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Medary Semaphore

Medary Semaphore

This is one story of a trip to La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 2005.
These web pages were 'lost' for three years when the geo-cities web site was no longer free and cancelled.
I moved them to my Trainweb site in November 2011, and they are now searchable again from my current Trainweb index.
I added some notes from old messages from emails and yahoo group messages. Just trying to record some history.

Some of the pictures are a bit small by today's 'standards'.
I suggest using the browser's zoom view if you have a IE of 6 or higher, and maybe full screen (F11) too.

This map is my modified photo of a city map in a motel lobby.

Medary is a location three miles northeast of downtown La Crosse.
Or over a mile northeast of Grand Crossing.
And a half mile south of the Valley View Mall.

. . . . . .
(in 2005) a CP westbound train is at the former Medary Junction,
where the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad used to cross the Milwaukee Road at grade level,
and the CNW split a branchline off from just west of here to get to Grand Crossing and downtown LaCrosse.

The bike trail goes over tthe top.
Trail access and parking are on the south end of this bridge,
get to it from County Highway B from Wisconsin Highway 16.
About a half mile south of La Crosse Valley View Mall.

Little brown signs on the highway show the way.

This view is from the sidewalk of Highway 16.

Long after I made my web page in 2005, I found pictures of Medary in a book I bought a while ago.
The pictures were taken by Ken Zurn. One picture was from 1947.
The book is a collection assembled by Ken Baker of the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Rail Historical Society.
I copied the two Medary pictures of Ken's, and I did a less than perfect job but it's enough to show the area.
I ask belated permission to show them on my page so we can see how this area has changed.

A steam powered Hiawatha is eastbound over the crossing of the CNW tracks.

. .


This sign was at the meeting of the new city trail and the two state bike trails.
About a quarter mile west of the bike overpass.

To the left / northwest,
there should be a truss bridge over the river that I haven't ventured to yet.


The picture below was by Ken Zurn in 1947.
The water tower isn't there anymore, but maybe the foundation is?

This should be the area where the bike trails and city trail join up.


. . . . . .

The city trail is paved.

The state trails are crushed limestone and soft in the springtime.

. .

South of the trail junction is a small plant.

Thanks to Matt Carlson for this correction:

The 'plant' is Mathy Construction's asphalt plant,
alongside the city trail, at the end of Conoco Drive on the map.


Below is a picture of the CP tracks (former Milwaukee Road) over the La Crosse River
parallel to this old CNW r-o-w,
a half mile west of Medary or a mile east of Grand Crossing.
You can see both these bridges from a distance from Highway 16.

Matt Carlson identified this train for me and answered some questions (in 2005):

The coal train on the Canadian Pacific, with BNSF power, was an 882 heading for Portage / Columbia Power. The mine right now is the Black Thunder in the Wyoming Powder River.
Coal has been from the BN/BNSF since time began with only a few years in the 80s when the CNW had it.

There is an interchange at Grand Crossing in the northwest corner but is only used for transfers and some detours. The coal traffic is interchanged onto the CP at St. Paul Daytons Bluff (coming in via the BNSF (GN) Wayzata sub). A few times due to wrecks and flooding, the traffic has been routed on the BNSF and interchanged but that requires the FRED and power to be swapped.

The CNW trail into La Crosse has been paved from Riverside Park all the way to Red Cloud Park where it connects with the marsh trail which is the former GB&W ROW. Right now this ends short of Grand Crossing by the former Gateway Foods.

. .

Alongside the above bridge is the city trail on this ex-CNW bridge.

. .

Fork in the trail

The city paved trail turns west / right across the marsh, near the industrial park on the east side of the BNSF yard.

Looking left, southwest, is former CNW R-O-W heading to Grand Crossing.

It doesn't quite get there anymore, there would be a small marsh to cross without any trestle now, and a road overpass wiped out some of it too.


There's a nice picnic area at the fork in trail. Same bridge as seen above.
This isn't exactly a panoramic picture, but the two side-by side give you the idea.


A hundred yards south of the picnic area is a nifty rusting semaphore mast.
I marked it with a red S on my map.

It would have been for east-bound CNW trains heading to Medary Junction.

..... Being so far from the tower, I doubt if it was piped with push rods. . . . .

. . . . . Mike Guss replied,
I would imagine it was the mast for an approach signal. Most of C&NW's semaphore-style approach signals were permanent 45 degree semaphore spectacles with a yellow blade. All of these units I have observed were equipped with a lamp for night use, some of them had an amber roundel in the spectacle while others merely had an amber lense on the lamp housing itself and no lenses in the spectacle at all.

The home signals at Medary Jct. were horizontally mounted 3-color lights. Some of the piping was left amazingly intact and the interlocker itself was laying in a smashed-up heap of scrap iron under the highway 16 overpass as late as 1987. Mike Guss




And on the west side, a hundred yards further southwest, is more old cast iron.




More iron.


Also, not shown, were bottles, cans, refrigerator parts, and tires.

It's easy to see stuff this time of year, before everything grows leaves.




And for the ultimate wood recycling,
a tie-eating tree.



(in 2005) I suspect the city trails were only a few years old then, built on converted CNW r-o-w.
Just northeast of downtown La Crosse, and near the La Crosse (not Onalaska) Menards store, is another good paved stretch across a marsh. I saw that, but didn't walk it. (not even by 2011)

In 2011, try this web page for city trail maps, La Crosse Parks
I see this is the 'Three Rivers Trail' and this part is east of River Valley Drive.

(in 2005) I saw several hikers, bikers, and dog walkers.

No mosquitos, gnats, black flies, nor wood ticks in early April.

I added a page a week later (in 2005), see Follow-up Notes about Medary and the area. Several people sent replies about this area in 2005, and I collected them onto that one page.

Other links of interest,
Chicago and Northwestern Historical Society

Some bicycle trail links,
Onalaska, and the Great River Trail and then choose Bike Trail

La Crosse River State Trail

A big Thank You to Mike and Matt for explaining the things I saw.

To avoid a little spam, I will display my mail address this way, and you'll have to copy and paste it into the e-mail. And Replace the x with a 'b' at the front.

Link to my 2011 web site Bruce's RailRoad Pictures

Wrote April 20, 24; 2005 and reposted on a different web site in November 2011 by request.