Marshfield, November 1895: Becoming the Hub City
By Kris Leonhardt
It is November of 1895, and the city is tired of waiting for Canadian Pacific to deliver. After years of delay, Canadian Pacific had become another “paper railway,” so much talk but no surveys or attempts to make the fabled rail bed a reality.
Since its Articles of Incorporation were first laid out in Madison in 1873, there was much excitement and anticipation for the promised railway connecting Chicago to Superior and points in between. The planned 260 miles of Wisconsin track would come right through Wood and Clark counties.
Various areas throughout the state had seen some form of attention in the way of preparation for the rail line, but Wood and Clark counties were yet untouched.
Road had been graded, the right-of-way from Western Chicago to Richmond Junction was purchased, and the rail bed from there to Milwaukee had been graded as well. Farther north, the northern-most sections had been graded in Douglas and Washburn counties.
In addition, Canadian Pacific would help install bridges in rail lines in the Sault Ste. Marie area and open a third rail connection from the Twin Cities to points west before ever turning its attention to the center of Wisconsin.
All the advancements of the railroad trickled back to the city, but why were they not seeing any progress? Had the organizers changed their minds? The routes? Residents soon were in doubt on whether the railroad would arrive at all.
Marshfield inhabitants could see the possibilities of an additional line, how it would expand market opportunities and provide additional consumer goods delivery and passenger service in the area. This would also do much to encourage further settlement in the municipality and the state as well.
After years of rumors and speculation, the city had all but given up. However, on this November day, the city would receive its reassurance. Provided by the way of ex-Attorney General James O’Connor, who had just left office after being replaced by newly elected William Mylrea, the city was informed of the intended plans of the future railway.
A line being constructed south to Chicago from Cambridge would travel north to Portage and then sync up with the Wisconsin Central line for points north.
It would take another 14 years before the Minneapolis, St. Paul, & Sault Ste. Marie (Soo Line), a division of the Canadian Pacific, would begin leasing the Wisconsin Central Railway, a lease that was termed for 99 years.
The city of Marshfield would welcome several other railways to the area in the ensuing years to become all that it had hoped and the railroad organizers had promised. Second in railroad traffic only to the city of Milwaukee, Marshfield would earn the nickname of Hub City.
Today the Canadian National Railway is the sole line providing service to and through the city of Marshfield on the rails once owned by Wisconsin Central. The depot still stands today in a new location but is no longer used for its original purpose. The depot now houses Royal Tokyo Restaurant.