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Guide to the La Crosse, Wisconsin, Committee on Railroads, Resolutions and Reports Relating to Railroads, 1858-1932 La Crosse Series 032

Guide to the La Crosse, Wisconsin, Committee on Railroads, Resolutions and Reports Relating to Railroads, 1858-1932

La Crosse Series 032

Summary Information

Resolutions and reports from the Committee on Railroads to the Common Council, 1858-1932. The materials are divided into Railroad Lines and Streetcar Lines; therein, arrangement is chronological. The railroad lines best represented in the series are Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, 1899-1932; Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, 1874-1931; Green Bay lines (i.e. Green Bay & Minnesota; Green Bay & Western), 1873-1932; Milwaukee & St. Paul, 1868-1873, and La Crosse & Southeastern, 1883-1920. General resoutions that involved more than one line also contain reports and resolutions related to the Union Depot debate of 1917-1925.
Collection Title
La Crosse, Wisconsin, Committee on Railroads, Resolutions and Reports Relating to Railroads
Date of Materials
La Crosse (Wis.). Committee on Railroads.
Call Number
La Crosse Series 032
1.2 cubic feet
Physical Description
3 archives boxes
Language of Materials
La Crosse Public Library Archives

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], La Crosse, Wisconsin, Committee on Railroads, Resolutions and Reports Relating to Railroads, La Crosse Series 032, La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, WI

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Historical Note

Railroads in La Crosse
The first railroad to reach La Crosse was the La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad in 1858. Through mergers and the like, this line became the Milwaukee & St. Paul and formed the nucleus of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, also known as the Milwaukee Road. It was this line that was granted a charter by Congress to bridge the Mississippi River between La Crosse County, Wisconsin, and Houston County, Minnesota, at a point of the railroad company's choosing in 1872.

The site the Milwaukee Road selected was two miles north of La Crosse but deemed inconvenient to the other minor railroads that would be affected and was not convenient for passenger travel in and from La Crosse. The mayor of La Crosse and the Board of Trade were opposed to this site. The siting of the bridge sparked its own controversy, and ultimately a battle in the United States District Court ensued, essentially between the Secretary of War (Corps of Engineers), the Attorney General, and the Milwaukee Road, but the railroad bridge was completed in November 1876 at the location that the CM&StP selected. It wouldn't be until 1891 that a wagon bridge spanned the Mississippi River at La Crosse, leaving from Mt. Vernon Street without any railroad or streetcar component.

City officials, the Board of Trade and La Crosse residents and capitalists continued to try and attract other railroads to La Crosse in an effort to offer competition and thus help keep shipping and passenger rates low. Eventually four major railroads serviced La Crosse by 1885: Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad; Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad; Chicago & North Western Railroad; and the Green Bay lines.

Union Depot Debate
The devastating fire and subsequent demise of the Milwaukee Road's Cameron House in December 1916 sparked a public debate about having a union passenger depot in La Crosse. The Wisconsin Railroad Commission was also involved in the discussion over many years. It became evident that such a station would likely be located in North La Crosse rather than the convenient downtown area so that the big and powerful Milwaukee Road would not have to back their trains into La Crosse.

Resolutions in the collection show the dissatisfaction of this idea with business owners through petitions. Finally the issue was officially dead in 1925. Following this decision, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad wasted no time in putting through plans for a new passenger depot on La Crosse's North Side on St. Andrew's Street, the site of the Amtrak station today (2021) to replace the "shack" that was hastily constructed after the fire while the debate of a union station raged on.

Refer to the related materials section of the finding aid for a list of suggested further reading on this topic of railroads and railroading in La Crosse.

Streetcars in La Crosse
The La Crosse Horse Railway Company was organized in 1868 but apparently never got off the ground. However, the first streetcars were pulled by horses. It wasn't until 1893 when the entire route was electrified. The La Crosse Common Council passed an ordinance regarding the operation of street railways November 1878. The first company was the La Crosse Street Railway Company and the major goal was to connect the North Side with the South Side of La Crosse. The first route in 1879 was from 3rd and Main streets, over the Plank Road (the first Causeway), up to Mill Street (now Copeland Avenue) and to Windsor Street, a distance of two or three miles. By 1888 an extension on the northern part of the route accommodated the workers employed at the Chicago, Burlington & Northern Railway (CB&Q) roundhouse and shops.

Another streetcar line was organized as the La Crosse City Railway Company and recognized by Council in July 1881. Their goal was to build in downtown and then south on 4th Street to Gund's Brewery. Eventually the two lines merged. Later names of the streetcar lines are the Wisconsin Railway Light & Power Company, the Mississippi Valley Public Service Company and the La Crosse Transit Company, all private companies owning and operating a public utility. A short line railroad called the La Crosse & Onalaska Street Railway or Short Line Railway also carried passengers to and from La Crosse.

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Scope and Contents

Common Council resolutions and reports began to be organized by a numbering system in December 1932. Before that time the resolutions were kept folded up in chronological order, roughly by subject or Council committee (such as Parks, Judiciary, Fire, Police, etc.). This set of pre-1932 resolutions represents those labeled as Railroads, and date from 1858-1932.

The collection has been divided up into two series: railroads and streetcar resolutions. Railroad lines date from 1858-1932 and are further categorized by railroad name found on the resolution, therein chronologically. Undated resolutions preceded those with date information. Resolutions that deal with no particular railroad line, or more than one railroad line, were assigned to the general resolution category that precede the named lines. Many of these are committee reports, or correspondence to the committee, invoices and the like. While mainly expense invoices, remnants of the controversial Mississippi River railroad bridge issue of 1872-1873 can be found here. The hotly contested union depot resolutions are filed in one folder at the conclusion of the general resolutions.

The railroads best represented in this series are Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, 1899-1932; Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul (often referred to as the Milwaukee Road), 1874-1931; Green Bay lines (i.e. Green Bay & Minnesota; Green Bay & Western), 1873-1932; La Crosse & Southeastern, 1883-1920; and the Milwaukee & St. Paul, 1868-1873.

Streetcar resolutions are organized chronologically. Undated resolutions are filed at the front of the first folder. The line names associated with these resolutions include the La Crosse Street Railway Company, La Crosse City Railway Company, City Railway Company, La Crosse & Onalaska Short Line/La Crosse & Onalaska Street Company, Wisconsin Railway Light & Power and the Mississippi Valley Public Service Company.

Resolutions dating from 1921-1932 are more prevalent in the Committee on Public Utilities as street cars were abandoned for bus transportation and did not need to lay track on city streets to operate. Make sure to also examine those related files, as well as those in the Committee on Streets and Alleys for 1895-1928 for the most complete story.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

La Crosse Public Library Archives 1999 January

800 Main St.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601
(608) 789-7136

Revision Description

  2021 March

Access to Materials

Materials in this collection are available for patron use.

Acquisitions Information

(Accession no. 1996.004) Resolutions were located in the City Clerk’s basement area of City Hall; came to the Archives as part of the Mayor’s Special Committee on Historic Records, Dec. 1996

Processing Information

Processed by Anita Taylor Doering with assistance from Jaime Dechant, January 1999

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Related Materials

Related Materials

(Clipping file)
 La Crosse--Railroads
(Ephemera file)
 La Crosse--Railroads
(977.571 SWA5H 1951)
 A History of La Crosse, Wisconsin, 1841-1900 by Albert H. Sanford and J. J. Hirshheimer
(385.0977 G762 1992)
 Grand Crossings: Railroading and People in La Crosse, WI edited by Joseph Follmar
(La Crosse Series 011)
 La Crosse, Wisconsin, Committee on Streets and Alleys, Resolutions Relating to Streets and Alleys
(La Crosse Series 029)
 La Crosse, Wisconsin, Committee on Public Utilities, Resolutions and Reports Relating to Public Utilities
(Clipping file)
 La Crosse--Transportation--Street Cars
(388.46 C16B)
 Badger Traction

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • La Crosse (Wis.). Common Council.


  • Cable cars (Streetcars)--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Municipal government--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Public records--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Railroads--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Street-railroads--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Transportation--Wisconsin--La Crosse

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OCLC Number


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Collection Inventory

Railroad Lines 

General resolutions 

Box Folder


1 1


1 2


1 3

Union Depot, 1902; 1917-1925 

1 4

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) 

Box Folder


1 5


1 6
Box Folder

Chicago, Burlington & Northern (CB&N), 1886-1900 

1 7

Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul (CMStP, CMStPP or Milwaukee Road) 

Box Folder


1 8


1 9
Box Folder

Chicago & North Western (C&NW), 1871-1930 

1 10

Great Northern/Northern Pacific, 1927 

2 1

Green Bay lines, 1873-1932 

2 2

La Crosse & Black River, 1903 

2 3

La Crosse & Milwaukee, 1858 

General note

The La Crosse & Milwaukee became part of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad

2 4

La Crosse & Prairie du Chien, 1866 

2 5

La Crosse & Southeastern, 1883-1920 

2 7

La Crosse Transit Railroad Company, 1873 

General note

This proposed route was to join downtown La Crosse at Mt. Vernon Street over a multi-use bridge to the Southern Minnesota Railroad on the other side of the Mississippi River but was never realized.

2 7

La Crosse, Viroqua & Mineral Point, 1867-1877 

2 8

Milwaukee & St. Paul, 1868-1873 

General note

The Milwaukee & St. Paul line was merged into what became the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad in 1874.

2 9

Private rail spurs, 1888-1906 

2 10

Root River, 1864 

2 11

Southern Minnesota, 1865-1873 

2 12

Winona, Alma & Northern, 1884 

2 13

Streetcar Lines 

Box Folder

La Crosse Horse Railway Co., 1868 

3 1

General lines 

General note

Various companies are named in these resolutions: City Railway Company, La Crosse Street Railway Company, La Crosse & Onalaska Street Railway, Wisconsin Railway Light & Power Company and the Mississippi Valley Public Service Company

Box Folder


3 2
Box Reel


3 3


3 4
Box Folder


3 5


3 6


3 7


3 8