ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


    Image Portfolio        


C M & St P Railroad Depot






Probably the best depot building now in the state may be seen in the city of Watertown.  It is finished, and last week after careful inspection, was accepted by the railroad company, and is now ready for use.  It is a brick building one hundred and fifty feet long, with an exterior width of forty feet, and substantially built.  The ticket department is admirably arranged, having three rooms, one for delivery, one for ladies, and one for gentlemen.  Directly over these rooms, in the second story, an office has been fitted up for the use of clerks, engineers, and any other purposes to which it may be convenient to put it.  The remainder of the building is for storing, and the reception and delivery of goods.  Mr. P. B. Basford is the builder of this depot, and we know of no better place, or more gratifying evidence of the perfectly satisfactory manner in which he has fulfilled his contract, and to say that on offering the building in a finished state for examination to the company, it was immediately accepted without reservation or delay.  Everything was so well done as to call forth an expression of hearty thanks and entire satisfaction on the part of those into whose [hands it] has now passed.


FIRST BRICK DWELLING.  It may not be uninteresting to remark, that Mr. Basford put up the very first brick dwelling ever built in Watertown, some ten years ago, and may now be seen as perfect and solid as the day on which it was completed.  He is one of our most extensive builders, and the monuments of his enterprise are now scattered all over the limits of the city, to which every year makes new editions.   WD



1873, Tornado damage.  The blast slightly raised the roof of the St. Paul Depot building, but it fell back to its place without doing much harm beyond loosening a few bricks and brackets.



09 25       THEFT AT THE DEPOT

On Monday last two eastside boys were fined $5.00 and costs by Justice Stacy for stealing a box of raisins out of a freight car at the St. Paul depot.    WG




Mayor Moak "felt" of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Road moguls in regard to the much-mooted and almost-worn-out question of a new depot for our city, something which no one will deny is sadly wanted.  General Manager Earling in reply said the company had but recently talked over its affairs in Watertown and had decided that a new depot must be erected there.  He assured the mayor that this was not idle talk, and that he was desirous of being quoted to our citizens to the effect that the first new depot built in 1896 by his company would be at Watertown . . .  WR




Alterations preparatory to the erection of the new St. Paul railway station are going on.  The freight and telegraph offices have been removed to the building north of the depot, and the work of tearing down the old Sleeper elevator and the old depot is nearly finished.             The Watertown News, 13 May 1896








06 01       FLOWER BEDS

Agent Webb of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway is very proud of the flower beds which now adorn the lawns of the depot grounds.  The plants are from the greenhouses of Mrs. C. T. Lotz and the work of laying out the beds was done under her supervision.  The effect produced is artistic and attractive.   WR




C. M. & St. P. Ry. train passing through here at 9:12 Wednesday morning had on board Gov. Theodore Roosevelt, of New York, on his return home from the meeting of the republican clubs in Minneapolis.  A large crowd was at the depot to greet him, and a number had the pleasure of shaking hands with him.  He carried on a conversation with Lieutenant Col. Solliday and Surgeon F. C. Moulding about the Spanish American war.  He wore a “rough rider” hat, and looked every inch a soldier.    WG




The CM&StPaul Railroad Depot at the foot of 5th Street, which was abandoned when the railroad company moved into its new quarters in the Union Station, is being dismantled and will be completely torn down and the excavation will be filled in and it is planned to place a large scale and a short track in the locality.




The following article about train service in Watertown, appeared in Sunday's issue of the Wisconsin State Journal.  The article was written by Charles Fulkerson of the State Journal staff and was accented with three pictures in the Journal.


WATERTOWN - Richard Seivert pushed the frigid switch handle with his padded mittens, spreading a snow crusted rail.


A hopper car rolled through the switch, its screeching wheels drowning out the bleating horn of a diesel. 


It was 1 p.m. and Seivert, 26, was nearing the end of his work day on a four-man switch engine crew operating out of Watertown.


He trudged to the station to meet engineer Brian Reynolds, 27.  The two joked about a beer commercial featuring a railroad crew, and then Seivert turned momentarily serious.  "My own feeling is the railroads aren't going downhill.  Some day the United States is going to realize the railroad is the only way to go," he said earnestly.


But for Watertown, a manufacturing city of 15,000 on the Jefferson-Dodge County line, the railroad stopped being the only way to go years ago, and for passengers it became no way to go in 1972 when the last passenger train stopped here. 


In 1855, when the predecessor of the Milwaukee Road arrived here, Watertown was the second largest city in Wisconsin and according to local historian, James Rothschadl, city fathers had "really grandiose plans" for turning Watertown into the capital and metropolis of the state.


In 1859, the North Western Railway reached Watertown from Chicago, and the city's bustling future as a rail hub seemed assured.


But in their rush to get the railroads to Watertown, city fathers had underwritten bonds for the Milwaukee Road's predecessors and when the early railroads went broke, the creditors turned to the town officials for their money.


"For many years,"Rothschadl explained, "Watertown didn't have a functioning city government."  The public officials the town did have meetings seldom and in secret to dodge the creditors and their warrants.  The lack of stewardship- probably hurt the growth of the town, Rothschadl speculated.


The Milwaukee Road established a variety of railroad shops and rail mills employing more than 100, but by the turn of the century the railroad had moved the shops elsewhere, and Watertown's importance as a rail center was on the decline.


Today, trains are still numerous in Watertown. But, explained Jim Scribbins of the Milwaukee Road's corporate communications department, few of them stop.  "Practically all of the trains that pass through Watertown do exactly that.  They pass through.”


However, Scribbins called Watertown, "a relatively important place on our railroad."


The L-shaped, stucco station at the junction of the Milwaukee Road and North Western Railway tracks is manned around the clock by a train operator who forwards written instructions to passing train crews and handles initial billing for freight customers in Watertown.


An ancient brick freight house south of the station once served as headquarters for a freight agent and three clerks.  But the freight house has been abandoned; its windows are shattered and trees are growing in the tracks behind the building.




Lewis R. Manthey has worked in Watertown since 1955 and for many years he sold tickets to the Hiawathas bound for Minneapolis and Seattle.


But the last Hiawatha passed through Watertown more than five years ago. Now Manthey's only contact with passengers and passenger trains is a cursory inspection of the wheels on the four daily Amtrak trains that roar through Watertown, leaving only swirling snow behind.


The Milwaukee Road station built in 1926 is headquarters for Manthey [Mange], signal maintainer, Ken Bornitzke and two switch engine crews that work out of Watertown.  In activity, it is a Grand Central

compared to the sleepy North Western station a quarter mile away.


10 11 1926  <>  New Union Depot Will Be Opened On October 20

The new union passenger station at the junction of the North Western and Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroads in this city will be opened to the public on Wednesday, October 20.  The station will be known as Watertown.

On and after October 20 at 1 a. m. the station of the Milwaukee railroad at the foot of Fifth Street will be closed and all passenger trains will discontinue stopping owing to the opening of the new station at the Junction.


Last spring the North Western removed the station agent from Watertown and 23 other stations in Wisconsin.  The North Western division manager concluded that the small town agent was excess baggage for the railroad.  "We just don't need people to do work in those stations anymore," he said.


William Konitzer, the agent forced to leave Watertown, sympathized with the railroad which claimed to be losing money.  "But the personal touch is lost this way, and who could put a price on the personal touch?" Konitzer asked.


The Northwestern still sends a train down to Watertown five days a week from Fond du Lac, but the tracks south of the city to Johnson Creek are snow covered and no longer used.


The North Western's Chicago connection from Watertown via Fort Atkinson and Janesville, once thought to be a boom for the town, was torn up last year.  The railroad has no plans, however, to tear up the tracks between Watertown and Johnson Creek, said James McDonald of the NorthWestern's public affairs office.


Manthey estimated that an average of 25 freight cars daily are dropped off and picked up in Watertown by the Milwaukee Road.  The city also is a junction point between the mainline and a branch that runs west to Waterloo, Sun Prairie and Madison.


Many cars dropped off in Watertown contain feed and corn syrup.  A malt company in Waterloo is a big rail customer.  A Watertown scrap dealer ships his product by rail and a furnace manufacturing company occasionally sends oversized furnaces out on rail flatcars.


Scribbins said the-railroad has no plans to centralize further the duties done by station operators and agents and apparently the jobs in the Watertown station are secure.  He ranked Watertown in importance as a mainline station behind La Crosse and Portage.


"The railroad is damn important to the community," said Paul Kehrer, president of First State Savings and Loan Association and active in a drive to get passenger service restored.  In terms of the city's economy, he said, "the future of Watertown being on the mainline of the Milwaukee Road has to be real important."      WDT 12/13/1976






    Image Portfolio        




Cross References:

Chapter on C. M. & St. Paul Railway

Freight office, malt house in distance

Image WHS_005_109

C M & St P Railroad Bridge

Depot and train image


Nancy Merriman:  Since my dad was a trainmaster on the CMStP, I had a train pass. Every few months I was allowed to travel to Watertown to stay with my grandmother, Emma Peterson.  I played with my Peterson cousins, spent time along the Rock River, shopped for goose liver sausage at Fendts, shopped at Busse's, swam at the pool, and watched the tennis players below her home on Harrison Street. Now when I travel to MN, I stare longingly at the area where the station once stood and wish we could stop once again.




Table of Contents 

History of Watertown, Wisconsin