Reminders of the Milwaukee & Northern - Appleton Branch

The M&N constructed the 4.7-mile Appleton Branch, running from Menasha, Wis., into ‘The Flats’ at Appleton, Wis., in 1880. By the mid-1880s, the Menasha, Appleton and Neenah Branches were collectively referred to as the Appleton Branch on timetables.

It was the Appleton Branch of the Superior Division of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul (CM&StP), or Milwaukee Road (MILW), after they took over the M&N in 1893.

The branch is still active to Midway Rd. in Menasha, operated by the Canadian National (CN). The portion of the line from approximately 400 feet northeast of Valley Rd. to the end of the branch in ‘The Flats’ was abandoned by the CM&StP, or MILW, in 1981.

West Menasha Junction

There used to be a wye here which was once known as West Menasha Junction on the M&N. This is where the Menasha Branch terminated, the Appleton and Neenah Branches began, and the original Wisconsin Central (WC) connected. This should not be confused with West Menasha, a station for the Chicago & North Western and the WC on the west side of Little Lake Butte des Morts.

Looking northeast along the former 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. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Banta Corp., et al.

When the M&N laid their tracks here in 1880, this area was mostly farm land. This parcel was a 40-acre farm owned by A. Kruse, or Kraus, at the time. The Banta Corp. began construction of this facility at 800 Midway Rd., Menasha, Wis., in September of 1945, to supplement their original plant near downtown Menasha. So this is historically a MILW customer. This facility was renamed RR Donnelley, after they purchased Banta Corp. on 2 January 2007. It became LSC Communications circa November 2016, after it was spun off from RR Donnelley. It became Lakeside Book Company in 2020, after Atlas Holdings acquired LSC Communications.

Looking northeast along the former M&N right-of-way at Midway Rd. at Menasha, Wis., on 4 April 2020. The M&N Appleton Branch used to continue northeast from Midway Rd. This spur which curves to the right to serve Lakeside Book Co. is the northernmost active remnant of the branch. Highway 441, the Tri-county Expressway, can be seen in the background. Construction commenced circa 1990, it was completed in September 1993. The cell phone tower in the background stands next to the former M&N right-of-way. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

A CN local, led by IC 9605, services RR Donnelley at Menasha, Wis., on 27 January 2014. This spur at Midway Rd., Menasha, Wis., is the northernmost active remnant of the former M&N Appleton Branch. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Valley Road to the Fox River

Looking northeast along the former M&N right-of-way, now O’Conner Way, at Valley Rd. at Fox Crossing, Wis., on 4 April 2020. When the M&N laid their tracks here in 1880, this area was mostly farm land. This parcel was an 80-acre farm owned by P. Schumich (Schwmich) at the time. This industrial facility at 960 Valley Rd., Appleton, Wis. (physically located in Fox Crossing), dates to at least 1955 and was served by the MILW. If you proceed along O’Conner Way, you can still see where the loading doors were along the northwest wall of the building. The turnout for the spur was at the far end of the building. I’m not sure who the original occupant was, but it is currently occupied by Great Northern Container. I believe that this facility continued to receive rail service after the Soo Line (SOO) acquired the MILW, but I am not positive. This portion of Valley Rd. forms the absurdly convoluted border between Menasha and Fox Crossing (formerly Town of Menasha, from 1855 until 14 April 2016). I was standing on the Menasha side looking toward Fox Crossing. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southwest along the former M&N right-of-way at Valley Rd. at Menasha, Wis., on 4 April 2020. The property line which separates WOW Logistics, Menasha Distribution Center, 923 Valley Rd., from Altimate Motorsports, 887 Valley Rd., and Multi Storage, LLC, 867 Valley Rd., approximates the former right-of-way. The WOW Logistics facility was erected in 1995, with an addition in 1997. I do not know who the original occupant was, or when WOW Logistics moved in. The Altimate Motorsports site was once home to Appleton Steel Works. Multi Storage, LLC, was erected in 2017, after yet another historic manufacturing facility was erased from the local landscape. The factory was constructed in 1947, but I do not know who the original occupant was. It was home to Kool Brothers, Inc., from at least the 1960s until the early 1980s. They began to manufacture farm machinery in the 1950s, but had also produced ornamental iron since 1924. The facility was the home of Kinetic Systems, Inc., circa 1984 to at least 1994. They manufactured palletizing equipment. The factory was later home to Urban Evolutions for a few years. When the M&N laid their tracks here in 1880, this area was mostly farm land. This parcel was a 120-acre farm owned by T. Johnson in 1873, purchased by M. Lochbaum sometime prior to 1889. I believe that facility continued to receive rail service after the Soo Line (SOO) acquired the MILW, but I am not positive. Highway 441, the Tri-county Expressway, can be seen in the background. Construction commenced circa 1990, it was completed in September 1993. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking northeast along the former M&N right-of-way at the intersection of O’Connor Way and George St. at Fox Crossing, Wis., (formerly Town of Menasha, WI, from 1855 until 14 April 2016) on 4 April 2020. The right half of the house at left was built over the former right-of-way. The railroad tracks used to curve from northeast to east northeast behind the house at right. When the M&N laid their tracks here in 1880, this area was mostly farm land. I believe this parcel was a 64-acre farm owned by W. Hungerfest (Hangerfest) at the time. This portion of the Appleton Branch, down into ‘The Flats’ at Appleton, was abandoned in 1981. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Swing Bridge Over the Fox River at Appleton, Wis.

This bridge was approximately 3.9 miles from the Menasha depot, and approximately 7/10th of a mile from the Appleton depot.

This bridge was erected by the M&N in 1880. This portion of the Appleton Branch, down into ‘The Flats’ at Appleton, was abandoned in 1981. This bridge was removed ca. mid-1980s when the Memorial Dr. bridge was rebuilt. I am not positive if that swing bridge was the original one built in 1880, or a later replacement built by the MILW.

This abutment is the last remnant of the M&N swing bridge over the Fox River and under the Memorial Dr. bridge at Appleton, Wis., as seen on 27 February 2020. This view is looking southwest from the Vulcan Heritage Park and from the approximate location of the opposite abutment (which has been removed). Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southwest along the former M&N right-of-way from the S. Memorial Dr. (originally Cherry St.) bridge over the Fox River at Appleton, Wis., on 4 April 2020. This abutment is the last remnant of the M&N swing bridge over the Fox River and under the Memorial Dr. bridge. The cell phone tower in the background to the right stands next to the former right-of-way north of Valley Rd. (near the intersection of O’Connor Way and Stanton Cir.). Photograph by Tom Bruss.

This abutment (seen in the background between the second and third bridge piers from the left) is the last remnant of the M&N swing bridge over the Fox River and under the Memorial Dr. bridge at Appleton, Wis., as seen on 27 February 2020. This view is looking southwest from the Vulcan Heritage Park and from the approximate location of the opposite abutment (which has been removed). The white horizontal line visible in the distance beyond the bridge pier on the right is the CN branch line which runs from Appleton Junction, Wis., to Combined Locks, Wis. Those rails were originally laid by the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western (MLS&W) in 1873. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Looking southwest along the Fox River from the S. Memorial Dr. (originally Cherry St.) bridge at Appleton, Wis., on 4 April 2020. The abutment on the far bank at left is the last remnant of the M&N swing bridge over the Fox River and under the Memorial Dr. bridge. The tracks to the right are the CN branch line which runs from Appleton Junction, Wis., to Combined Locks, Wis. Those rails were originally laid by the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western (MLS&W) in 1873. The MLS&W was absorbed by the Chicago & North Western (C&NW) in 1893. The Appleton Yacht Club and Lutz Park can be seen in the background to the right. The cell phone tower in the background stands next to the former right-of-way north of Valley Rd. (near the intersection of O’Connor Way and Stanton Cir.). Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Appleton, Wis., was Milepost 21 on circa 1885-1888 timetables, it was listed as Milepost 20 on an 1892 timetable.

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