A 1957 history written by the Green Bay & Western Railroad for its
Know Your Railroad
Green Bay & Western
Straight across Wisconsin about the middle of the state runs the Green Bay
& Western Railroad. It provides means of transportation between a great
inland body of water, Lake Michigan, and one of the most important rivers in the
world, the Mississippi. Between its terminals, the lake port Kewaunee on the
east and East Winona on the west, it passes through a region rich in
agricultural and forest products.
Location and management account for the success that has attended the
operation of the Line in recent years, after it had become well established. It
fills a need in the upper Great Lakes region, it carries a comparatively large
share of the freight, it has a large measure of value to the towns and farms
along the way, it earns a good revenue and its records attest liberal dividend
and. interest payments.
The forerunners of this line had troubles. The Green Bay & Lake Pepin,
chartered in Wisconsin in 1866, was one of the earliest railroads in this
section. Its founders and first directors were mostly Wisconsin men. Henry
Ketchum of New London; George Somers, Frederick B. Ellis and M. D. Peak of Green
Bay, along with Walter Scranton and E. A. Bradley of New York and Samuel March
[sic], Jr. of Philadelphia. In that early day they saw the importance of having
a connecting link for freight and passengers between the Great Lakes and the
Mississippi and planned the route almost in a straight line. Its cost, they
estimated, would be about $4,500,000.
The company took a new name in 1873, the Green Bay & Minnesota, and in
that year opened the main line, 244 miles across Wisconsin.
By 1878 road and equipment had cost $12,298,000. The outstanding stock
totaled $8,000,000, the bonds $3,079,000. The cost had been much higher than
expected and a reorganization was necessary.
The Green Bay, Winona & St. Paul was chartered in 1881 by men who had
purchased the Green Bay & Minnesota.
The founders had taken the risk of laying a line through territory not yet
built up, whose revenue for some years was likely to be low, and they were
struggling with that situation. Gains were being made. The railroad leased the
Green Bay, Stevens Point & Northern in 1888, and the Kewaunee, Green Bay
& Western in 1892. These became branches.
Again a reorganization became necessary in 1896. The new company operated as
the Green Bay & Western, took over the older companies and in addition
leased the right to cross a bridge over the Mississippi at East Winona, thereby
gaining access to Minnesota territory.
That organization still stands. It has taken on other subsidiaries among them
the Ahnapee & Western, chartered in 1890, the Iola & Northern, chartered
in 1893, the Casco Bay, chartered in 1894, the Waupaca & Green Bay,
chartered in 1907.
Its chief branch is the Kewaunee, Green Bay & Western, nearly 37 miles
long. It lies in the eastern part of the state, on the peninsula formed by Lake
Michigan and Green Bay, extending from the main line near Kewaunee, northward to