The history and research on the following pages are regarding the CStPM&O
Hannibal Branch, the Wisconsin Ruby and Southern, and the Stanley Merrill and
Phillips. The Hannibal branch of the "Chicago ST Paul Minneapolis and Omaha" which later turned into the
CNW (Chicago North-Western) ran from a town called Norma, just north of Chippewa
falls, to a town called Hughey in Taylor County.
Grand total of depot stops on this branch-line at one time was 12. The depots ranged from
converted boxcars, wood frame, to brick buildings. A lot of goods were shipped
out of the area such as logs, lumber, sugar beets, potatoes, and livestock. Some
of the buildings still remain that once garnished the rails but most of them have disappeared
over the last century. We are fortunate that memories, stories, and some
pictures still remain to help in our gathering of information.
|The map above shows the
subdivision from Norma to Hughey inside a polygon of CNW
and SOO line. The map also shows the SM&P and the WR&S
short-lines that crossed paths.
|The timetable shown above shows
travel time and distance between the two depots of Norma and
Photo courtesy of Bob Gile
CSTPM&0 Hannibal Branch
Built between 1900 and 1903, the Hannibal branch line was
created. Stemming from the mid section of the
"Omaha X" at Norma, the rails crossed the Soo line at Donald, crossed the
Stanley Merrill and Phillips in Hannibal, to a town or at the very least a
turnaround with sand and gravel access called Hughey 4.2 miles East of hwy 73. The track from Hannibal to Hughey of the
CSTPM&O may have been abandoned
in the 1930's. It was said that flood waters, (possibly by the Fisher River) took out a
bridge or track that was never rebuilt to support the weight of a train. Another
statement refers to a section of the track that was abandoned in 1943
when the tracks again were washed out between Cornell and Holcombe (Fisher river
again). These reports may be the same natural disaster. Accuracy sometimes was
best guess. Either way, a decision was made not to
repair the tracks based on limited traffic north of Cornell. The remaining track from "Old
Chippewa Junction" or Norma, now known as Chippewa Falls, to Cornell
supported it's last train possibly in 1988. Eventually the rails were removed
and it became the "Old Abe bicycle trail", as many abandoned
railways have converted, and it remains very picturesque for the peddler or hiker.
RPO on the CStPM&O
...a few years ago I
came across a postcard with an example of a "Hannibal & Chippewa Falls
RPO". It was a fairly poor strike, but it's the only one from this line ever reported to the
Mobile Post Office Society, a group that researches
and publishes catalogs of RPO markings. It appears to be postmarked on November 1, 1916, on Train 233. The front of the card is a real photo
of the Cornell paper mill.
RPO service on the Hannibal branch lasted less than 3 years. The
"Hannibal & Chippewa Falls RPO" was established 8/12/1914,
changed to "Hannibal & Eau Claire RPO" on 4/24/1915,
changed again to "Arnold & Eau Claire RPO" on 12/14/1916,
and discontinued 4/18/1917.
(Many lightly-used branch line RPOs were discontinued around that time, as clerks were reassigned to heavier routes to handle wartime mail).
There are no known postmarks for the latter two designations. Judging from
the late usage of my example, it's quite possible that the original postmarking hammer was used for the entire life of the run, without new
ones being made, even though the name was changed in official post office records. (Route history and dates from "Directory of Railway Post
Offices" by John Kay, published by the MPOS).
Courtesy of Joe Fishbein
Wisconsin Ruby and Southern Ry
There was a short-line logging
railroad that disappeared 12 years after the turn of the 20th century known as the "Wisconsin
Ruby and Southern". This right of way ran from Holcombe to a Junction with
the Omaha at Arnold,
the Hawn lumber mill at Ruby. The
town of Ruby, named
after the daughter of the owner of the local log mill, is located halfway between Cornell and
Gilman just north of hwy 64. It still
remains in the form of an abandoned General Store, and a few houses. As kids, we used to pick
cucumbers and sell them to the Ruby Store for spending cash.
Merrill and Phillips Ry
The SM&P short-line and common carrier ran North from Stanley,
crossed the Soo line at Polley which is about one half mile south of Gilman,
then crossed the Omaha at Hannibal and headed north to Jump
river and Walwrath. Financial issues forced the sale of the road to the Soo line in the
early 20's starting with the section north of Gilman to Jump River, then the
Southern section from Gilman to Stanley. The Soo then ran it for four years before they closed the traffic for
The SM&P Ry was the reason the town of Stanley was built
reason that we have Chapman Lake. Stanley was founded by three men who
owned the Northwest Lumber Company. Stanley is where the lumber mill was
built and a dam was built on the little Wolf River to create Chapman Lake
as holding pond for the logs. The railroad was to run from Stanley
to Merrill and then to its north end at Phillips. It was to run to
up to Phillips from Stanley to pick up logs and bring them back to
Stanley and dump into the lake until the mill was ready for them.
However the tracks stopped in Merrill and never went to Phillips. If
the mill in Stanley had have burned down in 1906, the railroad might have
been finished all the way. When the mill burned down, it took
the whole northern half of Stanley with it except for the
company store and the city's water tower. It also scorched the
city's library on the south side of the street that divided the fire
ravaged half on the north from the south side, except for some minor
damage to the library and two houses next to the library. A Mr.
Chapman and Mr. Stanley founded the city of Stanley and the mill gave Stanley
its first electric power. Stanley also and the railroad also have a
connection with Sarah Palin. Her great great grand father lived
in Stanley for a while and was the conductor for the S.M. & P.
He and his wife are now buried in the city cemetery. This is all
the information I know for right now, but I can tell you there is a historical
marker of some sort where the lumber company once stood and the old depot in
Stanley has been somewhat restored. And Stanley had a museum that I am
sure has more information about this than what I can come with. They
might even have a map of the route it took and it was supposed to take all the
way to Phillips. You pretty much can still see where route went through
Courtesy of Robert Richards
the investigation is proceeding, memories are returning for me. Pictures and research play a
massive part in prototypical model railroading. Model Railroading can be just watching trains run
in an endless circle, point to point delivery, and for the hobbyist it also can be recreating the past.
When new information is discovered, the opportunity to alter the layout arises.
Gathering information can also be very challenging and exciting. Imagine stopping in restaurants, local saloons,
businesses or city halls and
talking to the local residents about things that happened, what the rails
provided, and taking pictures of the pictures on the walls of businesses taken many years ago (most
have them). Researching local libraries, and some small towns even have museums
recalling many events and displaying many pictures from fifty to a hundred years
many pictures being placed in the
pages and we have tried to optimize the load time for those of us with modems. Larger
images are available for most by clicking on the smaller image and the pages to
the menu is located between the railroad ties at the top of each page.
If you have
any information, stories, corrections, or pictures regarding this or any
of the other towns along the Hannibal branch line, Please let me know, <
E-mail > along with your permission to publish your personal memories
in an attempt to keep the history available for future generations.
Non-digital pictures will be returned upon request.
Thanks, Doug Stoll
Originated on 07/15/02