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Sturtevant train legacy

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20th century history preserved

Sturtevant prides itself as a community on safeguarding its most cherished historical memories and selected mementos symbolizing its history. In particular, the sprawl of new residences rising on its fringes continues around the heart of Sturtevant: its former railroad intersection near Wisconsin Street and Michigan Avenue.

Sturtevant Post Office stands one-half block away; the travelers shelter of its former hotel, defining the opposite quadrant of the former track intersection is regaining its former elegance, and the small piece of land where track southwest to Sylvania, Union Grove and Beloit once lay is now site for a hardy band of preservationists, meeting each month under the banner of Western Union Junction Railroad Club.

The former control center for Centralized Traffic Control of the two C&M subdivision main tracks and passenger shelter for one hundred years is almost gone, however. CP Rail has set June 1, 2009 as deadline for arranging its transfer to a new location or removal by bulldozer. As seen in this mid-March photo, the silhouette so widely respected among village resdents and thousands more train fans remains. But the interior appointments and weather worthiness of the old building have suffered too many years of neglect before mid-1990s attempts to slow, even reverse, its gradual decline.

Even after those valiant volunteers were turned away by far away worries about insurance liability which no one foresaw except insurers, maintenance was at a minimum.

61 days past deadline - July 31, 2009

Canadian Pacific Railway became insistent about removing the former Sturtevant depot as its initial deadline of June 1 approached. By then, local sponsors for moving it, to spare it from razing, were unable to pledge a sufficient dollar amount, and preservation prospects were growing dim.

Sidewalk superintendents kept apart from work by two main tracksFifteen years of public interest in preserving the old Milwaukee Road station, acquired by Soo Line in its 1985 merger with the insolvent skeleton of the former transcontinental railroad, drew a small cluster of "sidewalk superintendents" that perched across the main tracks from the work. Occasional trains blocked their pseudo-supervisor view, but only briefly because trains passed at full allowable speed - 50 mph for freight trains and 70 or more for Amtrak Hiawathas.

In fact, passing trains caused increasing anxiety in past years for local police patrols, for train crews aboard approaching trains, for their managers and CP Rail executives. Pedestrians who walked across with no concern for their own safety appeared more often; absent a railroad employee to warn them personally, the hazard to careless individuals seemed to grow. Unlike the bygone era when an onrushing train captured universal attention and inspired universal caution, instances of narrowly missed pedestrians continued despite every corporate and community effort.

Removal of the former depot ends the last reason for even the most careless visitor to ignore the warning signs and attempt crossing the tracks.

Western Union Jct stalwart turns from watching  workers save historic depotWestern Union Junction Railroad Club was an early proponent for preserving the historic Sturtevant station. Although former village trustee Clay Morgan was not on hand at midday as the final section of the building rose in preparation for placing wheels beneath it, Western Union Junction pioneer and steady leader Dick Horton peered at the work, then smiled with satisfaction as he turned away to voice his relief at its preservation.

Sturtevant residents, especially long-time residents dedicated to preserving the village heritage, have some valued buildings in the former hamlet's core, even as the train station of yore moves aside.

Trees and lawn fill the land once host to the Racine and Southwestern track, long gone before the depot also exited its functional site

The lawn once separating the red brick hotel from the RSW track from Racine has gained renewed nurturing and maintenenace as the hotel itself regains much of its former exterior luster. Nearby across Wisconsin Street, another former hotel now hosts happy evenings of local revelers, carrying on another face of overnight lodging with a public house atmosphere - which all guests leave each night for bedding down elsewhere. A bit further south from the tavern sits the mid-20th century Sturtevant post office, and opposite sits perhaps the oldest remaining building in the village -- a substantial barn which likely was the livery stable.

Western Union Junction RR Club

preparing club displays for summer visitors

Summer temperature fortells in May that train fans will soon stop by to climb aboard the retired Milwaukee Road caboose preserved by Western Union Junction RR Club members. Located several hundred feet east of the old, frame station building, rare among its genre on Milwaukee Road because of the turret for observing along intersecting tracks. At the time of the station photos above, CP Rail was advised that local interests intended to hire a contractor to section and transport the old station to a new location, far from any track and twelve miles distant from its current place, the original railroad junction site.

Sturdy brick hotel endures in 21st century

Century old station destined for new site

Twelve miles from Sturtevant at Linwood park, Caledonia, autumn filled the exurban Wisconsin air as a solitary worker put finishing touches on the foundation for the historic station scheduled to arrive later in October.

Racine Journal Times posted a 1906 photo of the depot and current photos at the new Caledonia location after its four sections were moved in the wee hours of Monday, October 26, 2009. Click here to view those Journal Times photos.

Return to KenRail main page
Visit modern Sturtevant station page | Village of Sturtevant, WI web site
Visit Amtrak Hiawatha page | Visit Wisconsin DOT Amtrak info page