Reminders of the Milwaukee & Northern - Menasha Branch

The M&N laid 16 miles of track from Hilbert Junction, Wis., to Menasha, Wis., the Menasha Branch, in 1871. With the exception of about 4,000 feet of track from Manitowoc St. to just west of Milwaukee St. in Menasha, the majority of the Menasha Branch is still in use. The branch is currently operated by the Canadian National (CN).

In 1880, the 4.7-mile Appleton Branch was constructed from the end of the Menasha Branch to Appleton, Wis.

In 1881, the 0.8-mile Neenah Branch was constructed from the end of the Menasha Branch to Neenah, Wis.

By the mid-1880s, the Menasha, Appleton and Neenah Branches were collectively referred to as the Appleton Branch on timetables.

Hilbert Junction, Wis., was Milepost 0 on the M&N Menasha Branch.

A CN local, led by Grand Trunk Western GTW 4924, crosses Cedar St. and approaches the former MILW depot at the end of the Menasha Branch at Hilbert, Wis., on 20 November 2020. I had always hoped that this was the original ca. 1871 M&N depot, expanded and remodeled at some point. However, on 5 February 2022 I found an article in the 5 March 1910 Chilton Times which states that the old M&N depot burned to the ground on 28 February 1910. The MILW completed this new depot several months later. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Sherwood, Wis., was Milepost 6 on the M&N Menasha Branch.

A CN local, led by Grand Trunk Western GTW 4924, crosses Military Rd./Hwy. M and passes the Sherwood Elevator, N599 Military Rd., as it heads southeast via the former M&N Menasha Branch at Sherwood, Wis., on 20 November 2020. Sherwood Elevator has been owned, operated, and expanded by the Kress family since they purchased it in 1951. Their grain terminal, out of frame to the left, has a capacity of 1 million bushels. Unfortunately, the elevator has not received rail service for quite a while. This area used to be referred to as Sherwood Station or Lower Sherwood. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Menasha, Wis., was Milepost 15 on the M&N Menasha Branch.

Looking west along the CN right-of-way from Manitowoc St. at Menasha, Wis., on 9 August 2020. When the M&N Menasha Branch was originally laid in 1871, their tracks continued due west from here, through the trees and to the left of the tan building in the background. That structure, currently used by Alliance Industries, was erected in 1960 along the then Milwaukee Road (MILW) rails. A turnout was installed here in 1873, when the Wisconsin Central (WC) connected to the M&N here in order to gain access to Milwaukee by leasing the M&N. This spot was thence labeled as Menasha Junction on some old maps. The facility partially visible at right is Intertape Polymer Group (IPG), 741 4th St. Founded in Menasha in December 1917 as George Banta Paper Co., an affiliate of the George Banta Publishing Co. They merged with Menasha’s Gebrick Paper Co. in 1919 and continued under the Banta name. The name was changed to Central Paper Products Co. (later shortened to Central Paper Co.) circa September 1920, about the same time they moved to their new location at 422 Manitowoc St. It’s the same facility, but the address changed when a portion of Manitowoc St. was vacated to allow westward expansion circa 1976-1980. The facility was acquired by Alco Standard Corp., based in Valley Forge, PA, ca. 29 September 1969, but continued to operate as Central Paper. The name changed to Central Products Co. at some point after 1974. Spinnaker Industries, Inc. purchased Central Products Co. from Alco ca. 1 July 1995. Intertape Polymer Group, Inc., from Canada, purchased Central Products from Spinnaker circa 12 April 1999. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

A CN local, led by Illinois Central IC 3106, passes Intertape Polymer Group, IPG, 741 4th St., and crosses the former Manitowoc St. grade crossing as it heads east via former M&N rails at Menasha, Wis., on 6 November 2020. A turnout was installed here in 1873, when the Wisconsin Central (WC) connected to the M&N here in order to gain access to Milwaukee by leasing the M&N. This spot was thence labeled as Menasha Junction on some old maps. This IPG facility was founded in Menasha in December 1917 as George Banta Paper Co., an affiliate of the George Banta Publishing Co. They merged with Menasha’s Gebrick Paper Co. in 1919 and continued under the Banta name. The name was changed to Central Paper Products Co. (later shortened to Central Paper Co.) ca. September 1920, about the same time they moved to their new location at 422 Manitowoc St. It’s the same facility, but the address changed when a portion of Manitowoc St. was vacated to allow westward expansion circa 1976-1980. The facility was acquired by Alco Standard Corp., based in Valley Forge, PA, ca. 29 September 1969 but continued to operate as Central Paper. The name changed to Central Products Co. at some point after 1974. Spinnaker Industries, Inc. purchased Central Products Co. from Alco circa 1 July 1995. Intertape Polymer Group, Inc., from Canada, purchased Central Products from Spinnaker circa 12 April 1999. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking west along the CN, originally Wisconsin Central (WC), rails from Racine St. at Menasha, Wis., on 2 May 2020. There used to be a diamond midway between Racine St. and Milwaukee St., where the east leg of the M&N wye crossed these tracks. The wye-area was once known as West Menasha Junction, where the Menasha Branch terminated, the Appleton and Neenah Branches began, and the original WC connected. Up until at least 1936 there was another turnout beyond this one, giving the WC, later Soo Line (SOO), access to the east leg of the wye. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking northeast along the CN, originally M&N, rails from Tayco St. at Menasha, Wis., on 2 May 2020. As this track curves toward the east it forms the south leg of the wye. The first turnout is for the west leg of the wye. The second turnout is for a siding on the west leg of the wye. The east leg of the wye is no longer extant. The wye-area was once known as West Menasha Junction, where the Menasha Branch terminated, the Appleton and Neenah Branches began, and the original WC connected. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

A CN local, led by Grand Trunk Western GTW 4924, passes Intertape Polymer Group, IPG, 741 4th St., as it heads east via the former M&N Menasha Branch at Menasha, Wis., on 20 November 2020. The company currently known as IPG was founded in Menasha in December 1917 as George Banta Paper Co., an affiliate of the George Banta Publishing Co. They merged with Menasha’s Gebrick Paper Co. in 1919 and continued under the Banta name. The name was changed to Central Paper Products Co. (later shortened to Central Paper Co.) circa September 1920, about the same time they moved to their new location at 422 Manitowoc St. on the north side of the then joint Milwaukee Road (MILW)/Soo Line (SOO) rails. It’s the same facility, but the address changed when a portion of Manitowoc St. was vacated to allow westward expansion circa 1976-1980. The facility was acquired by Alco Standard Corp., based in Valley Forge, Penn., circa 29 September 1969 but continued to operate as Central Paper. The name changed to Central Products Co. at some point after 1974. Spinnaker Industries, Inc. purchased Central Products Co. from Alco ca. 1 July 1995. Intertape Polymer Group, Inc., from Canada, purchased Central Products from Spinnaker circa 12 April 1999. They receive rail service from the other end of the facility, but they, obviously, do not currently receive service from this end. The ornate steeple of St. Mary’s Church is partially visible above the trees to the left. The current church was built in 1883, but the congregation was organized in 1867. Photograph by Tom Bruss.