesha's first railroad, running northeast-southwest from Milwaukee (later Brookfield, when the main line was reconfigured) to Madison and on to Prairie du Chien. A branch line to Janesville peeled off this route at a place called Milton.

West of town, Wisconsin & Southern operates the former Milwaukee Road trackage to Madison and Janesville, but within downtown Waukesha, it uses a short section of former North Western right-of-way to jog from CN"s north-south main west over to the diagonal Milwaukee Road alignment, since Milwaukee's own right-of-way through Waukesha was ripped up decades ago.

What I like:

Wisconsin & Southern only runs one train a day each way through Waukesha, and the trains usually run against the light (westbound in the morning, eastbound in the evening). Drew Halverson tipped me off to this afternoon Janesville run, and I was able to chase the train for a bit from Waukesha west of town in brilliant sunlight.

What I don't like:

While it's great to see rebuilt GP38-2 No. 3811 in service, the unit is still in the fading colors of former owner National Railways of Mexico, as opposed to Wisconsin & Southern's dazzling red and white paint scheme. Still, as Drew reminded me, "you may not like it now, but someday you'll be glad you saw this." That's true. And I suspect soon enough, the Geep will cycle through Wisconsin & Southern's paint shop in Horicon, emerging just as sharp-looking as the rest of its fleet. What do you think of the lead unit?

Flickr: Matt finds the trains in TRAINS' backyard album
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