The GB&W and Omaha Road crossing at Merrillan.
Here's a history from "Merrillan
Centennial" by Jean Anderson, 1970:
The West Wisconsin Railroad was built through
this portion of Jackson County in the fall of 1869. Leander
Merrill sent his brother Benjamin to Hudson, where the railroad
offices were then located, in an effort to convince the railroad
to change their road bed enough to include the present site of
Merrillan. According to stories handed down by the Merrill
family, the railroad officials agreed to change their route to
include Merrill's future town for the consideration of $75,000,
which Leander promptly paid to the company. Trains on the West
Wisconsin Railroad did not make stops at Merrillan at this time
and passengers either got off the trains at Wright's Mill (about
5 miles south) or at Humbird and then walked to Merrillan.
When the Green Bay & Lake Pepin Railroad
planned to build their road through Jackson County, L.G. Merrill
donated many acres of land to the company so they would change
their plans from connecting with the West Wisconsin at Wright's
to connecting with that railroad in Merrillan. The Green Bay
& Lake Pepin Road reached Merrillan on December 22, 1872,
and the first train arrived here the following week with a Mr.
Garvin as engineer. The telegraph line on the railroad was
completed in January 1873. A crude shack was converted into a
Union Depot and both the West Wisconsin and Green Bay railroad
began passenger service here. The first depot agent was J.A.
Maynard. Merrillan's growth was very rapid after receiving
In the spring of 1873, George Hiles of
Dexterville took the contract to do the grading on the Green Bay
& Lake Pepin Railroad from Merrillan to the Mississippi
River and work began in mid May. During the summer of 1873 the
Green Bay Railroad erected the Blair House, sometimes referred
to as the Railroad House. This large 40 room hotel was located
northwest of the junction of the two railroads on the site where
a tavern sits today. A. Putman a former Black River Falls
resident was the proprietor of the hotel and he was assisted by
a Mr. Libby.
A lawsuit involving the title to a disputed 40
acres of land (known as the Railroad 40) almost in the center of
Merrillan, involving the Green Bay Railroad, was tried in the
fall of 1880. The litigation over this property had been a
serious drawback in the growth of the town. L.G. Merrill had
donated this portion of land to the Green Bay Railroad Company
in order to persuade them to locate their route to cross the
West Wisconsin at this point..(This was finally added to the
Village Plat and is known as the D.M. Kelley Addition.)
On October 9, 1884, the Union freight depot
burned. This was located at the junction of the Omaha and Green
Bay and Minnesota roads. It was only a 'shack' and the citizens
of Merrillan were not sorry to see it burn, as they hoped the
two railroad companies would build a depot that would be a
credit to the village. H.Weldon McGee, president of the Green
Bay & Western in 1970 states, 'The original freight depot
was built by the GB&M RR in 1884 and was rebuilt by the
Omaha at joint expense by both carriers in 1885 after the
original had burned. The original passenger depot, a 14 x 28
frame building with a 10 x 22 foot lean-to, was built by the G.B.&M.R.R.
Co. in 1880 and converted into a car inspectors house in 1916.
In 1886 a new depot was built by the Omaha at joint expense and
has been so owned ever since.
By the time the Green Bay & Lake Pepin RR construction crews
reached Merrillan in January 1873, the west Wisconsin town was already
linked to the Saint Paul grain markets by the West Wisconsin
Railroad. The WWRR would later become part of the "Omaha
Road" -- the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha
Railway. The junction served as an important transfer point on the
Green Bay Route. Eastbound flour from Minnesota and westbound auto
parts from Michigan transferred between the Green Bay Route and the
Omaha Road at Merrillan. Rumors of the GB&W building an
extension from Merrillan to
Saint Paul appeared in the 1880s, 1890s and again in
1906. In addition, Merrillan was planned to be the junction point
for the ill-fated La Crosse branch
of the GB&W.
The view below, from a 1907 postcard, is looking northwest along the
Omaha Road tracks. The Green Bay & Western track cuts across
from left (west, to Winona) to right (east, to Wisconsin Rapids).
The Omaha Road tracks were protected by a manual gate crossing over the
GB&W. You can see the gate in place over the tracks in the
middle of the photo. The joint GB&W / Omaha Road station is
still standing, now used by the Union Pacific Railroad.
The water tank, standpipe and pump house seen in this photo were
installed in 1892 jointly paid for by the Omaha Road and the
Green Bay Route.
A special thanks to Bob Gile
for providing this photo!
- St. 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 division point.
- Omaha Road Crossing (1907) - The
GB&W and Omaha Road crossing at Merrillan.
- Trains in Merrillan (1913) - Lots
of trains thru Merrillan, Wisconsin.
- Merrillan Map (1916) -
Right-of-way map of Merrillan issued by the Green Bay & Western
- Turntable Wreck (1920) - An
overturned coach sits next to the Merrillan turntable.
- Plow Train (1969) - A westbound
plow train approaching Sand Road on the west edge of Merrillan.
- 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 Pacific.