Reminders of the Milwaukee & Northern Main Line – Schwartzburg Junction to Hilbert Junction

The M&N constructed the first 77 miles of their main line, from Schwartzburg Junction, Wis., to Hilbert Junction, Wis., in 1870 and 1871.

It became the Superior Division of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul (CM&StP), or Milwaukee Road (MILW), on 1 July 1893. It reorganized as the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (CMStP&P) in 1928.

Most of this portion of the main line is still active. The Wisconsin & Southern (WSOR) operates from Schwartzburg Junction to Kiel. The Canadian National (CN) operates from Kiel to Hilbert Junction.

Elkhart Lake, Wis., was Milepost 59 on an 1873 timetable; it was Milepost 62 on later timetables.

The northeast and northwest walls of MILW depot at Elkhart Lake, Wis., on 15 July 2014. It was built in 1897, in the Queen Anne style, to replace the original 1871 M&N depot (out-of-frame to the right). The MILW closed the depot in 1968. The Elkhart Lake Historical Society organized in 1969 with the goal of acquiring and preserving the depot; they purchased it from the MILW in 1970 for $5,000. After some restoration, it opened as a museum and gift shop on 27 June 1971. On 13 June 1976, the depot was recognized as an official Sheboygan County landmark. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

The southwest and southeast walls of the 1871 M&N depot at Elkhart Lake, Wis., on 30 May 2020. Some references state that it was built in 1870, others say 1872. It is currently home to Off the Rail, a café at 44 Gottfried St. Some references state that the depot was moved to this spot for use by the feed mill after the 1897 MILW depot (out-of-frame to the right) was completed. I hope to find additional information in order to confirm, or refute, that belief. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

The northwest and southwest walls of the 1871 M&N depot at Elkhart Lake, Wis., on 30 May ’20. It is currently home to Off the Rail, a café at 44 Gottfried St. Some references state that the depot was moved to this spot for use by the feed mill after the 1897 MILW depot (partially visible in the background to the right) was completed. I hope to find additional information in order to confirm, or refute, that belief. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

A WSOR crew approaches Hwy. A/Hickory Ln./Kettle Moraine Scenic Dr. as it sorts cars at the passing siding along the former M&N main line parallel to Hwy. 67/Lincoln St. at Elkhart Lake, Wis., on 17 October 2015. The train had three locomotives, WSOR 3809, WSOR 3813, and WSOR 3803. The main line from Elkhart Lake to Kiel is primarily used for freight car storage now. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Kiel, Wis., was Milepost 65 on an 1873 timetable; it was Milepost 68 on later timetables.

Looking southeast at Fremont St., toward the former site of the 1916 MILW, depot at Kiel, Wis., on 30 May 2020. When the depot was closed circa 1969, the MILW offered to sell the building for $2,000 and rent the land under it for $160 per year. A local resident expressed the desire to purchase it, fix it up, and wait for someone interested in using it. I haven’t learned how that turned out or what ultimately happened to the depot. There was a station sign here up until a couple of years ago, the post still stands in the background to the left of the platform. The historic J. B. Laun Lumber Co. stands at the far left. Jacob B. Laun purchased an existing lumber yard from Fredrick Griebenow and William Reseburg in 1884. The awesome cream-colored brick building, designed by Walter F. Neumann, was built in 1924 (according to wisconsinhistory.org.). I haven’t learned when the lumber yard closed, but it operated until at least 1998. The 1871 M&N depot stood just out-of-frame to the right, on the other side of the main line. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

The 1916 MILW depot at Kiel, Wis., in 1969. The depot was closed by this time. This view is looking southeast from Fremont St. Image courtesy of the Heritage Collection at Kiel Public Library.

Chilton, Wis., was Milepost 75 on an 1873 timetable; it was Milepost 79 on later timetables.

This community was originally named Stantonville, in honor of Moses Stanton, the founder. The land was purchased by John Marygold in 1852 and he intended to change the name to Chilington, his hometown in England. He sent a request to the county seat, then Stockbridge, to make the name change official. A miscommunication resulted in the middle syllable being lost to history and the name became Chilton.

Chilton Depot

We have not found definitive information, but we wonder if the current freight house might be the original depot built by the M&N circa 1872. This freight house dates to at least 1892, according to the Sanborn maps. The maps suggest it was moved about 600 feet to the southeast, its current location, and converted to a freight house after a new passenger depot was built near the original depot site between 1904 and 1914. That second depot is no longer extant. If this is the original depot, an addition was constructed at some point after it was converted to freight house.

A CN local, led by Illinois Central IC 3137, approaches the former MILW freight house as it prepares to service a couple of industries at Chilton, Wis., on 26 July 2015. The facility looming to the right belongs to Kaytee Products, Inc. Scroll down for some more information about Kaytee. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

A CN local, led by Grand Trunk Western GTW 4924, pauses in front of the former MILW freight house as it services Kaytee Products, Inc., at Chilton, Wis., on 20 November 2020. Scroll down for some more information about Kaytee. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

A CN local, led by Grand Trunk Western GTW 4924, passes the former site of the M&N and MILW depots at Chilton, Wis., on 20 November 2020. The former MILW depot stood on this patch of gravel next to Reinl Accounting (just out-of-frame to the left). This was the former site of the Peter Juckem & Co. Elevator & Warehouse. That new depot replaced the previous depot built by the M&N, which stood between the main line and passing siding (to the right of the locomotive). The awesome, old industrial facility on the right is currently home to JTD Enterprises, Inc. Aluminum Specialty Co., a.k.a. Chilton Aluminum, was the original occupant. Founded at Manitowoc, Wis., they decided to build a second factory at Chilton in 1919, 2 stories, 60 by 200 ft., at a cost of $75,000 ($40,000 for the building and the remainder for equipment). It was built upon the former site of the L. Lindemuth Saw Mill. Other occupants have included Mirro-Foley Co. and Midwest Machine Co. There are remnants of a spur in the pavement, but it hasn’t received rail service for a while. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

A CN local, led by Grand Trunk Western GTW 4924, passes the former site of the M&N and MILW depots at Chilton, Wis., on 20 November 2020. The former MILW depot stood to the left of the locomotive, on the patch of gravel next to Reinl Accounting (just out-of-frame to the left). It was the former site of the Peter Juckem & Co. Elevator & Warehouse. That new depot replaced the previous depot built by the M&N, which stood between the main line and passing siding (to the right of the locomotive). The local is preparing to spot this covered hopper by the grain bins in the background. That facility dates to at least 1892, when it was the Chilton Elevator. By 1898, and until at least 1904, the Sanborn maps list it as Elevator and Ware Houses, owned and operated by N. Knauf. By 1914 it was the Union Elevator and Ware Houses, Knauf & Tesch Co., proprietors. The facility is currently owned by Kaytee Products, Inc. Scroll down for some more information about Kaytee. Photograph by Tom Bruss.

Kaytee Products, Inc.

Kaytee Products, Inc., was founded by Nicholas Knauf in Sheboygan, Wis., in 1874 as a grain and feed business. He soon built elevators at Brillion and Chilton, then moved his headquarters to Chilton. The name Kaytee is derived from Knauf & Tesch (K&T), a partnership formed by William N. Knauf (the founder’s son) and Frank Tesch, which took over from Nicholas Knauf circa 1897. They added bird and small animal foods in the 1920s. In 1964 they stopped producing dairy animal feed and have focused on bird and small animal feed ever since.

Hilbert, Wis., was Milepost 83 on an 1873 timetable; it was Milepost 86 on later timetables.

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. The former M&N main line runs past this side of the depot. 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.