Wisconsin Central rocked the railfan world on January 8, 1992, when it agreed to purchase the Fox River Valley Railroad and the Green Bay & Western Railroad. While Fox River Valley was only a four-year-old regional railroad, Green Bay & Western was a railfan favorite, featuring a locomotive roster saturated with Alco power.
With the clock now ticking, railfans from across the country began planning trips to Wisconsin to see both the FRV and GB&W before they disappeared. The FRV looked a lot like Chicago & North Western, from which it was purchased in 1988, operating a fleet of 33 EMD locomotives. Most of these were acquired from the C&NW. The GB&W was an all-Alco road, operating a fleet of 17 units in the early 1990s. In addition, the GB&W also had six RSD15 “Alligators” in storage.
Two friends from western Pennsylvania and I planned a trip during the summer of 1992 to see the Green Bay & Western and the Fox River Valley before they both disappeared into the Wisconsin Central. We spent five really interesting days railfanning across the state of Wisconsin from August 2 through August 6, 1992. Amazingly, over the course of this trip, the only Class One railroad we photographed was the Chicago & North Western, which was seen twice, and very briefly! Let’s turn back the clock to early August 1992…
ABOVE: After the PRGBA arrived at North Green Bay, eastbound Fox River Valley train GBBUA departed the North Green Bay Yard behind FRV-painted GP9s on Wednesday, August 4. Shortly after departing North Green Bay, the GBBUA passes through Travil interlocking, which guarded the crossing of the FRV Valley Subdivision and the east end of Wisconsin Central’s Oakland Avenue Yard. Travil interlocking featured an interesting eastbound cantilever signal bridge with semaphore signals! Showing off the company colors, GP9s 1701 and 1702 lead the GBBUA past the vintage semaphores.
Sunday, August 2
We departed western Pennsylvania on Friday, July 31, and Saturday, August 1, was spent near Ann Arbor, Mich. On Sunday, we left Michigan and stopped briefly at Elkhart, Ind., to observe some Conrail action. After motoring through Chicago, the trip began in earnest on Sunday afternoon at West Bend, Wis., when eastbound Fox River Valley Train GBBUA was found working a local customer. West Bend was on the FRV Valley Subdivision 30 miles north of Milwaukee. The GBBUA ran daily between Green Bay and Butler Yard in Milwaukee. It was tasked with dropping and picking up cars from locals along the Valley Sub. In addition, the GBBUA would also work local customers along the Valley Subdivision that didn’t see local service. The GBBUA had an inter-esting FRV consist of former C&NW GP9s 4508 and 4504 bracketing SD24 2401 painted in FRV dress.
While photographing the GBBUA, westbound Fox River Valley train PRGBA passed through West Bend, Wis., behind a pair of Chicago & North Western SD40-2s, with the 6918 leading the 6862. The PRGBA was a run-through C&NW train running from Proviso Yard in Chicago to Green Bay. While it looked like a C&NW train, it was actually a FRV train.
Fox River Valley Railroad GP7 4159 is leading a local freight past the old C&NW passenger station at Fond Du Lac. We missed the side-street running alongside South Brook Street when we were there, but Dave Phillips caught it on February 9, 1992. —Photo courtesy of the Chicago & North Western Historical Society
Since the PRGBA was heading toward Fond du Lac, which is the direction we were going, we decided to follow it. In the 30 miles between West Bend and Fond du Lac, we photographed PRGBA several times. Since this was the first trip into the area, we were quite happy to get some shots of the train as it headed toward its destination. Sadly, we missed the side-street running in Fond du Lac…