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).

A Canadian National (CN) local, led by Grand Trunk Western GTW 4924, passes Intertape Polymer Group, IPG, 741 4th St., as it heads east via the former Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) Menasha Branch at Menasha, WI, 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. The local was headed for Hilbert and points beyond with nine 3-bay covered hoppers.

A Canadian National (CN) local heads east via the former Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) Menasha Branch at Menasha, Wis., on 20 November 2020. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

A Canadian National (CN) local heads southeast via the former Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) Menasha Branch at Sherwood, Wis., on 20 November 2020. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

A Canadian National (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 joint Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) Menasha Branch at Sherwood, WI, 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. Local was headed for Hilbert and points beyond with nine 3-bay covered hoppers.

A Canadian National (CN) local, led by Grand Trunk Western GTW 4924, crosses Cedar St. and approaches the former Milwaukee Road (MILW) depot as it reaches the end of the Menasha Branch at Hilbert, Wis., on 20 November 2020. Local arrived from Neenah with nine 3-bay covered hoppers and will now enter the former M&N main line to head for Chilton. I am not sure if this is the original circa 1872 M&N depot or not. If it is the original depot, it has been expanded and significantly modified from its original state. The original depot was about half as long as this and had a gabled roof. It looked very similar to the original Elkhart Lake depot.

A Canadian National (CN) local reaches the end of the former Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) Menasha Branch at Hilbert, Wis., on 20 November 2020. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking west from Manitowoc St. at Menasha, Wis., on 9 August 2020, the former site of the junction of the Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) Menasha Branch with the Wisconsin Central (WC). Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking west along the Canadian National (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 circa 1872, 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.

A Canadian National (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 the former joint Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) rails at Menasha, Wis., on 6 November 2020. A turnout was installed here circa 1872, 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.

A Canadian National (CN) local passes the former junction of the Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) Menasha Branch and the Wisconsin Central (WC) at Manitowoc St. at Menasha, Wis., on 6 November 2020. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking west from Racine St. at Menasha, Wis., on 2 May 2020, near the site of the junction of the Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) Menasha and Appleton Branches and the Wisconsin Central (WC). Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking west along the Canadian National (CN), originally Wisconsin Central (WC), rails from Racine St. at Menasha, WI, on 2 May 2020. There used to be a diamond midway between Racine St. and Milwaukee St., where the east leg of the Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) wye crossed these tracks. The wye-area was once known as West Menasha Junction and was the southern terminus of the M&N Appleton Branch. 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.

Looking northeast along the Canadian National (CN), originally Milwaukee & Northern (M&N), rails from Tayco St. at Menasha, WI, on 2 May ’20. As this track curves toward the east it forms the south leg of the wye (the southern terminus of their Appleton Branch). 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.

Looking northeast from Tayco St. at Menasha, Wis., on 2 May 2020, toward the junction of the west and south legs of the Milwaukee & Northern (M&N) wye. Photograph by Tom Bruss.