Greenwood Line Part 1
by Keith Meacham
I can say I was fortunate in having witnessed the passing of a Branch Line that has been called every unflattering name in the book, complete with Track that looked simply AWFUL (you were left wondering how a Locomotive and passing train could have stayed upright on it) and Business on it that the Railroad Claimed weren't enough to make the Line pay for it's fixed charges. Well, you read on, make the Judgment for yourself.
I don't plan on expounding at length on the Early History of the Greenwood Line, so, please, I am only skimming over it from Memory (This is where we get to see just how Faulty my memory is!). Larry Easton had his well-written and well-researched articles in The SOO magazine and there is no need to do anymore than give a Brief (Very Brief) outline to bring some of you up to Speed and set the setting for the period my Late Father was Traveling Agent on the Greenwood Line.
I know I won't have everything in the Early History right, particularly with the Train Operations. Sometime in the 1930's, I believe, the Soo began running a separate Train on the Nekoosa Line out of Marshfield. That was in place the very first time Dad relieved at Marshfield in 1944 or 1945.
Dad became Soo Line Traveling Agent No. 10 in August of 1971, taking over from Eddie Kraemer, who had held the Traveling Agent # 10 job since the Position's inception, which was about 1967, coincident with the Closing of Loyal & Greenwood as Open Agencies. Originally, the Job had a Territory of the Greenwood Line, Mann 3 miles north of Marshfield on the Soo's Chicago-Twin Cities Main Line, and Hewitt to Milladore east of Marshfield also on the Main Line. As rendered in 1971, Dad had a busy stretch of Railroad, yes, including the Greenwood Line. The "G-Line" was still serviced Three Days per week in 1971 by a Local the Originated out of Stevens Point. This train went up to Abbotsford on the Ashland Line six days per week, then out to Athens Three Days per week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays this train "Turned" at Abbotsford and headed back to Marshfield, thence out to Spokeville, Loyal and Greenwood on the Greenwood Line. In 1972 the Soo Line restructured this operation, coincident with the Abandonment of the Athens Line, moving the Local---Trains #'s 56 & 57, to Marshfield. Mostly, this was done to relieve Chicago-Park Falls trains # 17 & # 18 of the "Chore" of doing allllll the Local Work between Abbotsford and Park Falls, which included Dorchester, Stetsonville, and Medford. The Local Business in Medford was the Linch Pin of this idea, as Medford had a growing Local Traffic, mostly from the two Windows Manufacturers located there, Hurds & Weathershield. It was another of the Soo's weak attempts to try to handle traffic it didn't expect---or WANT. You see, the more lucrative traffic coming off the Lower Portion of the Ashland Line ultimately decided how the Soo Line treated the Greenwood Line. To be fair, part of the traffic on the lower 1/4th of the Ashland Line was far more lucrative to the Soo than the predominantly seasonal business on the Greenwood Line.
Eddie Kraemer was from Medford, Wis., and Bid on the Operator's Job up there when that position came open. Dad, as it turned out, was the ONLY person that Bid on the Traveling Agent's job on the Greenwood Line. Years later, he Joked, "I Should'a known something was up when there were no other bids on the Job!"
The Greenwood Line itself was a feeble attempt by the Original Wisconsin Central to continue to reduce the Mileage between the Twin Cities and Stevens Point, goaded on by WC's original Interchange Partner, Mentor, and source of some "Under-the-Table" financing, the Northern Pacific. What became the 23 mile Greenwood Line was an attempt prior to the Panic of 1893 to Shorten the Main Line by 60 miles by running it between Marshfield and a point 5 miles east of Chippewa Falls called Bateman. This was the route "Settled" on by the Management of the WC back then; there were at least 7 other surveys carried out that I have heard of, one, which I'm told found favor with the WC at the time, put the Main Line through Eau Claire to Howard, 6 miles west of Chippewa Falls. Unfortunately, the City of Eau Claire was quite UN-in favor of this plan, hence, the line to Bateman became the preferred route.
It wasn't the Panic of 1893 so much that Stopped everything right where it was ( Although it's timing certainly helped), as much as it was the Federal Government stepping in to take a Hard Look at the cozy relationship between the NP & the WC. NP had members of their Board Of Directors seated on the Wisconsin Central, and Vice-Versa. This was an absolute No-No, apparently, and NP & WC got penalized Heavily for it, although not so much the NP as the WC did. This action set any plans the WC had at expansion & betterments far back because of a loss of cash, coupled with the Panic itself.
Although we'll never be able to prove it, it is thought by those of us that Follow Railroad History in Marshfield and the surrounding area, that the NP had put money into the WC, and the Marshfield Cut-off was going to be a 80-20 construction proposition. WC built to Greenwood, what appears to have been the WC's "Part" or Contribution in the Marshfield Cut-off, stopped, and may have been awaiting the NP to Put up their portion of the cash to finish the Cut Off.
Unfortunately, the rails only got as far as Greenwood and stayed there until 1982.
We'll never know how the Marshfield Cut-Off would have changed the overall Picture for the WC, The Soo, and, later, Today’s Wisconsin Central Ltd. However, there were plans in the works to build an 9-track Yard in Marshfield, along with an 11-Stall Roundhouse set inside a Wye that Connected the Marshfield Cut-Off/Greenwood Line to the Main Line to Abbotsford/Owen. I was given a Soo Line Railroad Blueprint Track Map of Marshfield, accurate to 1923, and on the Left margin, poorly blanked out, one can make out the obviously made-too-far-in-advance plans of a Roundhouse, Wye, and the Yard Tracks, none of which were ever built. It is only some "Wishful Thinking" on someone's part at the Real Estate Department.
Obviously, this idea as rendered on paper already had given to the prospect that the Marshfield Cut Off would not be built: The 9-track yard was drawn in along the North of the Main Line to Spencer!
It is Fun, however, to Contemplate just what the Futures of Marshfield, Stevens Point and Chippewa Falls would have turned out to be today had these plans been carried out. It certainly had merit in the thought of locating the Division Point here if that was planned. I can imagine what is threatened to be Lost today in Stevens Point by the CN/WC Merger would have eventually ended up in Marshfield, the Car Shops, Stores Department, etc., who knows what else.....and it wouldn't have been the first time Stevens Point would have lost the Car Shops. It is interesting to play with the idea of what would have happened to Chippewa Falls......by the diesel era, CF Yard and the Crew Change Point there would have possibly been eliminated, maybe not even existed, because of the Grandiose Plans surrounding the Marshfield Cut-Off. As it happened, the Soo Line, prior to the Take Over of the Milwaukee Road in 1985, had been trying to eliminate Chippewa Falls as a Crew Change point anyway!
Today in 2001, the Area the WC had pre-planned to use for a Roundhouse & Yard back in the 1890's, is, in beginning of the New Millennium, a well-to-do neighborhood, homes in the $200,000 to $500,000 range. One wonders just what effect the never-constructed plans would have had on Residential Development in that part of Marshfield many years later.
And, who knows, Marshfield possibly would not be so Anti-Railroad today due to a Burgeoning Rail Employment that it never really had. Marshfield would be more predominantly Blue-collar in 2001 than it is currently. All Speculation, now. Fun to consider, but that is all. Events turned out the other way.
There were two other Stations on the Greenwood Line that passed into the Mists of time by the late 1920's, Mohle (Pronounced MOLE......I have heard it pronounced "Molly", Moley, etc.) located at MP 7, and Veefkind, at about MP 11, which, to this day, is actually a small Community in of itself. It's big Drawing Card is the Veefkind Cemetery, lined with a fence, because People are Dying to get IN. (Bad Joke, .....I know). Not far from where the Greenwood Line sawed Northwest-Southeast through Veefkind there had been a Baseball/Soft Ball Diamond, although by the time I saw it, it was no longer used and the Backstop Fence was Covered with Vines (a' la Wrigley Field...only the Vines were BEHIND Home Plate instead of in the outfield) and a weathered wooden sign that one could still read: VEEFKIND BASE BALL FIELD. About a mile North of Veefkind there stood a substantial Brick Church, which, during the time Dad was Traveling Agent on the Greenwood Line, was used as a Hay Barn. I haven't been over that direction in a number of years; I wonder of that Church still stands?
Both Veefkind and Mohle sported Stations at one time, Veefkind was a one room shanty and Mohle's was a Box Car set off it's Trucks on the ground. Veefkind, I believe, was Tended to by the Loyal Station Agent, and Mohle was the Responsibility of the Marshfield Agent. Mohle was nothing......as I knew it, the Box Car remained on the Ground, severely weathered and vandalized, surrounded by broken beer bottles, old cast-off rubber tires (Both Farm Tractor and Auto), Corn Fields and Chest-high weeds. Local Youths set the place afire (We Think--no one was ever charged with Arson in this fire that I ever heard of) in 1980 and burned it to the ground. (It happened I drove out there just prior to the Greenwood Line abandonment, in 1981, and found NOTHING but charred pieces of the old Car Body in the weeds,)Today, because one of the Farmers along the Greenwood Line ROW bought a portion of the ROW next to his land and moved his fence line, except for my knowing where the tracks were, it's tough to make out where Mohle was. A New Home stands about in the middle of the ROW to the east.
It's funny how a few Folks living in the region now think You're Pulling Their Leg when you mention "Mohle" or "Veefkind".....even Long-time residents never knew the two places existed! Sort of reminds me of the "Fun" I have with the Settlement Name of "Gad", located near Athens, Wis. No one believes that exists, either, but Gad is a Church that is still very much in use.
There are those that do NOT believe you if you're talking about a place ACTUALLY Named "Spokeville". That, too, still exists!
Once the idea of shortening the Miles between Chippewa Falls & Stevens Point fizzled, the Greenwood Line settled in as a Rural Logging Line. At Spokeville the WC serviced A Sawmill, the Jos. C. Marsh Spoke Factory (Hence, the settlement's Name, "Spokeville") and a Feed Mill, which later became the Spokeville Elevator Co., and there was even a Logging Operation branch that came off near MP 10, thereabouts, and ran in to the Woods. The Upham Manufacturing Co. of Marshfield, ran Log Trains over the Greenwood Line until the 1920's. At Loyal, the WC serviced Two large Sawmill operations. One was the A.E. Graves Stave Mill, located east of O.W. Trindal's Feed Mill (Originally, "Trindal's Spur" was Called the "Graves Spur" until the Stave Mill went under). The other Sawmill operation stood to the North of the Wis. Highway 98 Grade Crossing with the Greenwood Line. Can't tell you the name of that place off hand. As logging passed into the Mists of time, the Sawmills closed, and the Greenwood Line lived on Agriculture afterwards.
That would prove to be it's undoing in the end.
.....Greenwood Line Part 2 Continued.........Keith
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