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St. Paul Extension

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A map published by the Village of Merrillan shows the Green Bay Route's extension with Merrillan as a major division point.

Where did the town name come from?

Leander Merrill ran the area's first sawmill and was the owner of most of the land in the area.  There were so many businesses in town that were "Merrill & ..." that people started calling the area Merrilland. Leander Merrill also was the person responsible for the Green Bay Route bending northward to get the railroad into his growing village.

After the arrival of the railroad the city was commonly referred to as Merrillan Jct. up through about the 1920s. 

The boom of Minnesota's grain milling business in the late 1870's brought the idea of a Green Bay & Minnesota Railroad extension to St. Paul to the forefront.  Before definite action could be taken the GB&M fell ran into financial difficulties but the line emerged from receivership in October 1881 and made its northwest goal very clear by adopting a new name: Green Bay, Winona, & St. Paul Railroad.  In November 1882 a survey was organized for the Merrillan to St. Paul extension of the Green Bay Route.  Financial difficulties prevented the line from being built at that time.  The idea was revived in 1892 when the subsidiary Green Bay, Minneapolis, & St. Paul Railway was organized.

The Green Bay Route was not alone in seeing the advantage of a St. Paul connection.  In 1882 several small lines merged to form the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway, with the same destination in mind.  Financial troubles for the GBW&StP, along with the Chicago & North Western gaining a controlling interest in the CMStP&O led to the abandonment of the plans for a St. Paul extension.

The map below is from the letterhead of Village of Merrillan.  Besides the St. Paul extension it shows the proposed completion of the La Crosse Branch.  In order to handle all the traffic for the new extension the GBW&StP was going to build new facilities in Merrillan.  Not long afterwards the Green Bay Route expanded the facilities at Grand Rapids (later Wisconsin Rapids) and Merrillan's plans of being a major division point for the railroad was put to an end.

A special thanks to Bob Gile for providing the map.  His great grandfather was the publisher of the Wisconsin Leader, which was the basis for this story.

Related material:

  • St. Paul Extension (ca. 1892) - A map published by the Village of Merrillan shows the proposed Green Bay Route's extension with Merrillan as a major division point.
  • Omaha Road Crossing (1907) - The GB&W and Omaha Road crossing at Merrillan.
  • Trains in Merrillan (1913) - Lots of trains thru Merrillan, Wisconsin.
  • Merrillan Map (1916) - Right-of-way map of Merrillan issued by the Green Bay & Western in 1916.
  • Turntable Wreck (1920) - An overturned coach sits next to the Merrillan turntable.
  • Plow Train (1969) - A westbound plow train approaching Sand Road on the west edge of Merrillan.
  • Merrillan Crossing (1976) - Eastbound Train No. 2 passes the Merrillan depot painted in "C&NW 400" colors.
  • Merrillan (2001) - Ex-GBW / Omaha Road Merrillan Depot, now used by the Union Pacific.


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 The Green Bay Route is maintained by Mark Mathu.
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Updated July 11, 2015