A Brief History of the Milwaukee & Northern Railroad

The Milwaukee & Northern Railway Company (M&N) was granted a charter by the Legislature of Wisconsin on 24 February 1870.

Construction of the Milwaukee and Northern commenced in the summer of 1870 at Schwartzburg Junction, Wisconsin, where the M&N connected with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul (CM&StP), or Milwaukee Road (MILW).

By the end of 1870, the M&N had completed 13.7 miles of track to Cedarburg, Wis.

In 1871, 79 miles of track were laid from Cedarburg to Hilbert Junction, Wis., and from there to Menasha, Wis. (the Menasha Branch).

Construction continued from Hilbert Junction in a northerly direction for 27 miles to Green Bay, Wis., where the first M&N train arrived on 19 June 1873.

The M&N was leased by the Wisconsin Central Railroad (WC) from 30 November 1873 until 31 July 1882.

In 1874, the M&N constructed a bridge to cross the Fox River in order to extend their tracks from Green Bay into Fort Howard, Wis.

The Milwaukee & Northern Railway Company reorganized as the Milwaukee & Northern Railroad Company on 22 April 1880.

The M&N constructed a 4.7-mile branch line from Menasha into ‘the Flats’ at Appleton, Wis., in 1880 (the Appleton Branch).

M&N system map from the Official Railway Equipment Guide, February 1888.

M&N advertisement from The United States Miller, 1884.

The M&N’s Menasha Branch was extended to Neenah, Wis., in 1881.

Also in 1881, the M&N laid 24.4 miles of track from Fort Howard to a point 1 mile south of Stiles, Wis.

The M&N constructed 15.1 miles of their main line from a point 1 mile south of Stiles, Wis., to Coleman, Wis., in 1882.

In 1883, the M&N’s line was extended from Coleman to Wausaukee, Wis., a distance of 22.2 miles.

In 1884, 9.8 miles of track were laid from Wausaukee to Pike, Wis. (now Amberg, Wis.).

Also in 1884, a 24.8 mile branch line (some references state 23.9 miles) was constructed from Ellis Junction, Wis. (now Crivitz, Wis.), to Marinette, Wis., and Menominee, Mich. (the Menominee Branch).

The line was extended 20.12 miles from Pike to Station 4852, on the Menominee River (the border of Wisconsin and Michigan), in 1886.

Fifty-eight miles of track were laid from the Menominee River to Champion, Mich., in 1887.

In 1889, an 11.94 mile branch line was constructed from Oconto Junction, Wis., to Oconto, Wis. (the Oconto Branch).

The M&N was acquired by the CM&StP (MILW) on 1 October 1890. Even though it was thence owned and managed by the CM&StP (MILW), it continued to operate as the M&N.

Construction of the main line continued northward, until the M&N reached the shore of Lake Superior at Ontonagon, Michigan, in 1893.

On 1 July 1893, the M&N faded into history, when it ceased to operate as a separate railroad and officially became the Lake Superior Division of the CM&StP (MILW). Sometimes it was simply referred to as the Superior Division. From time to time, the new division was referred to as the Northern Division, an homage to the Milwaukee & Northern.

Thankfully (in the hearts and minds of railroad enthusiasts like us) most of the historic M&N right-of-way still supports active rails. While not quite as active as train nuts like us would hope, the majority of the line is currently served by the Canadian National (CN), Escanaba & Lake Superior (E&LS or ELS), and Wisconsin & Southern (W&S or WSOR) railroads.

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M&N Pass from 1889.