The Prototype – Marshline History
The Marshline Subdivision of the Chicago & Northwestern railway wandered through East Central Wisconsin starting in 1901 through the mid 1980s. The Marshline connected the eastern part of the Chicago & Northwestern (CNW) in Wisconsin to the central and western part of the railway by traveling on an east-west route. The line starts near Fond du Lac, WI and ends in Marshfield, WI. Along the way the Marshline makes interchanges with the Soo Line, Milwaukee Road and Green Bay and Western at various points in the line.
Over the 70 plus years that the line was in service the Marshline had a diverse and storied history. The line started as the Sheboygan & Fond Du Lac Rail Road (Fond Du Lac-Princeton) which was constructed in 1871 and was later expanded by the construction of the Princeton & North Western Railway (Princeton-Marshfield) in 1901. The line provided freight and passenger service to the area for over 50 years. The last passenger train to run on the Marshline was in 1954.
As time passed, maintenance on the line was deferred and fewer and fewer trains would run across the line. Weight and speed restrictions made it difficult to traverse the line in a timely fashion with any significant tonnage. The line would continue to deteriorate and in the early summer of 1972 heavy rains would lead to a severe washout near Kellner, WI. This cut off the western third of the line from Fond Du Lac and forced the CNW to divert paper mill traffic on other lines. The Chicago & Northwestern never repaired that washout and the railroad continued to neglect the required maintenance on the line. Chunks of the line started to get abandoned and the line got shorter and shorter until it was totally abandoned in 1986.
The Model Railroad – Marshline 1972
You could say I was raised on the Marshline. Growing up in the 1980s, my parents house was right on the tracks and every time the engineer would blow their horns for the grade crossing I would run out the back door and watch the trains. I’d run down the property line and try and chase the train as far as I could but they would eventually pass me and slowly lumber out of sight. This interaction started my fascination with trains and ultimately would guide me to what I wanted to recreate and model.
My particular take on the Marshline will model the line just before the Kellner Washout in 1972. Even though I grew up in the 1980’s, I wanted to capture the look and feel of the line in its entirety. Also by modeling the line in its “Hay Day” I can really capitalize on the diversity of freight traffic and interchanges with other railroads. However every now and then a train from the 1980’s may appear on the line…I mean its my railroad for gosh sakes!
I want to invite you on this journey of recreating the Chicago & Northwestern Marshline Subdivision. We will be documenting the whole process of recreating the line covering all topics from research to construction to finishing touches to recreating the railroad operations. All Aboard!