A map published by the Village of Merrillan shows the Green Bay Route's extension
with Merrillan as a major division point.
Where did the town name come from?
Leander Merrill ran the area's first sawmill and was
the owner of most of the land in the area. There were so many
businesses in town that were "Merrill & ..." that people
started calling the area Merrilland. Leander Merrill also was the person
responsible for the Green Bay Route bending northward to get the
railroad into his growing village.
After the arrival of the railroad the city was
commonly referred to as Merrillan Jct. up through about the 1920s.
The boom of Minnesota's grain milling business in the late 1870's brought the
idea of a Green Bay & Minnesota Railroad extension to St. Paul to the
forefront. Before definite action could be taken the GB&M fell ran
into financial difficulties but the line emerged from receivership in October
1881 and made its northwest goal very clear by adopting a new name: Green Bay,
Winona, & St. Paul Railroad. In November 1882 a survey was organized for the Merrillan to St. Paul
extension of the Green Bay Route. Financial difficulties prevented the
line from being built at that time. The idea was revived in 1892 when the
subsidiary Green Bay, Minneapolis, & St. Paul Railway was
The Green Bay Route was not alone in seeing the advantage of a St. Paul
connection. In 1882 several small lines merged to form the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway,
with the same destination in mind. Financial troubles for the GBW&StP,
along with the Chicago & North Western gaining a controlling interest in the CMStP&O
led to the abandonment of the plans for a St. Paul extension.
below is from the letterhead of Village of Merrillan. Besides the
St. Paul extension it shows the proposed completion of the La Crosse Branch. In order to handle all the traffic for the
new extension the GBW&StP
was going to build new facilities in Merrillan. Not long afterwards the Green Bay Route expanded the facilities at Grand Rapids (later
Wisconsin Rapids) and Merrillan's plans of being a major division point for the
railroad was put to an end.
A special thanks to Bob Gile for
providing the map. His great grandfather was the publisher of the Wisconsin Leader, which was
the basis for this story.
Paul Extension (ca. 1892) - A map published by the Village of Merrillan
shows the proposed Green Bay Route's extension with Merrillan as a major
Road Crossing (1907) - The GB&W and Omaha Road crossing at
in Merrillan (1913) - Lots of trains thru Merrillan, Wisconsin.
Map (1916) - Right-of-way map of Merrillan issued by the Green Bay &
Western in 1916.
Wreck (1920) - An overturned coach sits next to the Merrillan turntable.
Train (1969) - A westbound plow train approaching Sand Road on the west
edge of Merrillan.
Crossing (1976) - Eastbound Train No. 2 passes the Merrillan depot
painted in "C&NW 400" colors.
- Merrillan (2001) - Ex-GBW / Omaha Road Merrillan Depot, now used by the Union