Wisconsin and Southern Railroad

Wisconsin & Southern Railroad
WSOR logo.png
WSOR passes Middleton Depot.jpg
A Wisconsin & Southern train passes the Middleton, Wisconsin depot eastbound toward Madison.
Reporting markWSOR
LocaleSouthern Wisconsin, Northern Illinois
Dates of operation1980–Present
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length837 mi (1,347 km)
HeadquartersMadison, Wisconsin

The Wisconsin and Southern Railroad (reporting mark WSOR) is a Class II regional railroad in southern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois currently operated by Watco Companies. It operates former Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road) and Chicago and North Western Transportation Company (C&NW) trackage, mostly acquired by the state of Wisconsin in the 1980s.

Within Wisconsin, WSOR connects with four western Class I railroads: BNSF Railway, Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway and Union Pacific Railroad. Through trackage rights over Metra, WSOR accesses Chicago to connect with the two eastern Class I railroads, CSX Transportation and the Norfolk Southern Railway. WSOR also has access to harbor facilities in Prairie du Chien, and transload facilities are located in Milwaukee, Janesville, Madison, and Oshkosh. 22 grain elevators have located rail load-out facilities on the WSOR system.[citation needed]

For train operation purposes, the WSOR system is divided into two divisions, the Northern Division and the Southern Division. The Northern Division is essentially the original WSOR trackage from 1980, with a few new lines that have been added around the Milwaukee area since the 1990s. It includes the line northwest from Milwaukee to Horicon, where it splits into branches to Cambria and Oshkosh, as well as a line from Milwaukee north to Kiel. The Southern Division includes the lines acquired from the Wisconsin and Calumet Railroad in 1992, centered on Madison and Janesville, as well as several lines acquired in the 1990s in the Madison area. The two divisions are not physically connected with WSOR owned trackage, but trackage rights over a short section of Wisconsin Central Ltd. from Waukesha to Slinger provide a link between the two divisions.[1]

WSOR is headquartered in Madison, which is also a central hub terminal. The train dispatching office is located in Horicon. Locomotive maintenance is centered in Janesville, with secondary work also being performed at Horicon. WSOR's Horicon paint shops perform contract work on both rolling stock and locomotives.


Wisconsin & Southern #4025 in its 25th anniversary livery at the open house party in Madison.

WSOR began operations in 1980 when the state acquired several Milwaukee Road branch lines, and signed a 50-year agreement with the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad, organized by the FSC Corporation, which also owned the Upper Merion and Plymouth Railroad. In August 1992, WSOR gained control of the Wisconsin and Calumet Railroad, which had been created in 1985 to replace the Chicago, Madison and Northern Railroad's operations on state-owned lines formerly part of the Milwaukee and Illinois Central Gulf Railroad. (The latter has since been abandoned except for a short stub at Madison.) WSOR thus gained access to Chicago (through trackage rights over Metra from Fox Lake), Janesville, Madison, and Prairie du Chien. Further expansion came with a lease from the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) of Madison-area ex-C&NW trackage in 1996,[1] and of an ex-Milwaukee line between Madison and Watertown from the Soo Line Railroad in 1998 (sold outright in 2003).[2] The most recent acquisition was north of Milwaukee in 2005,[1] when the state purchased the ex-Milwaukee line between Saukville and Kiel, which Wisconsin Central Ltd. was going to abandon.[3] Soon thereafter, WSOR leased in part and bought in part an ex-C&NW line to Sheboygan from the UP.[4]

WSOR was named the 2009 Regional Railroad of the Year by Railway Age Magazine.[5]

On April 11, 2011, WSOR's president and chief executive officer, William Gardner, was charged with two felonies after he was accused of funneling more than $60,000 in illegal campaign contributions through WSOR employees during the 2010 gubernatorial election in Wisconsin.[6] Gardner agreed to plead guilty to two felony counts. Under a deal, prosecutors agreed not to seek jail time but instead would seek two years of probation. In a statement, Gardner acknowledged his mistakes and said he took full responsibility. The vast majority of the contributions were to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.[6]

On November 29, 2011 it was announced that WSOR will be acquired by Watco Companies, with the deal to close on January 1, 2012.[7]

In December 2012, the state of Wisconsin issued $17.1 million in financial aid to WSOR to rehabilitate 11 miles (18 km) of rail line between Plymouth and Kohler, which connects with existing WSOR tracks at Plymouth. Service has begun as of 2015.


South Division

North Division

  • Cambria Line (former MILW) - Main North Division line that runs from the North side of Milwaukee, WI to Cambria, WI passing the paint shops at Horicon, WI. Commodities can range from Grain and chemicals to lumber and ballast.
  • Fox Lake Branch (former MILW) - Used for car storage for about a mile from Fox Lake Junction, WI.
  • Oshkosh Line (former MILW) - Runs from Horicon, WI to Oshkosh, WI. Commodities are mostly grain and chemicals.
  • Markesan Branch (former MILW) - Runs from Brandon, WI to Markesan, WI. Commodities are mostly grain.
  • Mayville Branch (former MILW) - Runs from Iron Ridge, WI to Mayville, WI. Commodities are Limestone and Packaged Products.
  • Plymouth Sub (former MILW) - Runs from a connection with the Canadian National Railway in Saukville, WI to another connection at Kiel, WI. The Line through Kiel is out of service and used for car storage. Main commodities are transload products and chemicals.
  • Kohler Branch (former CNW) - Recently reopened in 2015. Runs from Plymouth, WI to Kohler, WI. Commodities are grain, aggregates, chemicals, and lumber.
  • WSOR Planned to operate a terminal railroad in Madison called the Madison Terminal Railway.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Steve Glischinski, Wisconsin & Southern at 25, Trains, October 2005, pp. 38-45
  2. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34285, January 17, 2003
  3. ^ STB Docket No. AB-303 (Sub-No. 27), December 3, 2004
  4. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34633, January 19, 2005
  5. ^ "Wisconsin & Southern Named Regional Railroad of the Year by Railway Age Magazine" (Press release). Wisconsin & Southern Railroad. March 10, 2009.
  6. ^ a b http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/119595644.html
  7. ^ "Watco to buy control of Wisconsin & Southern". Trains Magazine. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad
Regional Railroad of the Year
Succeeded by
Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad