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Flambeau Paper RR history project .

Flambeau Paper Company RR history project

There has been a paper mill in Park Falls, Wisconsin, since 1895.

Rail service has been a part of it since the beginning,
with the work being done by a company locomotive.
There was switching of boxcars, flatcars, and hoppers at the main mill.

110 years ago, the tracks also ran a few miles downriver to their power dams .
Wood was hauled to the dams to make stone-ground pulp,
and wet lap pulp came back to the main mill to add to the supply for the paper machine.

The dam portion of the railroad was no longer needed after 1922 when the process was changed to chemical pulping.
I have about 3 dozen pictures of relics and old foundations of that era.
Also, in 1980, I had interviewed a retired employee who remembered how the dam portion of the railroad operated.
From that, I will make maps and plans of dams and buildings.

This web page is just some preliminary information, and if anyone else has better pictures, please contact me.


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I don't know of any existing pictures of the first paper mill steam locomotive No. 1., from 1895 to 1913.
For years, I heard from only two sources that it had something vertical, which brought to mind a Shay or Climax.
And it was described as very small for a locomotive.
An internet search in 2012 brought out Shay with boiler serial #163, built 2-9-1887,
sold new to Sherry & Wilard (Henry Sherry) of Sherry, WI, a Wood County lumber company,
and then to Flambeau Paper Co of Park Falls (Price Co) in 1895.
I wonder if they would have attempted to run that slow engine up the old Wisconsin Central to get to Park Falls?
Those Shays were good climbers, I wonder if they crawled it up a ramp and onto a flat car?

I don't know how big or small it was. Any chance I might find a picture?

And I don't know how it left the mill property and when.
I have no record if No. 1 stayed around after No. 2 arrived.
There could have been the possibility that the slow Shay switched the mill while the faster No. 2 ran the seven miles out to the dams?
Not likely. I could guess the Shay moved north or maybe even to the west coast like so many of them.

And it is NOT the 'Lima Shay which today supposedly rests at the bottom of Blockhouse Lake'.
I talked with residents in the late 1970's that remembered that story.
A crew car (caboose?) and loaded log car were parked in a frozen swamp,
and they were sinking fast after a weekend thaw.
Most everything above the water line was salvaged, except for some logging car trucks. Still out there in a swamp.

I degress, now its time to get back to the topic.

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There was an historian that helped save some history of locomotive No. 2, and that helped me a lot.
I think he was James George from Cottage Grove, Minnesota,
and he was a dedicated ferroequinologist who had the builders photo and then searched for the locomotive.
That was in the 1960's, if I remember correctly.
Afterwards, he mailed some builder's photos to the mill.
Several years later, I happened onto those and made slides for my records, and that's what is shown here.

The steam locomotive Flambeau Paper Company No. 2 was a new Baldwin 2-6-2 tank engine.
It had Baldwin builders plate 37661, photo negative 3891.
It arrived at the mill in 1913 and ran until 1946. I hear it was scrapped locally.
If anyone has access to the Baldwin original picture, I could use a better copy than this.

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Here's one picture of Flambeau Paper Company No. 2 as it was getting old.
I have no record of whether it burned oil, coal, or wood.

There's some good info that can be searched on the web site Steam Locomotive

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The third loco was their first diesel, a GE 45 tonner.
No. 46 stood for 1946, the year it arrived. I have a poor picture of it sitting on a flatcar, being moved by No. 2.
I don't know how they unloaded it from the flatcar.
This locomotive ran until it had axle bearing trouble, and then went to the Lake Superior and Mississippi museum by Duluth, Minn.
They have a lot of info about it, and the mill's filing cabinet of repair notes.

And I don't have a really good picture of the used SW that arrived in 1984.
Maybe Rich P. has a good picture that I should include in this history?
Here's one very good picture of his, better than any I have, on the rr picture archive site, Flambeau Paper SW 1
The buildings in the back ground of his picture were originally of the Heinz lumber company,
and they were warehouse space for the paper mill for many years after.

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On the south side of the paper mill,
the paper company track used to go UNDER the Wisconsin Central / Soo Line.
The rails dropped down along the west river bank, almost to the water level.
And since Lower Dam might have changed and affected the water levels after the 1920's,
maybe the river was a few inches lower in Park Falls back then?
That might have gained a few more inches of clearance?

I haven't been to Park Falls in 20 years.
Rich P, could I use your recent picture of the rail bridge over the Flambeau River?
Here is one on the rr pictures site, Flambeau River Bridge

Is there anyone of a historical mindset who gets to Park Falls,
and might want to attempt some good digital pictures of the area when the weather is right?
Don M. ? Rich D. ?
The only purpose would be to get good picture files for printing,
and if no one wants to print it, then it really might be a waste of time.
I have slides now of the scenes I want to show, but most publishers would say they aren't good enough.
I have no plans to visit the area, but if I did, I should take my pole camera and kite camera and see if I could improve my scenes.

The modern riverbank is different than a hundred years ago.
The existing Soo Line / WC/ CN bridge has been a steel girder since 1927,
and that would have been the end of the underpass.

I suspect the first original Wisconsin Central bridge over the river was a through-truss,
and had clearance underneath.

That would jive with the map and stories that the paper mill tracks (red line) crossed under the WC main line, as shown on this 1916 blueprint.
Maybe there was a lot of fill on the west bank of the river?
There wasn't much headroom, and in high waters the mill rails at the underpass were known to be up to a foot under the water.
But the area has been built up enough over the years to bury the old R.O.W., and there's no traces of this portion.


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I have some slides of the foundations of the mill's rail bridge over the Flambeau River,
where the line went from the north side by Lower Dam to the south side on its way to Pixley Dam.

They are just downstream / west of the Highway 13 bridge on the south side of Park Falls,
and for years I just thought they might have been footings of an old town road bridge.

I have no record of what that rail bridge looked like,
if it was a truss or girder, and if it was wood or steel?

I don't see any ledges or support holes in the stonework that would suggest what type of bridge was here.
Maybe two short beginning spans and a large center span?

If anyone has better new digital pictures of the area, then I would like to use those.

I suspect the bridge was an overhead truss,
that would allow the ends to lay on top of the abutments without needing critical alignment.
And there should have been two support towers or bents from those two footings in the river.


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I would like to know more about the pulp wood grinders at the dams.
None of the grinding equipment existed at the main mill dam by the time I was there in the 1970's,
but one fire pump was hooked up to the horizontal shaft that used to power one grinder at the main mill.

This picture came from a paper mill anniversary book, showing an operator feeding 4-foot long bolts of wood.
I put a notice of my project on the PaperMillModelers yahoo group.
Someone there might know more about stone groundwood pulping.
These grinders were totally mechanical, with the water power of the dam turning a 4-foot diameter stone grinding wheel.
I am curious how big a change occurred when the dams were converted to generate electricity.
The horizontal-shaft water wheel would have been replaced by a vertical-shaft turbine wheel and generator.
And the building shapes changed a lot from the conversion.

I might be able to get some grinder info from the big paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids.
I hear they still have a row of these groundwood pulp grinders, but they aren't used.

I haven't looked yet for info in The Paper Discovery Center in Appleton, Wisconsin, www.paperdiscoverycenter.org/

And I should check with the paper science class at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

And I could use a picture of a wet-lap machine,
that made thick sheets of wet wood pulp fiber that was easy to transport.
I didn't take a picture of one when I had the chance.
The last Park Falls machine was made of graceful curved iron castings, and the laps were piled by hand just like in 1920.

I suspect there's some working wet lap machines in the Fox River Valley yet, but probably more automated.
I sketched a diagram of how one works, but a picture might be more informative.

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Here's a copy of one corner of a blueprint showing one of the 3 pulp grinding dams.
It sure doesn't look like that anymore. This dam can be seen from Highway 13 on the south side of Park Falls.
A railroad spur (curved white lines) went halfway over the dam, so wood could be dropped by gravity to the grinder men working on lower levels.
A short spur into the building was for flatcars, where the wet lap pulp was piled for the trip to the main mill.

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A Pixley Dam picture was in the dam files in the DNR (Dept of Natural Resources) offices in Madison, Wisconsin.
A fellow design engineer saw it in the 1980's.
I think it was in the DNR round tall building on the west side of Madison, and would be related to flood plain studies.
I don't know if the picture is still in the DNR files.
Is there anyone familiar with the DNR? The picture could be found and scanned for this history project?
It showed Pixley Dam, with railcars on the track over the dam.

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And I am curious where the names came from for the Pixley and Crowley dams.

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I intend to make an article that could be published in the Soo Line Historical and Technical Society magazine.
But there might be a question of high enough quality of the pictures.
My slides are over 30 years old, and too many didn't have perfect sunshine.
It might be best to print the pictures in black and white to minimize the lack of good color?

If the article isn't good enough for printing,
it will at least go to the Park Falls library and newspaper and Price County Historical Society.
And then I will make it available for free somewhere on the internet.

I don't have many computer programs for writing articles. I don't have full feature Acrobat.
I have Corel Home Office, and that can also save as pdf files.

I do maps with engineering drawing programs; the latest one I have is TurboCad.
It can export drawings and maps as jpg and gif files. And TurboCad can create pdf pages,
but I don't know if they are quite as good as a genuine Acrobat page.
It does print better than the map above, there are no zig-zag edges on the printed lines.

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And is there advice for giving credit for copies of old pictures in old newspapers and history books?
I have some like the grinding scene, but I never really recorded the source.

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This history project will be in at least two parts.
The oldest era with the dam railroad, 1895 to 1927, will be first.
I have four times as many details than I've shown on this little web page.

Then more modern times, maybe 1970 to about 2006.
And how detailed I get about the modern era will depend on the use and the success of the first part.

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So here's another history project that is quite unique.
It could be interesting to model, because of the variety with a river, bridges, dams, paper mill, sawmills,
and the Wisconsin Central and Omaha RR all within a few miles.

Anyone want to try a garden railroad with a flowing river and dams?

How do they make those modeling articles in Model Railroader?

If anyone has information and pictures to share, please contact me at the address on my main index page.

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Link back to my index page, Bruce's RailRoad Pictures

February, March; 2012.

My best index page is on the TrainWeb site, as of January 2011.