Chicago & North Western Railway
Chicago & North Western Railway comes to
By Reuben J. Schmahl
originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of The Church Mouse, a publication of the
hamlet of Riceville developed on a 400 acre tract of land owned by Franz
Reis.† Today this would be in the center
The railroad agent in his central room office would sell tickets, control some of the railroad signals, and send or receive telegraph messages.† An added responsibility of his was delivering the messages to local recipients.†
Stored in the south room of the depot was freight waiting to be sent by rail, as well as recently received cargo.† Freight and milk to be shipped was placed on a cart, its base being the same height as the floor of the train car, thereby expediting the loading and unloading process.
In 1873, Reis
took advantage of his gifted depot land by building a general store and saloon
in the area of todayís Hoge and
following years the area with its railroad access attracted many more
businesses and residents resulting in the community being incorporated as the
In the early
years of the railroad, there were many freight trains and passenger trains
passing through the village.† This being
prior to the days of public school transportation, most high school students
The trainís consistent schedule and routine served another purpose for me personally.† I remember while working in the fields on our farm located about Ĺ mile east of the tracks, I would hear the trainís whistle at , as well as in the evening - each being my personal alert that it was time to head home for a meal.
Once a year I
had the thrill of riding the train with my mother to
Another annual thrill in the summer was to watch the circus train with its colorful circus wagons and cages of wild animals rambling through the village toward its next stop.
company also built a side track just west of the main rail in
Between Schneiderís Hotel and the railroad tracks, an elevator was razed and a metal shed erected to store coal brought in by railcar.† Tony Ziegler, who owned the lumber yard and sawmill, delivered coal to patrons.† During the years of the depression, people with buckets would walk along the tracks picking up coal that was spilled while filing the steam engine from the coal tender.
In the summer months of the 1920ís and beyond, empty railroad freight cars had another cargo Ė hobos - who came to town to beg for food from area residents. Obviously, when the cold weather arrived, there were fewer hobos to be found.† I remember rumors being circulated around town that the hobos marked the mailboxes of residents who were willing to feed them.† Our mailbox must have been marked because I can still picture my mother feeding many hobos on our back porch.
The maintenance of the railroad tracks and property was performed by 2-3 railroad employees.† Using a hand propelled rail cart that also carried their tools and supplies, they would daily travel along the tracks from Rockfield to several miles north of Hwy. 60 making needed repairs as well as cleaning the adjacent railroad property.
During a very
severe snowstorm in early February 1936, a passenger train equipped with a
V-plow got stuck in the snow about Ĺ mile north of Hwy.60.† The passengers walked to Schneiderís hotel in
In my judgment, I believe the demise of the railroad started about 1940.† It was after World War II that the publicís preferred method of transportation became the automobile.† Bus transportation, both intercity and interstate, was common.† Trucks came directly to the farms to haul the fresh milk to the dairy, as well as transport livestock to market.† Other freight and store purchases were delivered directly to the consumersí door.† Oil and later gas replaced coal and wood as fuel for heating units.† Mail delivery was made directly by the postal department.† Fertilizers, farm supplies and machinery - each could easily be delivered by truck to its final destination.† All of these factors, I believe, caused the eventual reduction and in many cases the end of the rail service as we once knew it.
I am pleased to have been a participant and witness of this railroad period in our area.† It is with a sense of nostalgia that when a lonely train occasionally makes its way north of Jackson for only a few miles, that I remember and hear the whistle of the trains of days gone by.
Reuben Schmahl is
a lifelong resident of