The Milwaukee acquisition gave the Soo new markets in Minnesota,
Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois. However, it also gained a
heavy debt load and the expected income never materialized as planned
from the takeover. To streamline operations the Soo Line formed the
Lake States Transportation Division (LSTD) in February, 1986 that would
cover some 2,300 miles of track, mostly in Wisconsin but also reaching
into northern Illinois and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Sault Ste.
Marie. It was this network that formed the new WC. After a year of
mediocre results with LSTD, Soo announced
in January 1987 that it was selling the entire network to help pay off
its debt from the Milwaukee Road takeover. After finding a group of
buyers (for $122 million), including Ed Burkhardt (who would become
president and CEO), an old name was brought back, including its famed
shield logo; Wisconsin Central Ltd.
The new WC and its parent Wisconsin Corporation were both
formed in April, 1987. The system set up headquarters near Chicago and
Rosemont while its operations and customer service center
was located at Stevens Point, about the mid-point of the railroad.
Under Burkhardt, the WC thrived, although the first few years proved
very rocky as the new, upstart Class II regional found its footing. In
1988 the railroad earned operating revenues of $93.7 million and a year
later this had ballooned to $101.3 million. When the WC began, its
2,068-mile system was so large that it dwarfed all other Class IIs of
its day including the MidSouth Rail Corporation, Dakota Minnesota &
Eastern, Montana Rail Link, Chicago Central & Pacific, and Wheeling
& Lake Erie. As of 1990, it was also larger than some Class Is at
the time including the Kansas City Southern, Grand Trunk Western (GTW),
and Florida East Coast.
|A WC SD40-2 and SDL39 #586 roll westbound with their train at New Brighton, Minnesota on January 30, 2000. The SDL39 was only purchased by the Milwaukee Road, which acquired ten units between 1969 and 1972.|
As mentioned above, the new WC utilized most of the former LSTD lines
that included a combination of original's
trackage as well as a few Milwaukee branches and the former Soo in the
UP of Michigan. Major connections for the railroad included Chicago,
Duluth, the Twin Cities, Green Bay, and Milwaukee. During its early
years it was paper that allowed the WC to prosper during the 1990s as it
served 25 of Wisconsin's 52 such plants, and the traffic always derived
a significant amount of its earnings. However, it was also diversified in other freight such as food products, sand/aggregates, coal, chemicals, electric transformers,
and other general merchandise. As profits soared under Burkhardt the
WC expanded; in 1993 it picked up the historic Green Bay
& Western from the Itel Corporation.
Please Click Here To Return To The Main Fallen Flags Section
Diesel Locomotive Roster
The WC is best remembered for its large fleet of SD45s it operated. However, the numbering of these locomotives was so eclectic that they have not been listed here.
|EMD||GP30||700, 703, 711, 713, 719||1963||5|
|EMD||GP40||3000, 3002-3007, 3009-3012, 3014, 3017-3018, 3021-3025||1970-1971||19|
(A big thanks to Otto P. Dobnick's article "The Wisconsin Central Story Part 1: Acting Like A Class I But Not Always Thinking Like One" from the September, 1990 issue of Trains as a primary reference for this page.)
|Two GP40s lead a freight through Green Bay, Wisconsin on August 23, 1991.|
The GB&W was about
214-miles in length connecting Winona (Minnesota), Wisconsin Rapids,
Green Bay and Kewaunee and the WC placed it under the direction of a
paper company, the Fox Valley & Western Railroad (a year, however,
it abandoned much of the GB&W's original main line). Then, in 1995
it acquired the Algoma Central Railway from GTW, a 322-mile Canadian
short line that stretched from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst, Ontario. At its peak, WC owned a massive network of 2,850
miles and would have likely continued to grow, possibly into the next
Class I system under Burkhardt's leadership. However, a growing rift
between himself and the directors saw the WC's greatest president fired
in August, 1999 due to disagreements. As a result, with the railroad
humming along it attracted the attention of Class Is, notably the
Canadian National. The growing CN offered a price for the company,
which was accepted by shareholders, and the WC was taken over in
Related Reading You May Enjoy
Other Classic Railroads Of The Midwest
Burlington, "Way Of The Zephyrs"
CA&E, "The Roarin' Elgin"
C&NW, "Route Of The '400'"
Rock Island, "Route Of The Rockets"
D&M, "The Turtle Line"
DT&I, "We Have The Connections"
GB&W, "The Green Bay Route"
IC, "The Main Line Of Mid-America"
IT, "The Road Of Personalized Services"
IHB, "Connects With All Chicago Railroads"
CMStP&P, "Route Of The Hiawathas"
Monon, "The Hoosier Line"
Nickel Plate, "High Speed Service"
"Ship Soo To And Through The Upper Midwest"
St. Louis Southwestern
MN&S, "The Dan Patch Line"
M&StL, "The Peoria Gateway"
The Missabe Road
MoPac, "Route Of The Eagles"
CGW, "The Corn Belt Route"
DW&P, "Delivered With Pride"
BRC, "The Belt"
EJ&E, "Chicago Outer Belt"
KCS, "Route Of The Southern Belle"
Lake Superior & Ishpeming
Wabash, "Follow The Flag"
Santa Fe..."All The Way!"
St. Louis-San Francisco Railway