The History of the Chippewa Valley Superior Railroad.
As early as 1866 people of Durand wanted the railroad because the only other way of transportation was the river. So on May 6, 1881 Huntington published a resolution passed by the Wabasha and Lake Superior Railroad Company which said " That this company may build and construct a line of railroad from a point on the Mississippi River in the Counties of Buffalo and Pepin opposite of Wabasha County, Minnesota, in a northerly directon to the city of Eau Claire."
Durand citizens voted in favor of the railroad and in August that year citizens appointed a committee " to secure right of way, depot grounds, etc" for the Chippewa Valley and Superior Railroad. This line would connect with the major Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad in Eau Claire.
In August of 1881 "The Great Grading" started, which began the digging for the track to be laid. On May 12, 1882 the track was laid from Eau Claire to Wabasha by the Chippewa Valley and Superior Railroad. This was very costly for it cost 20,000 dollars for one mile of track. The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad soon started the negotiations to purchase this branch line, and on November 15, 1882 a meeting was held at the Prindle Inn by interested people, transaction was completed and the Milwaukee Railroad became owner.
Cattle and produce were being shipped to St. Paul and Chicago markets. Henry Goodrich, Engel Oesterreicher and others started shipping lumber, especially railroad ties. In 1888 when George Tarrant built his creamery butter and eggs were being shipped regularly. In 1890 Tarrant started shipping his goods in new refrigerated railroad cars and his produce arrived in Chicago in much better condition bringing in better prices.
On July 8th 1882 passenger travel out of Durand jumped and special excursion rates of half fare were frequently advertised to events in Eau Claire, Wabasha, and other places. This passenger service on the railroad was discontinued in 1957.
In 1968 the railroad no longer used the depot in Durand. In March 1980 the line beween Eau Claire and Durand was having financial difficulties. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation tried to save the railroad by purchasing the right of way for the line, and said that tracks and bridges would have to be owned by some other agency. Surrounding counties tried to save the line and service was restored by Mr. Clint Jones in April 1980. Some of the bridges needed to be replaced and this was very expensive. The line was closed down in January 1981 which created a hardship for the businesses of Durand.
The Milwaukee Railway went bankrupt in 1975, so they sold it to Northern States Power Company (NSP). NSP wanted the line so they could build a power plant and have someone hauling their supplies. Then a few years later a group of guys known as the Chippewa Valley Motor Car Association founded by Gary and Brian Corkill, Nathan Mollderm, and Nathan Harris wanted to restore the Milwaukee railway south almost to Highway 35 close to Pepin. The total amount of track they have restored in the past few years is 12 miles. They decided to restore the railroad becase they were interested in the Railroad and wanted to follow the history of the Milwaukee Railway.
Today, the Chippewa Valley Motor Car Association provides free rides on the restored train every year for the annual Fun Fest celebration. Also the tracks from Eau Claire to Red Cedar have been removed, and replaced with the bike trail. The Chippewa Valley Motor Car Association has the goal of restoring the tracks to be able to run a motor car on them, and hopefully add to the Durand Depot. They would like to keep this great piece of history in the Durand area for generations to come.
You can find more information on the History of the train in our local Library. In the books called the Historical Sketchbook of the Durand Centennial and another book called Pepin County.
Created By: Kim Sabelko and Stacy Patnode
October 28, 1999