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Follow-up Notes on Medary

Follow-Up Notes on Medary, Semaphore

Some of this might be repeated from last week's page.

If you didn't see it, here's a link back to it,
Medary Semaphore

The replies make for very good reading about the La Crosse, Wisconsin, area, and I didn't want to forget where I filed them. So I put them all on one page here.


(First reply was to a question about the a BNSF coal train I saw running on CP (ex-milw track) east of La Crosse)

The interchange at Grand Crossing is in the northwest corner but is only used for transfers and some detours. The coal traffic is interchanged 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 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.
---- Matt C, La Crosse, Wisconsin _______________________________


(I really like the next letter)

Greetings (from Phil D.)

Back before the turn of the century when I was a student at UW LSE, film wasn't the biggest portion of my monthly budget, so I was picky about what I shot. However, for some reason I copped a shot of a signal, it was a rainy typical Wisconsin "Gargoyle Grey Dairyland Day" and I had had zero luck ever finding a train on that line into downtown, so I guess out of desperation I shot this semaphore. It turned out as bleak as the weather but I recall it clearly. It was indeed a lamp lit fixed 45 only a yellow roundel sheet metal where red and green would be. And, yes it was a yellow (pointed) blade, that was pretty beat, even way back in 1976! It's sister signal was the same distance from the tower, out along the Milw main. These two signals were for the "Grand Crossing" interlocking, not Medary Jct. Those were gone by then, despite the fact that the tower was still there at that time.

And that C&NW trains still used their own line from Winona, MN. This line paralleled the former "Q" north of LSE and I did manage a shot or two of the wb train as it would arrive N. LSE on the Toad, (caboose behind the units) and then they would pull the length of the train past the tower, run around their train caboose now on rear of train, and head "back" out of town the same direction they just came in on, however they would rumble and jerk over the diamonds onto the C&NW's line that was on the north side of the tower.
They would follow the Toad back east of town to the curve that took them in a north westerly direction up to Winona.

One spot that was a great shot was a place locally known as "Payton's Bridge", it was just before the line arrived in Onalaska, off Enterprise Road in an area called "Holiday Heights". Which back then was really "out in the country". There was a bluff overlooking a plate steel girder bridge that during the (all too many) leafless months allowed you to see the train stretch all the way back to the big box trestle over the "La Crosse River", it was a cool spot thats probably all gone now. No doubt a suburb of some sort with the right of way leveled out completely. It was on an elevated embankment from the LSE river bridge past "Paytons Bridge" where the track met higher terrain.

As for fixed 45's for Medary out there from Paytons Bridge I never saw one looking east towards Medary, nor one east of Grand Crossing, just the ones that protected GC.

The absolute for Medary was a double set of standard red blades that still stood at the stopping place before the angled C&NW diamonds that crossed the Milw there, on the east side of the crossing, they remained at Medary until after 1976, despite the fact the tracks were torn up from that spot to the wye at Medary tower's north west side.

A joint BN / Milw (Portage) unit coal train took out the C&NW diamonds by piling up about 20 cars of coal sometime during the summer of 1975 as I recall.

Hope this is of some help.

(that was GREAT)



Below is a map from TERRASERVER MAPS of this area.
. . . . . . The Great River State Trail was the CNW
. . . . . . and the date of this map was 1993.
. . . . . . Holiday Heights is on the upper right, so is the mall.
. . . . . .I haven't been on the Great River State trail to the northwest of Medary to see the other bridge over the La Crosse River (in perfect center of this map).

Repeating my map from last week's page.

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.

. . . . Pink dots are City trail I walked
. . . . Little red dots are old CNW r-o-w toward Grand Crossing
. . . . Red . 'S' . is location of old semaphore mast found.

wisrail message 7947 reply first day to my page

A brief response to rail questions raised on this photo string. The BNSF/CP interchange track at Grand Crossing is in the northwest nice free flow access for geographic south bound (timetable east) BNSF trains wanting to go geographic (and timetable) west on other words back the same way from which they came. Cars are interchanged by BNSF yard switch entering into CP yard.

Recently Amtrak detoured on BNSF between Twin Cities and La Crosse due CP wreck near Lake City. This involved Amtrak 8 running on BNSF to Grand Crossing turnout and nice run geographic west past the LSE Amtrak depot, across the Mississippi River to La Crescent River Junction, then a reversal on the wye over there, and back east on CP to approach LSE depot from the "normal" eastward direction for Amtrak train no. 8. Then on into Tomah...etc as per normal Amtrak route with all cars in standard order.

Bike trail maps are best shown on the map available from La Crosse City Planning Dept., and other sources, but I'm a retired transportation and recreation planner so I always think of the original sources...send me (Bruce) your name and street address off list and I'll snail mail you a copy.
Bob F.


(I mailed address. And I'll wait for it. It will be six months to a year before I get back in the area.
I didn't find a bike map on a city web site yet.)


wisrail message 7499

Thanks Bruce. This is really a great route to bike, all the way from south of east Winona all the way to Elroy. Wildlife, trains, and great scenery. It would be nice if we could ride a train on this route but we can't. So bike it. . . . . . Chuck & Pat P., 65 & 73.


wisrail message 7521

FYI, the trails don't stop at Elroy. Once there, a rider can go north to Camp Douglas ("Omaha" trail) or south to Reedsburg ("400" trail.) The trip to Camp Douglas features a tunnel and a lot of trail time deep in the woods. The trip to Reedsburg is mostly through farmland. . . . . Jerry


wisrail message 7534

Thanks, Jerry. We have done those, also, with our grandchildren! . . . . . Chuck P


cnw message 21543

Right on in regards to the permanent approach setting but it was not limited to semaphores as the recently scrapped Skokie line here in in Northbrook IL at Dundee Rd had one of the C&NW searchlight signals set for continual approach aspect plus had the signal head painted yellow as well.

A set up similar to what you described also existed in West Chicago on the CB&Q branch from Aurora in advance of the home signal at the C&NW jct, it's been A number of years since I've been down that way but the blade had been weathered to it's natural state(and about ready to rot off) the amber roundel long since shattered by a bullet or well placed rock,couldn't tell if the lamp was still functioning as it was near sundown and the signal faced west so the reflector may have simply been reflecting the setting sun.

Since the BNSF merger traffic patterns changed so the BNSF no longer needs to interchange with the UP at West Chicago so the Q diamond at the EJ&E tracks was pulled up (home signal for C&NW still showing red) 2 years ago so the line might very well be scrapped and the semaphore along with it.
. . . . Gary S





One last look at 'my' semaphore, a different view than last week.

Looking northeast.

Marked by red S on my map.


Repeating some links,

La Crosse Parks and a link to city trails. (2011)

Chicago and Northwestern Historical Society

Onalaska, and Great River Trail and then choose Bike Trail

La Crosse River State Trail

Back to my first page of Medary semaphore, from last week, Medary Semaphore


Link to my 2011 web site Bruce's RailRoad Pictures

Wrote April 29, 2005, lost for 3 years when geo-cities closed their free web pages, and reposted on a different web site in November 2011 by request.