Madison station (Chicago and North Western Railway)

  (Redirected from Madison station (C&NW))

Madison station is a former railroad station in Madison, Wisconsin. The station served passenger and freight trains of the Chicago and North Western Railway (C&NW). Passenger service ended in 1965 and the passenger station and freight depot was bought by Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) and has been renovated to serve as offices. The station and freight depot are listed as contributing properties on the National Register of Historic Places East Wilson Street Historic District. The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (commonly known as the Milwaukee Road) had tracks paralleling the C&NW and also had a nearby passenger station.

Former Chicago and North Western Railway station
Madison C&NW station 2.jpg
The front of the station in 2020
Location201 South Blair Street
Madison, Wisconsin
Coordinates43°04′36″N 89°22′32″W / 43.076604°N 89.375677°W / 43.076604; -89.375677Coordinates: 43°04′36″N 89°22′32″W / 43.076604°N 89.375677°W / 43.076604; -89.375677
Owned byChicago and North Western Railway (1871–1965)
Madison Gas and Electric (1965–present)
Platforms3 island platforms (none remain)
Tracks5 (1 remains)
Structure typeAt-grade
ArchitectFrost & Granger
Architectural styleNeoclassical
Rebuilt1885, 1910
Preceding station Chicago and North Western Railway Following station
Mendota Chicago – Minneapolis via Madison Oregon
toward Chicago
Terminus Madison – Milwaukee Cottage Grove
toward Milwaukee
toward Lancaster
Lancaster – Madison Terminus
Services at nearby Franklin Street station
Preceding station Milwaukee Road Following station
Madison – Milwaukee via Watertown Burke
towards Milwaukee
Madison – Portage Darwin
towards Portage
Chicago and North Western Railway, Passenger and Freight Depots
Part ofEast Wilson Street Historic District (ID86000618)
Added to NRHPApril 3, 1986[1]


Early depotsEdit

The first railroad entering Madison was the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad, a predecessor of the Milwaukee Road. Their depot was established on the west side of Madison in 1854.[2] The Chicago and North Western constructed a line to Madison in 1864 from the south, crossing Monona Bay. The first passenger station on the site was established in 1871.[3] Due to the proximity of the Milwaukee Road, the C&NW originally wanted to construct a union station in the area. The Milwaukee Road declined and built its own depot.[4][5]: 124 

Madison eventually became a junction point for the Chicago and North Western, as lines were completed north to Baraboo and Minneapolis. Other lines to Lancaster and Milwaukee were completed in the early 1880s. A new station was completed in the same location in 1885, and included a hotel and dining room within the structure.[4]

Current depotEdit

After the opening of a new Milwaukee Road depot in West Madison, the C&NW made plans for a new larger station, costing $500,000. Leaders in the government of Madison were in support of the plan, but nearby business owners and residents objected. These objections were due to the plan that would close the crossing of Blount Street to allow for expanded platforms. A series of legal proceedings ending up costing 10 years before the C&NW revised plans.[4][5]: 263 

The scaled-down station opened in 1910, at a cost of $250,000, and the Blount Street crossing remains open to this day.[6] A freight depot was also built c. 1908, just northwest of the station.[4] The new station was a success, and was described in 1915 as a "bustling, buzzing, exciting hub of activity."[4] The station served local and named passenger trains, such as the Duluth–Superior Limited, The Mountaineer, and The Viking.[7] The Victory and the Viking, two Chicago-Minneapolis trains, made the trip from Chicago to Madison in a direct line, through Janesville. The Twin Cities 400 from Chicago–Minneapolis used the faster line (compared to the Victory or Viking) through Milwaukee, bypassing Madison to the north, with a connection to the Minnesota 400 at Wyeville.[8]

With the introduction of streamliner trains, Madison was served by the Minnesota 400, later renamed the Dakota 400 and Rochester 400. At their latter 1940s and 1950s peak, the Minnesota 400 and Dakota 400 went as far west as Rapid City, South Dakota.[9][10][11][12] The station was also used for special trains for University of Wisconsin football games.[4]

Intercity passenger trains in the United States declined after World War II, with fierce competition from the automobile and airplanes. The Rochester 400 made its last run on July 23, 1963.[13] This left Madison with only one C&NW operated train—an unnamed local train to Chicago.[14] This too was discontinued on June 21, 1965. Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) bought the passenger and freight station later that month for $390,000.[15] MGE moved their main offices to the complex in 1983, and renovated the interior, while keeping the exterior facade of the passenger station.[4] The surrounding area was listed as a historic district in 1986, and the property was listed on the Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places in 1989.[4][16]

Site descriptionEdit

The 1910 station was built as a partial stub end terminal, with two through tracks connecting to the west. This configuration allowed for separate tracks that would be terminating at Madison, and avoided congestion.[7] However, the geography of Madison still required trains from Milwaukee to perform a backup move in order to access the northern line to Minneapolis.[12] The structure was designed by the firm Frost & Granger, who was notable for designing other railroad buildings such as the Chicago and North Western Terminal in Chicago. The two-story neoclassical structure was made from Bedford stone and was designed to be similar to the Chicago terminal.[4]

The nearby freight depot was built on the corner of Blair and Railroad Streets. It is two stories tall and made from red brick, with large rounded windows. A roundhouse was also built to the east of the station, and became notable when a boiler of a steam engine exploded in 1898.[17] The two tracks of the C&NW intersected a single track of the Milwaukee Road with a unique diamond crossing within a grade crossing of Blair Street.[4] Only one track currently remains, and is operated by the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad.[18]

Milwaukee Road StationEdit

The Franklin Street station, also known as East Madison station, was a Milwaukee Road station. It was located at 501 East Wilson Street, one block west from the C&NW station. The first station on the site was built in 1869.[2][5]: 124  This was replaced with a 1886 structure in a Victorian Gothic style, to compete with the new C&NW station.[4] It served trains from Madison to Portage and Milwaukee, including the On Wisconsin.[19] The station was demolished in 1952, and all Milwaukee Road passenger service shifted to the still-standing West Madison station.[4]



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. November 2, 2013. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Neckar, Lance; Rankin, Katharine H. (February 1981). "West Madison Depot, Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway". NRHP Inventory-Nomination Form. Madison: National Park Service. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
  3. ^ Sakrison, David (2009). Madison. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 58–59. ISBN 978-0738560540. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Rankin, Katherine H. (October 15, 1985). "East Wilson Street Historic District". NRHP Inventory-Nomination Form. Madison: National Park Service. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Mollenhoff, David V. (2003). Madison, a History of the Formative Years. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299199807. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  6. ^ "289 S Blount St". Google Maps. August 2018. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Rogers, Frank (September 6, 2016). "Remembering the C&NW in Madison". Classic Trains. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
  8. ^ Chicago and North Western Railway timetable, January 15, 1939, Tables 13, 15, 84
  9. ^ "Chicago and Northwestern Railway, Table 67". Official Guide of the Railways. National Railway Publication Company. 82 (3). August 1949.
  10. ^ "Chicago and Northwestern Railway, Table 20". Official Guide of the Railways. National Railway Publication Company. 89 (5). October 1956.
  11. ^ "Chicago To Madison", Chicago and North Western System, Chicago and North Western Railway, October 30, 1955, p. 22
  12. ^ a b Karlson, Stephen (April 2009). "Wisconsin DOT and Amtrak: Heading for Madison?" (PDF). Passenger Train Journal. No. 154. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 12, 2020. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  13. ^ "Day in History: The Rochester "400" makes its last run today". Post-Bulletin. Rochester. July 23, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  14. ^ "Chicago–Madison", Through Passenger Train Schedules, Chicago and North Western Railway, June 22, 1964, p. 5
  15. ^ Levitan, Stuart D. (November 19, 2018). Madison in the Sixties. Wisconsin Historical Society. ISBN 978-0870208843. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  16. ^ "133 S Blair St". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
  17. ^ "Railroad Stations". Historic Madison, Inc. of Wisconsin. Madison. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  18. ^ Wisconsin Department of Transportation (January 2020). Wisconsin Railroads & Harbors 2020 (PDF) (Map). Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  19. ^ "Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad". Official Guide of the Railways. New York City: National Railways Publishing Company. June 1941. p. 964.

External linksEdit