Thursday, July 26, 2018

WC: Wisconsin Central -> Soo -> WC -> CN

I've learned that the railroad name Wisconsin Central is like the TP&W name -- it has confused me because the same name was used for multiple railroads. Wikipedia has a page that clarifies the usage of the name:
My interest in the Wisconsin Central (WC) is that the name keeps appearing concerning the 19th century railroads and passenger stations in Chicago. It turns out that all of those names include the trackage I'm interested in -- the route from Wisconsin into Chicago. But the names before 1961 became owned by the Soo Line which was owned by the Canadian Pacific (CP) and the Ltd. name became owned by the Canadian National (CN).

The WC was the only land grant railroad in Wisconsin. It was chartered on February 4, 1871. Like the Illinois Central, it was granted land in the middle of the state to help open up what was wilderness at the time. It reached St. Paul in 1884 and Chicago in 1886. Northern Pacific Railroad (NP) started leasing it in 1889 and built the Grand Central Station.

The NP terminated its lease in 1893 because it went bankrupt in the Panic of 1893. That is when the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) bought a lot of the Chicago assets of the WC and formed the B&O Chicago Terminal Railroad (B&OCT). A 1900 Wisconsin railroad map had not been updated and still shows WC having all of its Chicago assets (below). I include the CB&Q part because it is interesting how the names of the towns have changed. East Grove is now Fairview and Greggs would be Westmont. And the Belmont Station did not even exist back then.

The WC branch happens in Franklin Park. 

Understanding the WC history clarifies another issue -- why some times the Soo Line is part of the CP and other times it is part of the CN. Alternatively, why only relatively recently the Soo yards were the Bensenville Yard. The Soo Line owned WC tracks until it got rid of most of them as the WC Ltd. in the 1980s after it bought the midwest assets of the Milwaukee Road (MR) when the MR went bankrupt.

According to a 1908 map, the WC route in Illinois goes through Antioch, Lake Villa, Grayslake, Libertyville, Wheeling, Des Plaines, Orchard Place (now O'Hare Airport), Franklin Park and River Forest. It is interesting to note that there are about twice this many towns in the 1908 map, but I listed only those that also appear on today's Google map. This route explains why I now sometimes see CN trains going over the entrance to O'Hare Airport.

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