ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin

    Also part of History of Railroads




Chicago & Northwestern Railway


Chicago & Northwestern Depot

725 West Main

1908, WHS_005_433



06 30       Work on the Chicago and Northwestern Railway is fairly commenced.  Under the old regime—or what was known as the Chicago, St. Paul and Fond du Lac Co.—we were so often humbugged into the belief that the work was to be prosecuted with renewed energy and “finished up this time without any mistake,” that we about made up our minds that the next time we believed it, or announced it, would be when we saw it done and heard the whistle of the locomotive.  Gangs of men are scattered all along the line of the road . . . Hon. Perry H. Smith is securing the right of way and pays cash in hand for the damages when agreed upon . . . We understand the iron necessary for laying the track the entire distance between Milton and La Crosse Junctions is purchased.  We see no obstacle to its completion according to the terms of the contract.   WD


07 21       Two large and efficient parties of men are now organized and actively engaged in laying track on the Chicago and NorthWestern Railroad; one starting from this city, and rapidly advancing toward the La Crosse Junction, and the other as rapidly coming from the Junction towards this city.  Already, for the first time, the Iron Horse passed through and beyond the northern limits of this city yesterday, and it is interesting to witness the speed with which the rails are being put down, how fast a way is being prepared for the flying locomotive.  The days are few and numbered, when this seventeen mile link will be supplied, which is to make perfect our railroad connection with the north.  The grading on the southern section is progressing with equal and unabated vigor.   WD


08 18       During the past two weeks track laying on the Chicago and North Western Railroad has been suspended between this city and the La Crosse Junction in consequence of the want of iron, but was resumed again last Thursday morning.  Vessels loaded with rails for this road arrived at Milwaukee last Sunday and Monday evening a train of iron was sent to this city and is now being put down.  This removed the last obstacle to the speedy and sure completion of this short fragment of road—there is not now over two miles of track to be laid and all will be finished at least as soon as Saturday, when an engine will be able to pass over the road from Watertown to Juneau.  In this connection we might as well state that enough iron to lay the whole distance between this city and Janesville is now on the way from New York.  It will soon be unshipped at Milwaukee and Chicago and the work of track laying will be commenced and prosecuted from both ends.  The grading is so far advanced that it will all be completed before the track layers can reach the ungraded portions that yet remain to be done.  As we said a few weeks since, this year will not end before the cars will be running from the north to the south, and also from the east to the west, through this city.  We shall then no longer be an isolated, one side[d] place, but the center of travel of this state . . .   WD


09 01       Regular trains are now running over the Chicago and North Western Railroad between this city and Oshkosh.  Mr. E. J. Cuyler is the station agent for this city and is prepared to furnish tickets to any point along the line where the cars stop.  Until his office is fitted up in the new depot building, which is now being built as rapidly as possible, he will be found at the Planter’s Hotel, ready to give passengers any information they may desire as to the hours of starting and arriving.  In a day or two the regular time table will be made out and announced to the public so that all may know what to depend upon and be able to make their calculations accordingly.  A large number of men are scattered along the track, making it as even and firm as possible.  For a track just laid, it is in as good a condition for now as could be expected.  In fact it needs but little adjustment to make it as good as it can be made.  Even as it is now, it is much better than many older roads.   WD


09 01       New Depot.  The Chicago and North Western Company are now erecting a new depot building a few rods south of the plank road, on the west side of the river [now Garden Path Florist].  It will be built of wood, one and a half stories high, and seventy-five feet long, by thirty wide.  It will be used as both a passenger and freight depot for the present and until arrangements are made with the Milwaukee, Watertown, and Baraboo Valley Company to put up a union building large enough to meet the requirements of both roads.  That such a structure will be built in this city before long may be regarded as one of the things that will be. [sic]   WD


09 15       All the grading between this city and Janesville on the Chicago and North Western Railroad was finished last week and everything is ready for the iron, which has already been laid over six miles south from this point.  If there is no delay for the want of iron, it will not be more than three weeks before a locomotive will pass over the entire length of this splendid road, reaching from Chicago to Oshkosh.  When this is done, all must acknowledge that the directors of this company have accomplished a great work, considering the embarrassments under which they labored when spring opened.  Autumn will not pass away before they will have finished the link that is to connect the north with the south, and thus enable each section of country to supply the wants and contribute to the prosperity of the other.  A new and valuable channel of trade and travel will be created for the benefit of the chain of thriving cities and villages through which it runs, and the interest of the public generally will be advanced by the final completion of this great enterprise, which we are about to witness and chronicle.   WD


09 22       As early as next Saturday all the iron will probably be laid on the Chicago and North Western Railroad.  Two parties of track layers are rapidly approaching each other from the north and south and it is confidently expected, if the weather should be fair, that they will meet on the last day of this week, and the locomotive be able to pass over the entire length of the line.  But for the unexpected delay in receiving iron, the road might have been in successful operation before now.  Of course it will take a short time to ballast the track in order to make it safe for heavy rains, but this will be accomplished as rapidly as possible . . .  WD


09 22       A long train of forty-seven cars loaded with wheat left this city last Monday morning and passed over the Chicago and North Western Railroad to the La Crosse Junction.  Heavy amounts of grain are now finding their way to Milwaukee over this route.  The difficulty is to get cars enough to take the freight that is daily brought here from all directions to be sent to market.  The farmers are selling pretty freely and this furnishes the railroads with all the business they can do.  Every locomotive and freight car is put in requisition and all is life and activity at every station where wheat can be bought. .   WD


09 22       Fencing.  The Chicago and North Western are now building a substantial board fence on both sides of their road between this city and Oshkosh.  This important work is nearly completed and by the time the trains pass the entire length of the line it will be finished.  The promptness with which the road has been enclosed will be a benefit to the farmers and they will appreciate the favor. .   WD


09 22       NEW DEPOT 

The new depot of the Chicago and North Western railroad in this city [now Garden Path Florist] is now completed and ready for freight.  It is a wood building of fair dimensions and for the present will answer the purposes of the company.  A new turn table has also been put in and is now in use.  The business of this road is large and on the increase.  It will fully meet the anticipations of those who have been the means of putting it in operation.  It must be among the best paying roads in the West . . .   WD


Railroad completed at point south of Jefferson


10 11       Railroad Completed—The connecting link between Lake Winnebago on the north and Lake Michigan on the south—or in other words, the last bar of iron which binds Oshkosh and Chicago together with metallic bands—was laid with appropriate exercises on Thursday last.  The union was completed under the auspices of delegations from the various cities and towns on the line of the road, by whom the ceremonies of the occasion will long be remembered with emotions of pleasure and satisfaction.  No notice had been given that anything out of the usual routine of track-laying was to take place, but it having been understood that the two gangs of men, having that work in charge, were to meet upon the day above mentioned at a point not far from Jefferson, it was determined to make it an occasion of congratulations and rejoicing on the part of a few friends of the work representing the various localities through which it passes.


About noon an engine from the north, with banners flying, came whizzing along and brought with it a train of passengers—or perhaps we ought to say, passengers on a train—to which sundry additions were made at this place and at one o’clock we were all off for the point where were to be celebrated the nuptials between the north and the south, Wisconsin and Illinois, Oshkosh and Chicago.  Arriving at Jefferson in due time, our numbers were still further increased and we pushed on about one mile south of the village where the wedding observances were to be performed.  A train from Janesville arrived soon after, bring a number of gentlemen from that city and intermediate points, when everything being in readiness, no delay occurred in completing the union between the two contracting parties.


A. Hyatt Smith, Esq.—“the original President of the original road”—being called out, made a few remarks going somewhat into details as to history of the Rock River Valley Union Railroad—spoke of the embarrassments that company encountered when it first agitated the project of building a road running north and south through this state—of the opposition it had to contend with and the difficulties it was compelled to surmount at the hands of those who should have been its warmest and most steadfast friends.  He alluded to the fact that when ground was broken at Fond du Lac, on the 14th day of July, 1851, eight years ago, at the commencement of the work, he threw the first shovel full of dirt upon that occasion and claimed that as such had been his position and he had stood by the enterprise in adversity as well as prosperity, he should beg the privilege of now driving the last spike in the last rail, upon the completion of the road.


Isaac Woodle, Esq., of Janesville, the first attorney of the first organization, followed in a few remarks, reviving interesting reminiscences of the past connected with the road and spoke of the immense importance that this thoroughfare is to have upon the future welfare of the state. 


Charles A. Eldridge, Esq., of Fond du Lac, being called for, responded in an able and effective speech.  He said the Rock River Valley is the great backbone of Wisconsin, traversed by the Chicago and North Western Railway and that all the other railroads in the state are but arteries diverging from it.  His remarks were heartily applauded.


J. J. Enos, Esq., of this city, L. B. Caswell, Esq., of Fort Atkinson, and D. F. Weymouth, Esq., of Jefferson, followed briefly and spoke of the advantages that must necessarily accrue to their respective localities, in common with all others on the line of the road.


Their remarks were to the point and went right home to the hearts of their hearers as facts which it is impossible to controvert.  Cheer upon cheer went up from the crowd as the speakers contrasted the valley of Rock River as it is today with what it was ten years since and what it will be ten years hence, and otherwise illustrated the benefits that are sure to follow the completion of the Chicago and North Western enterprise.  After a few happy and pointed remarks from Hon. Perry H. Smith in which credit was awarded to Wm. B. Ogden, Esq., the President of the road, who has periled his own immense fortune for the success of the work; to T. F. Strong, the superintendent, has worked early and late ever since the project first originated, to carry it forward to successful completion; to Wells & French, the contractors who have done the work of grading fifty-six miles so rapidly and well; to Robert Campbell, the ever-ready and accomplished Chief Engineer, and his assistants; to Campbell & Page, the contractors for laying the track; to Mr. Barrett, their energetic foreman; and others whose names do not now occur to us, for the manner in which they have all discharged their duties in the premises—ascribing to them, however, no more than their just need of praise for the promptness and fidelity with which those duties have been performed—the other member of “the Smith family”—A. Hyatt Smith—then proceeded to the execution of the welcome part assigned to him in the final act, which, being over, we presumed was a signal for our departure home.  But the Janesville delegation said No.  They insisted that their friends from the north should accompany them home and partake of their hospitality, which was readily assented to, though nothing of that sort was in the first instance contemplated.


Arriving in Janesville we were all domiciled at the Hyatt House, supper was ordered, which in due time was announced, and to our certain knowledge it received the respectful attention of a hungry crowd.  That being over, “a feast of reason and a flow of soul” followed, in which speeches were made by A. Hyatt Smith, Gov. Barstow, Mr. Eldridge, Mr. Woodle and Hon. P. H. Smith, the party breaking up soon after in good “spirits,”—no allusion is here made to champagne—and the best possible humor with themselves, their hosts, the Hyatt House, Janesville and “the rest of mankind.”  The fact that the whole arrangement was extemporaneous and as unexpected to our Janesville friends as it was to their visitors, gave it additional éclat and convinced us all that on occasions of this kind Janesville is “sound” every time.  Now that we are placed in direct communication with her by rail, we hope to see more of her people hereafter, and in behalf of the Watertown delegation would say that our latch-string shall always be out and that at some future time we hope to have it in our power to entertain them as handsomely as they did us.   WD



Last Saturday evening Mr. E. C. French of the firm of Wells & French, the well known and enterprising railroad builders, who are always ahead of time, gave a supper at the Exchange Hotel of this city to a number of gentlemen connected with him in the construction of the Chicago and North Western Railroad, and a few others, among whom we noticed Hon. Russell J. Sage, Judge S. L. Rose, D. C. Jackson, Esq., and Gen. Chappell.  Everything went off in the most agreeable and flowing style.  The supper was got up in the bountiful and unsurpassed way in which Alderman Van Alstyne always does that kind of business.  The wines were sparkling and pure; the conversation and interchange of sentiments interesting and entertaining, and all went away grateful and pleased with the opportunity of passing an evening so agreeable among friends and acquaintances.   WD


10 20       The formal opening of the Chicago and North Western Railroad took place last week.  Along the entire length of the line, from Chicago to Oshkosh, all was festivity and rejoicing, and well it might be, for the people of the Valley of the Rock River and Lake Winnebago celebrated the completion of an enterprise which had long excited their hopes, employed their resources, and involved their prosperity.  On the 14th of July, 1851, the first blow was struck towards the construction through the length of the state, and on the 11th day of October, 1859, the thronged and crowded excursion train was ready to start from the city of Chicago, the metropolis of the inland seas, and swiftly glide over the smooth metallic pathway, nearly two hundred miles to Oshkosh, the rising city on the shores of the beautiful Winnebago.


After receiving additions at Janesville, Fort Atkinson and Jefferson, the cars, with their loaded freight of human beings, came rushing into Watertown, the locomotives covered with fluttering and flying flags and the cannon at the end of the train answering to the cannon that thundered from the green a salute to the long expected and welcome visitors from the south.  A splendid brass band struck up a national air, the Zouave Cadets of Chicago made a brief display in their singular and attractive uniforms and shortly, with the car assigned to this city, all were on their way north.


Arrived at Fond du Lac, after a rapid passage, a torch light procession received the guests of the day and escorted them amidst the strains of music and the roar of artillery, to the Main Street, when all dispersed to prepare for the evening entertainment.  The gathering of people was immense, far larger than was ever collected on that ground before, or is likely to be soon again.  The hotels being filled to overflowing, private citizens kindly opened their tasteful and commodious residences for the accommodation of strangers and made everyone who had the good fortune to test their hospitality perfectly “at home.”  In the evening, after a bountiful repast, Amory Hall was brilliant with dazzling light and there the beauty, fashion and manliness of a dozen iron-bound cities and villages assembled and until the beams of the rising sun began to light up the Eastern sky, all was music, dancing and pleasure. 


In the morning the excursionists, or such as chose, continued their journey to Oshkosh—some going up the river on the steamers which lay at the wharf ready for a pleasure trip, some visiting friends, and some passing a few hours in sightseeing—admiring the activity and prosperity of a flourishing place and wondering how quickly all the traces of a calamitous fire had been effaced by the energy and enterprise of its business men. 


In the afternoon the train returned to Fond du Lac—part of it coming as far as Watertown.  Those who remained at the former place were again entertained with unbounded liberality and invited to join in the pleasures of another dance.  The next day was the conclusion of this lively and exciting scene.  The extended train of thirty cars went back to its starting point, and so ended one of the most memorable days in the history of improvement and progress in the fertile and happy Valley of Rock River.


We have not attempted, now can we now, to sketch all the incidents of this excursion, the most remarkable and enthusiastic that Wisconsin has yet witnessed.  The rejoicing and enjoyments of the trip were next to nothing—they were but the graceful flowers thrown around an occasion of great significance and importance, which speaks of the finishing of a work that is forever to bind together with iron bands the north and the south, and will ultimately form an indissoluble and unbroken link in the chain of railways which will yet unite Lake Superior with the Gulf of Mexico—Ontonagon and Marquette to New Orleans and Mobile. 


On this unequalled line of travel and trade, Watertown forms an important point.  Here four different railroads intersect each other and there is no direction which may not be taken from this city.  North, South, East or West, we can journey with every facility that steam can give us.  So situated and favored, it is our own fault if we do not here build a place that in wealth, manufacturers, agriculture, trade, intelligence and refinement shall be second to no interior place with the broad limits of Wisconsin, its capital not excepted.   WD



05 17       Fence Building; Chicago and Northwestern soon to be enclosed along its entire length   WD

05 24       Train wreck; derailed, south of city, cow struck  WD

07 26       150 more freight cars, to accommodate increasing business   WD

07 26       Kadish Lumber yard opened near depot   WD



02 28       Tuesday morning the hind car of a wood train on the Chicago and North Western Railroad, while coming from the south, by some means got off the track and as it came to the bridge crossing Johnson’s Creek, plunged some twenty feet below onto the ice and into the water.  There were five persons in the car, all of whom were badly injured . . . After learning all the facts of the case it is no more than right to state that this is one of those accidents that will sometimes happen in spite of every precaution.  The cars got off the track a considerable distance from the bridge and in consequence of the mist and smoke it was impossible to give a signal to the engineer.  As many as could left the car while in motion and saved themselves.  Those who could not get out had to go down with it.   WD


03 07       The iron on the track of the Chicago and North Western Railroad is now laid to the city of Appleton.   In a few days arrangements will be made for making regular trips to Appleton.  This road is now doing a heavy business and a large proportion of its freight comes from the growing and energetic North.   WD


03 14       GLAD WELCOME TO THE ENGINE—A few days since, the Iron Horse entered within the limits of the city of Appleton the first time.  Following is from the Appleton Cressent:  Appleton - the seat of learning of Wisconsin; Appleton - the center of trade of the best agricultural region in Wisconsin; Appleton – the manufacturing city of the West; Appleton – the railroad!  the railroad!   WD




An explosion from kerosene occurred a few days since on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, a few miles below this city, as follows:  The company had loaded a car with goods, including a barrel of oil and two or three barrels of kerosene, and while on the way the kerosene sprung a leak.  Two of the hands went into the car with a lighted lamp, an explosion immediately followed – the gas from the leaking kerosene taking fire – blowing both men into the ditch, setting the car and goods on fire and consuming them both.  Loss to the company about $1,000.   WD




The impassable condition of the going from St. Bernard’s Church to the Northwestern Depot is a standing shame and disgrace to the city, for which no excuse can be given.  Strangers or citizens arriving here in the night when no omnibus is at hand to convey to the hotels or home, are swamped in mud and plunged into gullies, from which extrication is almost impossible.  In day time the way to the depot, at such a season as this, is bad enough, but in darkness it is doubly difficult.  The Common Council, if that body has any regard for public convenience, should take steps immediately to remedy this miserable state of affairs.  We do not believe another city in Wisconsin would permit or endure this gross and unjustifiable neglect for a single month, yet here we have been wallowing in filth and mire for years, and all for the want of a little energy and enterprise.  This is an improvement that ought to be made as soon as the work can be done.  Not only the owners of the lots front of which the road runs will be benefited but all who have occasion to visit this most frequented railroad depot in the city will be accommodated, which includes our entire population.


Travelers form a poor opinion of a city, which they have regarded as growing and flourishing, when they find access to its business streets neglected, muddy and unapproachable except by wading through pools, jumping over ditches, and finding themselves covered from foot to head with a cart load of well-worked clay mortar.  Some time this job must be taken in hand, and the sooner the better.  Give us the sidewalk now.   WD



A walk over to the North Western Depot at this particular time will give any one a good idea of the highly creditable condition of the streets leading to that much frequented place.  The state of affairs should not be disturbed, but should be permitted to remain year after year just as now.  If mud knee deep is a good thing, we are not likely to be without it in that part of the city for some time.  Those who attempt any improvements in that locality ought to and will fail.  No more grumbling about dry and neat sidewalks.   WD



Resolved, That the Street Commissioners of the Third ward be and they are hereby directed to carry into effect, without any unnecessary delay, so much of said ordinance as relates to the building of sidewalks on the south side of West Avenue [West Main St] to the depot of the Chicago and North Western Railroad, and give immediate public notice in the official paper of the city to the delinquent lot owners that if said sidewalks are not complete within [a certain number of] days from the first publication of said notice, the Street Commissioners will cause the same to be built at the expense of the lots, or owners of lots, as provided in the City Charter.   WD



The Northwestern Railroad Company has built a substantial sidewalk from their depot to West Avenue Street [West Main].  We now have an easy and decent way of getting to and from that important railway station all seasons of the year.  You can ride or walk, just as you prefer, without being swamped in mud.  This is both an improvement and convenience.   WD




Watertown is beautifully situated on both sides of Rock river, in the northern part of Jefferson county and the southern part of Dodge county.  It is on the line of the La Crosse division of the C. M. & St. Paul Railway, 43 miles from Milwaukee and 152 from La Crosse.  A branch of this line extends from Watertown to Madison, the Capitol of the state, distant 37 miles.  The Chicago & North Western Railway passes through here, terminating at Green Bay, 112 miles north. 


Watertown was laid out about the year 1836.  In 1840 a part of the town was laid out in blocks and town lots, Milo Jones of Fort Atkinson being the surveyor.  After that the town took a fresh start, and the surrounding country began to settle up with farmers.


The streets are laid out at right angles, and are broad and pleasant.  One of the crowning glories of the city is the profusion of shrubbery everywhere prevalent, lining the streets on either side, and in the door [house] yards, forest and ornamental trees vie with each other in giving a home-like appearance, and in the spring and summer there is such a wilderness of foliage as to almost obscure the houses. 


The streets are well provided with substantial sidewalks, usually kept in good repair, and afford many attractive promenades and drives. 


The principal streets are Main on the east, and West Avenue on the west of Rock river, upon either side of which are fine business houses and blocks, and many of them of beautiful design and finish.    Madison City Directory, 1875-6.



Considerable feeling has been aroused hereabouts over the order recently issued by the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, and put in force on the 1st inst., refusing to carry passengers on their freight trains as heretofore.  Enforcement of this order causes great inconvenience to the traveling public along the entire line of the road, and strong disapproval of the new departure by the company is evinced in every town through which the road passes.  Traveling by freight train on the Northwestern has got to be an actual necessity and to be suddenly out off from the privilege is seriously felt by the community. We can hardly believe that the company will allow this order to remain long in force. The interest of the public, and, we believe, those of the public alike, demand its revocation.  WR



03 09       POLICE SET TRAP

         Resident offers sleigh to officers

A gang of eight tramps who had imbibed freely of alcoholic spirits held high revelry and caused considerable trouble in the vicinity of the Chicago & Northwestern railway roundhouse last Thursday afternoon. 


The police department being notified, Officers Eifiler, Kerr and Pieritz were dispatched to quell the disturbance and arrest the culprits.  At about 5:30 the latter were encountered, and after a desperate struggle, in which Officer Kerr was roughly handled but nevertheless succeeded in besting his man, three of the gang were landed behind the bars of the lock-up. They gave their names as Charles Carney, William Bates and Thomas Curlen.


Subsequently Justice Stacy sentenced Bates to the county jail for twenty days and Curlen for five days, the former for using obscene language and the latter for drunkenness.  Carney was held for examination on the 11th.


After jailing the above three the officers went back in quest of the other offenders, who it was ascertained had kept up their nefarious work in the meantime.  They attempted to ensconce themselves in the roundhouse and, being ordered out by the engine-wiper, Samuel Fluker, had unmercifully pounced upon the latter and pummeled and kicked him so that he was rendered unconscious, when they left him and fled up the track.


Fluker was found by neighbors in this condition and taken to his home.  On their way over the police were notified of what had happened by Station Agent Heimerl and Joseph Reinehr and chase was given, Mr. Reinehr placing his sleigh at the officer’s disposal.


As they neared the crossing north of the roundhouse the tramps noticed the pursuing party, but supposing them to be farmers returning home, set about to hold them up.  The tramps were somewhat dismayed upon discovering the trap they had fallen into and their capture was soon ef    fected by the officers.


The prisoners gave their names as Robert Gray, Thomas Ryan, John Gukeen, Charles Haney and James Clark.  Saturday morning Justice Stacy committed them to jail at Juneau to await their examination tomorrow, when it is expected Mr. Fluker will be able to appear against them.  Mr. Fluker was quite seriously injured, sustaining a broken rib and some pretty sore bruises, but he is recovering nicely.  His assailants, it is hoped, will receive their just deserts at the hands of the law.




Arrangements have been completed whereby the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company will use city water for their locomotives and other purposes at this point.  Julius Fix, superintendent of the waterworks, has closed the contract, but the same must be ratified by the board of water commissioners.  The company will put in three taps — one where their water tank now stands, another near the coal sheds, and the third at the stock yards.  The company’s surveyors are now employed in making the necessary surveys.  The water commissioners will furnish piping to the curb from the West Main Street main.  WR




The Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company has made a satisfactory settlement with William Ebert, the workman who was injured recently at the company’s coal sheds here, Mr. Ebvert receiving $200 on account of his injuries.  The settlement was effected through the efforts of Rev. A. M. Bullock, pastor of the M. E. church.    WG



Last Monday Herman Shallock, section foreman, and his crew of men narrowly escaped death while going north on their handcar on the C.&N.W.R.   It was quite foggy and they almost ran into a freight train coming from the north before they discovered it. They jumped just in time to save their lives. The handcar was badly wrecked and also the engine pilot.   WG




     Northwestern Passenger and Freight Depot almost Totally Destroyed


A disastrous fire occurred in this city early Monday morning, in which the C.&N.W. Railroad depot was almost totally destroyed.  The night operator, it appears, had been excused at 11:30 and during his absence, or near 1 o’clock, the blaze was discovered and the alarm turned in.  The fire department immediately responded, but by the time of their arrival the fire had gained such headway that it was impossible to do much, although they succeeded in saving the lime warehouse on the south and the waiting rooms and north shed roof.


Owing to the fact that the freight room had been pretty well cleared out on Saturday there was not much loss in that quarter.  However, the office was completely destroyed.  Among the ruins may be seen the charred remains of books, freight bills, tickets, etc., in a useless conditions.


As to how the fire started is a question which will probably not be known, although it is reported that a freight train passed through shortly before the blaze was discovered, and it is thought that a spark from the engine might have started the fire.  It is evident, at any rate, that the conflagration started in the freight department by all appearances which remain.


The telegraph office has been temporarily located under the roof at the north of the waiting rooms, where a temporary office has been enclosed with rough boards.  A large force of men have been engaged in tearing away and burning the debris for the past two days, and although nothing definite has been learned, it is altogether probable that the railroad company will soon commence the erection of a new depot.  The business of the company is being conducted as usual without interruption and all freight shipments are accepted.


During the fire, Louis Griep, driver of hose cart No. 1, was injured, but was able to attend to his duties the next day, however.


It is estimated that the total loss to the railroad company is about $5,000.         The Watertown News, 29 Jul 1903



08 16       Robbery of box cars at the Northwestern depot   WL




The Chicago & Northwestern is placing telephones in the depots on their line.  The telephones will be used only in the running of trains or the block system.  That is, in place of telegraphing the arrival and departure of trains from one station to another, the telephone will be used.  According to a law passed by the last legislature that operators are only allowed to work eight hours and this will necessitate the services of another man after the first of January.



The interurban electric line will be extended from Montgomery Street to the North Western railroad depot and work on the extension will begin at once, John I. Beggs of Milwaukee, president of the Milwaukee Light, Heat and Traction company, has issued orders to this effect and work will probably begin tomorrow.  This will mean a great deal to people in Watertown using the cars, as it will afford rapid transportation to the railroad station.  Local labor, as much as possible, will be hired on this work and it is expected it will be finished before late fall.  It seems to be the aim of the electric company to give Watertown as good a service as possible and it is to be hoped that city officials and citizens generally will not retard the work when it is being pushed now.  All that can be reasonably expected is that the company construct its lines according to the terms of the franchise and petty exactions should not be made a deterrent.  Watertown is in the field for all the transportation lines it can get and the sooner we leave aside ill will and ill feeling and boost the sooner we will receive what we are after.


An order has also been issued to the effect that beginning next Monday all electric cars running into the city from Milwaukee will make one round trip between Montgomery Street and Western Avenue.  This is a trial which Mr. Beggs will make to determine whether the traffic will warrant this measure.  It will be given a fair trial and if found of mutual benefit will be continued.  It will be continued any way until the North Western extension is in operation and will allow each car fifteen minutes in which to make the round trip before leaving on the interurban trip.


During next week each electric car will have a trailer and enough other trolley cars will be put on to give a good service for the Watertown Inter-County Fair, and each car will bear a banner advertising the fair.


The agitation for the extension to the North Western depot was started in the Daily Times sometime ago and it was urged that business men and city officials unite in an endeavor to secure it.  The matter was placed before Mr. Beggs before local action was taken, with the result that he has ordered the work done.  In this connection it might be well to state that farmers from as far southeast as Delafield are taking advantage of the transportation facilities to do their trading in Watertown.  This means much to local merchants and in turn to the public generally.  Let's boost the work along and hope that the line will be extended south next year as far as the fairgrounds, at least.



C.&N.W. Ry. and C.M.&St.P. Ry. freight trains


At 1 o'clock last Saturday afternoon a double-header freight t train on the C.&N.W. Ry. going north ran into a C.M.&St.P. Ry. freight going east at the railway crossing at the Junction (Union Depot).  No one was injured, but one of the C.&N.W. engines and a number of coaches were badly wrecked.  Conductor W. F. Clasen and Engineer Chas. Burmaster had charge of the C.M.&St.P. freight, and D. F. Harrison and C. F. Dunwiddie had charge of the Northwestern.  WG


11 06       Paul Kohler appointed agent, replaced A. F. Beirmann   WG



Nov          Chicago and North-Western accident, 12 killed   WD










Christmas morning at about 1:30 o'clock Chas. Manning had his left foot crushed by a freight train near the Chicago & Northwestern depot in this city, and he crawled on his hands and knees to the Junction hotel, not reaching there till nearly five o'clock that morning, when Dr. Moulding, the C.&N.W.Ry. physician, was phoned for from the Junction, and he brought the ambulance and had the young man taken to St. Mary's hospital.  He had been exposed for about three hours, and at first from the great loss of blood it was thought he could not live, but he is now getting along nicely.  His leg had to be amputated below the knee.  We understand the young man claims when he reached the C.&N.W.Ry. crossing on West Main Street, a freight train blocked the crossing and after waiting some time he endeavored to pass under or between the cars, when the train started, with the above result.    WG



SPUR SEEN IN DISTANCE, along North Water Street

        Ice Harvesting photo





The last passenger train to make its daily run over the Chicago and North Western railroad tracks through Watertown, from Fond du Lac to Janesville, made its final stop in Watertown.


The Chicago and North Western road began operating its trains on the line through here as early as 1860 and during the Civil War served an important place among the railroads of this section. 


It was then one of the main lines of the system in this area.


Freight trains will continue to operate over the line, but the two passenger trains which served in recent years were taken off. 


The road claimed it lost some $54,000 a year on the service and that an average of only six passengers per day had used the line for some time.








The case involving a Chicago and North Western Railroad conductor in a charge of having permitted a switch engine to make excessive and prolonged noises at nighttime which developed here last week did not come up in Watertown Municipal Court at today’s session.  The case is being held open.  Railroad officials have assured police authorities that starting June 1 a new policy regarding the switch engine will go into effect and eliminate complaints of long standing regarding excessive noises at night.   WDT




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, 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.


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



05 03        Workers installed a crossing diamond where the Milwaukee Road and Chicago & North Western railroads will intersect in Watertown north of West Street.  C & NW plans to abandon east-west track through Jefferson County this summer and to restore north-south track from Jefferson Junction to Clyman, abandoned several years ago.   WDT



                Track restoration project [from Jefferson Junction to Clyman Junction] through Watertown; status   WDT




The two major railroad companies running track through Watertown are discussing the possibility of having all of their trains operate on one line, but an agreement between the two is unlikely, a state transportation official said Friday.  Rick Montgomery, director of the Railroad Bureau of the Commissioner of Transportation, said the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad company and the Soo Line Railroad Company have resumed talks on running the CNW’s Chicago to Minneapolis trains on the Soo Line (formerly Milwaukee Road) track.  “But from what I’ve heard, the talks are not promising,” he said.   WDT




   Garden Path Florist ad







10 04       SET APART ART

Occupies former depot at 725 W. Main.  Offers a variety of art classes and a venue for private parties.






Cross References:

When the St Paul Railroad came here it was so poor that Daniel Jones couldn’t pay for the wood it needed to run its engines.  “Alexander Mitchell was a great friend of mine and he told me that if I would pay for the wood he would see that I didn't lose by it.  For two years I bought the wood for it. When the Chicago & Northwestern got this far it couldn’t get its iron, which was in bond. With several others I signed the bond that released the rails and permitted the road to go on.  These acts cost me dear.”

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Main, W, 725

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Table of Contents 

History of Watertown, Wisconsin