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New Snow and old Snow beyond Spencer

New Snow and old Snow beyond Spencer

I had a trip 'up North', but not very far north.


Mile 290 is Spencer, Wisconsin,
where the original Wisconsin Central / Soo Line went north to Ashland.

these two pictures are from January 2023.
The Wisconsin Central no longer runs here.
The CN sold this off to the Foxy railroad.

They had a single locomotive to service the few cars of traffic to Medford
(now the end of the line)

And for the Winter, there is no freight from Spencer to Medford.
Something about the track is in too bad of a condition.
The WAMX geep was moved away to other active lines.

These snow banks have been here all Winter.



Here's a copy of the 1956 Wisconsin Highway paper map



The snow storm of 1917.

I think these 4 pictures came from the Taylor County Historical Society of Medford, Wisconsin.

My grandfather had done some shoveling on this line near Unity.



That snow covered locomotive reminds me of a true story that happened on this line.

Norm S told me about the time he took care of a steam locomotive in the Winter,
when he was about 14 years old.

He liked trains, and rode with the local crew when they were switching cars in town.
One Winter night, the work went late and the crew wanted to bunk in town.
But there was no one to keep the steam engine warm,
and it was windy and cold below zero outdoors.

So Norm said he would keep the fire going. They showed him how to read the steam gauge,
and they went away to sleep.

He stayed there all night, shoveling coal as needed. It didn't take much.
The weather curtain kept out the worst of the wind where he sat.
He would wake up every hour when the cab got cold, and shoveled some more coal.

The crew came before daylight to check on the engine.
Norm kept it warm, but didn't do anything about the melting snow and icycles that crept down the sides.
Every steam leak on the loco had froze as it dripped.
Four-inch wide icycles draped down the sides of the loco, over the rods and spokes and wheels,
and then to the cold rails where they made big ice stalagmites a foot across.

They hammered and chipped away at the ice for two hours to free up the wheels.
They told Norm, the next time he tends a locomotive in Winter,
he will be allowed to move it a few feet every hour to keep it from freezing down.




Back to the Future, or past, about 1978.
I think Larry was riding shotgun and took this slide using my semi-auto 35mm camera.
It's train number 18, just north of Spencer, on a Saturday afternoon.
Service in Soo Line days was 6 days a week from Stevens Point to Park Falls.

Look at the paper mill tank cars, some snow covered flatcar, pulp loads, and wood chip box cars.

This is farm country, and some years the plowed fields are bare enough to let dirt blow over the snow drifts.

I know this is train 17 heading north, about 3 miles north of Spencer, in the early 1980's.

The rolling hills between Abbotsford and Dorchester.
Norm said the Soo Line kept a gondola plow in Abbotsford to plow this stretch most every day,
and to do the occasional weekly plowing to Athens.
But sometimes they caught heck from the dispatcher for all the extra time to hook on the plow
and run these few miles and return to park the plow and then continue the trip for the local job.
There were also complaints from 'higher up' because running the plow for a few hours
counted as an extra days pay
Although, they were told to do it in the afternoon, so the night train wouldn't get stuck or slowed down by any drifts.

This is south of Dorchester, and that's a Wisconsin Central local.
Service only ran as far north as Medford at this time.


Unity had a small cut, 6 feet deep, that liked to drift shut.
A Jordan Spreader has winged this out wide.
In later years, bulldozers reshaped the ground nearby so snow more easity passed over and didn't catch so bad here.

Soo Line Russell Plow near Stetsonville, heading to Park Falls, in the early 1980's.
I couldn't say how many of the black specks in the air are bad processing of the film,
or things flying up from the plow.

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This page was wrote in January 2023