New Glarus Railroad History through the Years
1887-July-The Chicago Milwaukee & St.Paul Railroad completed the Brodhead-New Glarus branch. Talks to extend the branch from Albany began in late February 1887 with actual construction beginning in March. It took just five months to grade, excavate, build bridges and two depots on the 16 mile extension.
The first agent was a Mr. Wilkerson. The engineer on locomotive #-86 was Billy Wilkerson. Other agents include J.E. Collins, Mr. Reagan, Mr. Benedict, Charlie Howard, John Dahnke, Bob McLean, Ben Eller, George Knepler, Ralph Gustafson and Charlie Carpenter
1888- A New Glarus business directory lists J. E. Collins as the Railroad, telegraph and express agent.
1891-Switzerland celebrated its 600th anniversary on August 1st. To help the motherland celebrate, the Swiss of New Glarus celebrated this event in September. The population of New Glarus was under 300 and this event drew over 6,000 visitors to New Glarus. (See note #1 at end). The Milwaukee Road had to add special trains to accommodate all of the visitors. A number of Pullman cars were sent to New Glarus and spotted on sidings to provide overnight accommodations.
1898-Waldo Luchsinger, New Glarus lost a limb while working in Brodhead for the Milwaukee Road. Luchsinger was given a job in the locomotive shop in Madison.
1907-Robert Streiff began a livery business delivering freight from the depot to local merchants. Streiff continued in this business until 1962. In the 1920's Streiff hauled the cement for the paving of state HWY 69 which in part led to the decline of the railroad in New Glarus. Streiff used two four-horse teams to haul the 60 carloads of cement. Each boxcar carried 900 sacks of cement.
1910-The Village of New Glarus gave the Milwaukee Road a right of way across an alley. (See note #-2)
November 1, The Helvetia Milk Company began operations condensing milk from area farms.
1912-Jake Frick, Ernest Hoesly and John Kundert began a business which purchased yearling cattle which were shipped to other states and foreign countries. Hoesly's son Harold continued the business for many years.
1913-The Farmers Cooperative Stock Company was formed. In 1964 at the 50th anniversary three of the original directors, Alvin Ott, A. C. Hoesly and Tullof Brynjulfson of Mt. Horeb were present and still on the board of directors. (see note # 3)
1918-November 11, The Milwaukee Road steamed into town whistle going full blast announcing the armistice in Europe. News of the armistice reached New Glarus via telegraph before the train arrived and shortly thereafter the three bells on the nearby Swiss Church rang out the news that the local sons would soon be home.
1926-The Streiff and Domholdt Livery stable across the street from the depot burned to the ground. Monticello, Monroe and Belleville fire departments responded.
1929-The Babler Auto Sales Company will sell Oakland-Pontiac automobiles. They will arrive by flatcar.
1930-Streiff and Domholdt discontinued using horses in their livery business. (See note # 4)
1939-A record 22 car loads of stock were shipped from the Farmers Cooperative Stock Yard.
1942-The Milwaukee Road built a new turntable in July.
Employees of Pet Milk Company (formerly Helvetia Milk Company) were fingerprinted because of the defense department contracts they were processing. (see note # 5)
1945-Pet Milk announced that 36,774,033 pounds of milk was delivered to the factory during the year. The bulk of it was shipped out by rail for use by the armed forces.
1948-A boxcar load of milk from Pet Milk was shipped overseas by CROP.
1950-A January shortage of stoker coal hit the village until a shipment arrived via rail. The situation had gotten so bad that the school shut down for one week. (see note # 6)
1952-Well respected New Glarus Depot Agent John Dahnke died suddenly shocking the entire village. The Dahnke family was well represented in the ranks of the Milwaukee Road family.
1954-March-The steam era ends as the Milwaukee Road installed new rails to run the new diesels on the branch line.
1955- A March 21 fire burned the Milwaukee Road trestle about 1.5 miles south of New Glarus causing the train to derail injuring A. S. Dooley. The fire caused a big stir around New Glarus and many spectators went out to see the damage.
1956-Jake Tschudy, a former New Glarus hobo sold his lumber business and took to the road once again when he and his wife Irene accepted the job of Curators of the Wisconsin Historymobile. Jake began hoboing at age 16 when he and friend caught out on the rods from New Glarus. They made it to the Gallatin Valley where they stayed over winter. All lumber to his yard was shipped via Milwaukee Road.
1961- A four car derailment took place on January 28th.
1962-The Pet Milk Company announced on January 15th that they were going to close. (see note # 7)
1965-New Glarus celebrates its 120th anniversary. President Lyndon B. Johnson sent a telegram congratulating the village on this fete.
1966-Depot agent Ben Eller announced the end of telegraph service by the end of the year.
1972 THE END OF AN ERA-March 30, The final run of the Limburger Special bringing to an end 85 years of excellence by the Milwaukee Road. The Wisconsin DNR announces the purchase of the 276 acre 22.78 mile right of way for $74,000. By late July the rails were gone forever leaving only memories.
1996-Mid March-The Village of New Glarus, Chamber of Commerce, Beautification Committee, DNR meet and decide to demolish the New Glarus Depot to construct a new building utilizing the best of "railroad and Swiss architecture." Within two days of that meeting the Save the New Glarus Depot Committee is formed to attempt to save the depot from demolition. On July 26th the DNR announced that the depot would be spared the wreckers ball.
1997-January, The New Glarus Depot Preservation Society is formed to restore the depot to its former elegance.
1998-The New Glarus Depot group is awarded a $59,600 ISTEA grant to help restore the depot. The depot is nominated for the National Register of Historic Places as being the sole remaining depot of its type in Wisconsin. Other similar depots exist at Grafton, Hornick and Spirit Lake, Moravia, Iowa and Fulda Minnesota.
1999--All we have are the memories of a time when life was somehow better, more relaxed, less stressful. I recall that fateful day, March 30, 1972, taking my 20 month old son out and showing him the last train coming to town. Going up to the depot to watch the last cars being coupled and without too much fanfare the familiar orange and black, in the hobo vernacular for death, catching the westbound. We are a poorer people for this day.
Note #-1-The crowd for the 1891 celebration was probably larger than the crowd for New Glarus' 150th sesquicentennial in 1995
Note #-2-The Right of Way granted was to gain access to the newly built Helvetia Milk Company. The same day the Helvetia plant opened the last operating cheese factory in New Glarus closed.
Note #-3-The Farmers Cooperative
Stock Yard is still in business now being run by Alvin Ott's grandson,
John. In the first 50 years of operation the yard moved $63 million
worth of stock. That is a lot of animals considering during the
Note #-4-Robert Streiff's grandson Dan Lynch has kept his grandfathers tradition going. Lynch operates a stable in the Madison, WI area.
Note #-5-During WW2 New Glarus Pet evaporated milk became a familiar touch of home for many GI's. Today there are still many WW2 veterans who will use nothing but Pet milk in their coffee.
Note #-6-In addition to providing
the New Glarus area with coal the New Glarus rail yard also provided
coal for Argyle, Blanchardville, and Hollandale which lost their
train service in 1942 when the Illinois Central abandoned the
Note #-7-It has been said that the New Glarus Branchline was one of the most profitable for the Milwaukee Road because of the milk shipments from New Glarus. The first full year after the Pet Milk closed the Milwaukee Road lost $213,803 in revenue for the line. The writing was on the wall once Pet closed. Some Milwaukee employees expressed surprise that the line remained active as long as it did. Line revenue for 1961 was $291,821 and in 1962 it dropped to $78,018.
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