Green Bay & Western Lines
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Know Your Railroad

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A 1957 history written by the Green Bay & Western Railroad for its shareholders.

Know Your Railroad
Green Bay & Western

Straight across Wisconsin about the middle of the state runs the Green Bay & Western Railroad. It provides means of transportation between a great inland body of water, Lake Michigan, and one of the most important rivers in the world, the Mississippi. Between its terminals, the lake port Kewaunee on the east and East Winona on the west, it passes through a region rich in agricultural and forest products.

Location and management account for the success that has attended the operation of the Line in recent years, after it had become well established. It fills a need in the upper Great Lakes region, it carries a comparatively large share of the freight, it has a large measure of value to the towns and farms along the way, it earns a good revenue and its records attest liberal dividend and. interest payments.

The forerunners of this line had troubles. The Green Bay & Lake Pepin, chartered in Wisconsin in 1866, was one of the earliest railroads in this section. Its founders and first directors were mostly Wisconsin men. Henry Ketchum of New London; George Somers, Frederick B. Ellis and M. D. Peak of Green Bay, along with Walter Scranton and E. A. Bradley of New York and Samuel March [sic], Jr. of Philadelphia. In that early day they saw the importance of having a connecting link for freight and passengers between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi and planned the route almost in a straight line. Its cost, they estimated, would be about $4,500,000.

The company took a new name in 1873, the Green Bay & Minnesota, and in that year opened the main line, 244 miles across Wisconsin.

By 1878 road and equipment had cost $12,298,000. The outstanding stock totaled $8,000,000, the bonds $3,079,000. The cost had been much higher than expected and a reorganization was necessary.

The Green Bay, Winona & St. Paul was chartered in 1881 by men who had purchased the Green Bay & Minnesota.

The founders had taken the risk of laying a line through territory not yet built up, whose revenue for some years was likely to be low, and they were struggling with that situation. Gains were being made. The railroad leased the Green Bay, Stevens Point & Northern in 1888, and the Kewaunee, Green Bay & Western in 1892. These became branches.

Again a reorganization became necessary in 1896. The new company operated as the Green Bay & Western, took over the older companies and in addition leased the right to cross a bridge over the Mississippi at East Winona, thereby gaining access to Minnesota territory.

That organization still stands. It has taken on other subsidiaries among them the Ahnapee & Western, chartered in 1890, the Iola & Northern, chartered in 1893, the Casco Bay, chartered in 1894, the Waupaca & Green Bay, chartered in 1907.

Its chief branch is the Kewaunee, Green Bay & Western, nearly 37 miles long. It lies in the eastern part of the state, on the peninsula formed by Lake Michigan and Green Bay, extending from the main line near Kewaunee, northward to Sturgeon Bay.

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 The Green Bay Route is maintained by Mark Mathu.
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Updated July 11, 2015