Railroad passes gave unlimited transportation over the Green Bay
Railroad passes like those below were issued by railroads to allow free
travel to employees, their families, and special guests of the line.
People traveling with these passes were usually referred to as "dead
heads," because they provided no revenue to the trip.
In the 1870's the Green Bay & Minnesota carried an average of 50,000
passengers. The business doubled by the 1880s and peaked at 310,000 in
1915. By 1947 the number of passengers fell to less than 1,000.
Passenger service ended on the Kewaunee division in 1937 and the Interstate
Commerce Commission granted permission to discontinue all service and the last
passenger trains ran on April 4, 1949.
The railroad was never known as an extremely passenger-friendly
railroad -- GB&W employees referred to it as the "Grab Bags &
Walk" -- but it did run a mixed passenger and freight train throughout the
This pass harkens to the first days of the Green Bay Route. The Green
Bay & Lake Pepin RR pass from 1873 was given to the vice-president
of the North Wisconsin Ry, which was organized a few years earlier to
build a line from St. Croix Lake to the west end of Lake Superior.
The GB&LP didn't complete it's rail line to the Mississippi River
until December of 1873; the North Wisconsin Ry eventually became a
part of the Omaha Road in 1880.
As construction of the railroad neared completion and the railroad realized that
Lake Pepin would not be western end of the railroad, it was renamed the Green
Bay & Minnesota RR.
Like the 1873 pass above, here is another pass issued to the vice-president of
the North Wisconsin Ry.
This was the last year of Green Bay & Minnesota passes. The pass was
valid until December 31, 1881, but the railroad went out of business several
The Green Bay & Minnesota went bankrupt and was
reorganized as the Green Bay,
Winona, & Saint Paul RR in the fall of 1981.
Ironically, the GBW&StP never laid rails to Saint Paul.
The color of the pass and the style of the border changed the following year.
A new style was introduced in 1884.
This ornate pass was issued by the Green Bay, Winona, & Saint
Paul RR in 1889.
The following year saw this style of pass. This pass was issued to a
freight agent of the Delaware, Lackawanna &
Western RR, which had controlling ownership of the GBW&StP. The
DL&W would continue to influence the railroad for the next half-century.
Here's the pass issued to the same Delaware, Lackawanna & Western
freight agent the following year.
The second pass was issued to an agent of the Minnesota & Northwestern
RR, which became part of the Chicago Great Western
the following year. In 1901 the CGW acquired the Winona &
South Western and established an interchange with the Green Bay Route
in the namesake city.
By 1892 the DL&W was developing a scheme for a great east-west
transportation route connecting New York City and Pennsylvania's abundant coal
resources with the quickly-developing West. The GBW&StP was part of
this route. Abraham Fell was in charge of DL&W's
freight traveling to western locations; here are passes issued to him and his
daughter. Mr. Fell was paid jointly by the DL&W, GBW&StP, and the Chicago,
St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha for his efforts in
The pass is also good for travel on the Kewaunee,
Green Bay & Western RR, a newly constructed line, affiliated
with the GBW&StP.
Despite the new construction, in reality the GBW&StP was in dire
straights by this time; fine print on the back of the pass indicates that the
railroad was actually in receivership by the Farmers' Loan & Trust Company,
holder of the railroad's mortgage.
Mr. Fell was back again in 1893, still soliciting freight traffic which now
included a car ferry connection across Lake Michigan.
The second pass shown was issued to the General Superintendent of the
Atlantic & Pacific Railroad. Despite the grandiose name, the A&P
actually went from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Needles, California and became a
part of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe in 1897.
By 1894 a new style of pass was in use.
This was the style of pass used during the last full year of operation of the
Green Bay, Winona & St. Paul Railroad. By May of the following year
the railroad was reorganized as the Green Bay
& Western by a group of bondholders. Thomas Fowler, who was
issued this card, appears on several Green Bay Route passes through
The Kewaunee, Green Bay & Western RR
was built in 1890 to connect the Lake Michigan port with Green Bay and points
further west. Although always closely aligned with the GBW&StP, in
1896 the KGB&W was still an independent railroad, as evidenced by this
pass. The following year would see the newly formed Green
Bay & Western gain a majority ownership of the Kewaunee line.
The GBW&StP was unable to emerge from bankruptcy and was auctioned off in
early summer of 1896. This style of pass was issued during the first full
year of operation of successor Green Bay &
Western, which essentially consisted of the DL&W bondholders of the
Of particular interest on the back of this turn-of-the-century pass is the
wording that politicians are prohibited from using the pass. Joseph Jordan
became General Manager of the line by this time and his signature was on the
passes; he had previously worked for the St. Louis & Hannibal Ry -- another
railroad controlled by the DL&W.
The style of the passes settled into a familiar pattern, with only color changes
from year to year.
Another year, another pass color.
Passes were blue in 1905. As in year's past, Wisconsin politicians were
prohibited from holding railroad passes. The pass issued to the Pere
Marquette agent was a natural; PM boats connected to the KGB&W at
Kewaunee. The second pass was issued to W. C. Schilling of
the M & R Transportation Co., apparently a steamboat line
operating out of Green Bay. The Ahnapee & Western was still an
independent line at this time and issued its own passes.
In 1906 the GB&W/KGB&W passes returned to the more familiar yellow
color. Mr. H. R. Williams, issued this pass, also appears on 1914
and 1920 passes.
This was the last year of Ahnapee & Western independent operation, prior
to the GB&W taking a majority interest that fall. A&W passes were
the same style as the previous year, but in a different color. This pass
was issued to W. C. Schilling of the M & R Transportation Co., the same
person who was issued a 1905 pass from the GB&W.
Although the Ahnapee & Western came under the GBW's control by 1907,
that railroad's name was not added to the front of the pass. W. C.
Schilling of the M & R Transportation Co. appears once
again on this pass, but by this time steamship lines were clearly on the decline
as a means of transportation in and out of Green Bay.
Again, the passes were still of a similar style and signed by Joseph Jordan.
Another year, a similar style. Mr. E. G. Clark of the Wisconsin
Central Ry was issued one of these passes.
Another year, a similar style for the joing GB&W/KGB&W line. The Waupaca
- Green Bay Railway, incorporated a few years earlier, was issuing its own
passes at this time; the GBW acquired it in 1922 after the line went bankrupt.
The standard 1911 passes were of a similar style as previous years.
By this time, the back of the passes made it clear the pass was also "good
on the Ahnapee & Western Railway."
There was also a "limited pass" in use as shown in the pass issued
to the children of a Chicago &
North Western Ry employee.
A Waupaca - Green Bay Ry pass
is also shown. Mr. E. G. Clark is once again shown; this time he
is listed as a Soo Line employee, since the Soo Line acquired the Wisconsin
The format changed slightly in 1912 when the passes needed to be countersigned
by H. E. Dutton on the front (his signature appeared on the back of
the passes since the turn of the century). As a consequence the pass
number and year were moved to new locations on the front of the card. At
the same time, Joseph Jordan's title was simplified to simply "General
Manager." Mr. E. G. Clark's pass is shown once again this
year, but his employer was now identified by its formal name - the Minneapolis,
St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Ry. The Waupaca - Green Bay
Railway passes were simplified this year.
By 1913 the fine print on the back no longer prohibits politicians from using
The following year saw the passes return to the familiar yellow color which had
been used several times in the past. Joseph's Jordan's title is now
1915 saw the passes return to the color from two years earlier.
The same style of pass was used in 1916...
... and 1917 ...
... and 1918.
One of these passes is for Mr. C. M. Sherwood of the Fairchild and
Northeastern, a logging railroad running between Fairchild and Greenwood,
Wis. He would later become the General Manager of the Ettrick Railroad,
a ten-mile short line whose only connection to the outside world was an
interchange with the GB&W at Blair.
1920 saw a new style of pass, with F. B. Seymour as the new General
Manager of the railroad. The Ahnapee & Western was finally included on
the front of the pass. The text crossed out on the back of pass #1073 said
"Good on Waupaca - Green Bay Railway." I'm not sure when that was
added to the passes, nor if it was crossed out on all the passes issued this
The same format was used the following year, but with a different color.
This pass uses a new style in 1924. Mr. H.R. Williams also shows up on the
1920 pass on this page.
The 1926 pass was slightly different -- the Kewaunee, Green Bay & Western
and the Ahnapee & Western were reduced to a much smaller point on the front
of the pass. Pass #386 was unique in that it was good for the General
Manager of a nearby railroad, as well as five additional employees.
By 1928 the Green Bay Route herald began appearing on the passes. After
nearly thirty years, H. E. Dutton was no longer counter-signing the
passes -- J. M. Zahorik would now be signing all remaining passes
until the practice of issuing passes was discontinued.
The same style of pass was in use the following year.
Passes were issued biennially in the 1930s, and the railroad added a grace
period effective through the end of January of the following year.
Kewaunee, Green Bay & Western and the Ahnapee & Western were dropped
from being explicitly named on the the pass.
One of these passes was extended by an additional two years by writing a
"7" over the "5" in the date.
This 1936 pass was issued to the president of the Delaware, Lackawanna &
Western RR, and was extended through 1937 by overwriting the expiration date.
The final change in the style of the passes occurred when Homer McGee became
president of the railroad. After all of these years the Delaware,
Lackawanna & Western RR was still involved in the operations of the
railroad, as indicated by the special pass issued to that line's president.
Passenger service on the Green Bay & Western drew to a close after World War
II. The last passenger trains operated in April 1949, and the practice of
issuing passes came to a close.
I hope you enjoyed this trip through the history of passes on the Green Bay
& Western lines. If you have any passes I hope you can add to this
collection by sharing an image of it.