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C. & N.-W. Ry.

Delivering Employees, Residents and Tourists while shipping lumber.

C&N-W Ry connections into Fosterville/Winegar from Ashland, Chicago, Mercer, Milwaukee & …..
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A C. & N.-W. Ry. consist entering Winegar, Wisconsin.

Quite a crowd around 1:30 PM at the Winegar Depot preparing to leave to Mercer, WI. Typically such a 19 mile train ride in 1910 would cost about 15¢.

Vehicle bridge in the bottom left corner goes over Little Horsehead Creek. Pedestrian bridge to the right was a continuation of Main Street.


The town of Presque Isle (formerly Fosterville/Winegar), in the Township of Presque Isle, Vilas County, Wisconsin, was at the end of a short 19.49 mile branch line (called a Spur) of the Chicago & North-Western Railway (CNW) from Mercer, Wisconsin.

This Spur was constructed in 1904 and originally named “Shea’s Spur” by the CNW. Shea’s spur renamed Fosterville spur in 1905.

As the lumber company flourished, men would take the CNW to Mercer and a daily train into Fosterville/Winegar. Also the CNW was used by vacationers to get to the area's many resorts for fishing and hunting or just to get away from the big city heat in the summer.

For the families who spent the whole summer in the Northwoods; Men would take the train from Chicago and Milwaukee after work on Friday, arriving in the Northwoods Saturday morning for a weekend with their family. Leaving the Northwoods on Sunday, and arriving back in the big city for another weeks work, Monday morning. These trains were nicknamed the “Northern Lakes Specials.”

The CNW also brought in all the supplies for the Company Town Store and probably the De Foster Hotel Boarding House. The company store had a platform to railroad tracks for the unloading of goods. The CNW also shipped the Vilas County Lumber Co. (VCLCo) lumber and lath to build Chicago, Milwaukee, Ashland, Minneapolis and other Midwest metropolitan cities.


The CNW serviced the VCLCo steam engines and RR logging cars.

Fosterville/Winegar had all the train facilities to service and turn a passenger train around once a day in a clearing near what is now near the Corner of Highway W & Highway B.

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Railroad Section Crew and family lived in the SH Section House

The railroad route (shown below in green) from the bottom of a hill at Mercer to Fosterville/Winegar was through forested lands with streams and 74 lakes. The CNW track at times came down parts of what is now highway “B”. (Over 50 years after the RR track was torn up there were reports of RR cross ties popping up on highway B during the spring thaw.) As it neared Winchester it began slightly to ascend, and the elevation continues to increase until the end of the Spur as it reached Fosterville/Winegar in the Township of Presque Isle.

The Fosterville spur was abandoned by the CNW in 1936.

When your cursor hovers over the above Topographic drawing it turns into a magnifier.

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This bridge was used to cross the Turtle Lakes at Winchester on the way to Fosterville/Winegar. The first bridge was one lane used by both automobiles and CNW trains. Auto drivers had to be sure they could “ride the rails” to get across the bridge before the next train arrived.






Below is the May, 1916 CNW Ashland Limited Passenger  Train Schedule. Click image to download.

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 #111  Chicago, Il. to Ashland, WI.

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 #112  Ashland, WI. to Chicago, Il. 

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Chicago & North-Western Railway #989 at the Fosterville depot with a team that it takes to maintain such a steam engine. Note; no spark arrestor on the smoke stack.

The Fosterville/Winegar Depot is a mirror image of the Standard #3 CNW Freight and Passenger Depot with a second large freight door on the back side. Depot was painted "Box Car" Red.

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A CNW locomotive (may be a 2-6-0 wheel configuration, commonly called a Mogul) pulling a passenger Combine RR Car used to plow snow between Mercer & Fosterville/Winegar. Note; spark arrestor on smoke stack.

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A 4-4-0 (American) CNW locomotive possibly moving the Fosterville/Winegar Section House from Mercer. Note; no spark arrestor.

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Two horses with a blanket on are ready to be pull an American Box Wagon (Box Wagons were the pickup trucks of their day.) of supplies to be unloaded off the daily train from Mercer. Or, a prearranged local guide would meet summer tourists and transport them by canoe, boat or wagon to cottages. (With the waterways being the preferred thoroughfare.)

A blanket in the summer would protect these horses from biting black flies. (They typically come out the last two weeks in May or the beginning of June depending  upon the weather conditions. After that the mosquitoes come, which are followed by the dragonflies which eat the mosquitoes. Isn’t nature wonderful?)

The Men and Women (2-stall, 3-hole) Water Closet is down at the far end of the depot platform. Note; all the commercial trees having been harvested from the hill.

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Mercer, WI. CNW Standard #2 Depot built 1905. Above photo circa 1920.


The above photo of the Mercer Depot was taken in 2006, after an extensive renovation in the early 1980's.

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Looking north over the Winegar Depot. That's the  Sawmill and the village in background. First home on the right is the home of  the VCLCo President, William S. Winegar. The first house on the left was the home of Mr. Pierson, CNW Forman of the Winegar, railroad Spur. Second home on the left is the home of the VCLCo Supernatant, Henry E. Daily. The first building after the two homes is the Company (general) Store, next is an office, the Post Office and the last is maybe the visiting Doctors Office. A doctor did visited Winegar once a week.

The Car with trailer is on the road back from Crab Lake probably belongs to photographer A. J. Kingsbury. The trailer would have held his photography equipment.

Note; the open top RR Stock Car. The VCLCo did not have Lift Trucks and used horses to haul logs out of the woods and pull wagons around the Sawmill Complex.

CNW Milwaukee Depot completed in 1889.

Passengers traveling from Chicago into the Northwoods went through the below Terminals.

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CNW's Chicago's Well Street passenger Depot opened 1881, shown above in its 1892 configuration.

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Quite a crowd around 1:30 PM at the Winegar Depot with a lot of freight and passengers to be pulled by CNW Engine #958 to Mercer. Typically such a 19 mile train ride in 1910 would cost about 15¢. CNW #958 is a 4-4-0 American standard wheel arrangement type steam locomotive. This type of engine with large diameter drive wheels were usually used by railroads for passenger service. Large diameter drive wheels give a steam engine the ability to be faster then the smaller diameter drive wheel found on Freight Engines. Engine #958 was built in 1883 and scrapped in 1915.

Vehicle bridge in the bottom left corner goes over the Little Horsehead Creek. Pedestrian bridge to the right was a continuation of Main Street.

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Another view of the “clear cut” logging of timber on the hill behind the Fosterville Depot. Note; VCLCo Shay engine is pulling a string of empty logging cars back into the Pinery. Note; Shay engines have small diameter drive wheels. Shays are slow but have a lot of torque to pull heavy strings of loaded log cars. There is a spark arrestor on the smoke stack which would have been installed on all engines in the summer to prevent fires in the wood.

The small building behind the Shay is the town jail.

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Photo to the right is the old Mercer jail after its 1999 renovation. When this 16´-8ʺ x 14´-6ʺ jail was originally built is unknown. During renovation the three original cells were replaced with two cells. For strength, the original jail was 

built using hemlock 2x4's laid and nailed flat one on top of the other and covered with clapboard siding for looks.

Click on this link for the detail train schedule into Fosterville/Winegar from Mercer, Wisconsin.

Passengers starting from Chicago into the Northwoods from 1925 would have left from Union Station shown below.

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CNW Stamped Bill of Lading that may have been found on items shipped to Fosterville / Winegar.


This 1899 example shown was for hardware from Milwaukee Wis. Hirsch Bros., to The Iola Hardware Co., Iola Wis. With a one cent pre-cancel CNW documentary stamp and Rubber stamped. 


Tuttle, Lisa. Crab Lake Memories. Presque Isle, WI: self published, 1990.

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This jail was probably similar to the one in Fosterville/Winegar. If you read page 106 of Liza Tuttles book “Crab Lake Memories” you will know why these jails were so small and unassuming.


24,000 gallon CNW standard Water Tank and Pump House with hand car set off to the right, by front of tracks. See “CNW Standards Book” for construction details of these structures.

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Could this be the last CNW train leaving Winegar in 1934?

The train between Mercer and Winegar usually consisted of five or six mixed freight and passenger cars, usually with a Railway Express Combine with packages for the residents. The last car in this consist is such a “Combine."

A combine railroad car combines two sections, one section for passengers and the other section for freight and luggage. Most often this type of car was used on short lines like here, from Mercer to Fosterville/Winegar. Full cars on such short trips would not usually have been cost effective. Often older combines were used as Baggage-Dorm cars for RR crews. Possibly this is what the locomotive with the snow plow is pulling in the above sidebar column.

The road to the left would have taken you to Mercer by way of Winchester. The curvy road to the right would bring you into the VCLCo Sawmill complex.

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Chicago & North-Western Railway in Fosterville/Winegar.

1930   Finally, train from Mercer was three times a week and finally only once a week.

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Railroads that traversed Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Not every railroad line shown was in existence at the same time. 

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