Bayfield County

(north of US Highway 2)
1.)Spider Lake Lumber Co.

Located at Spider (a few miles west of Ino), this was a small railroad operating north from a connection with the NP into the vicinity of Spider Lake from 1898 until 1902. There was a town of Spider and a large sawmill located on the north shore of the lake at the time. In 1902, when the mill closed, the whole town gathered for a large clam bake to celebrate them all going their seperate ways.

2.)Bayfield Transfer Railroad.

This line was located at Bayfield and has one of the most complex histories around. It was originally incorporated by "wheat king" William F. Dalrymple on July 26, 1883. Dalrymple envisioned Bayfield as a booming port for grain and forest products, and his railroad would make it possible. Dalrymple owned all of the waterfront property between Bayfield and Red Cliff. The project lay dormant until 1896 when 2 miles of right of way were graded. Four miles of track from Bayfield north to Red Cliff were laid the following year. The first train ran over this line on April 25, 1898. Soon three trains a day made the round trip carrying passengers, freight and mail. A mile or so south of Red Cliff the BT connected with another road called the Bayfield Harbor & Great Western, which was incorporated on Oct 7, 1885 and constructed 6 miles of track northwesterly into the woods in 1897. The idea was to build south and connect up with the Washburn Bayfield & Iron River at Bayfield Jct. This would create a "Y" shaped line running east from Iron River and splitting with branches to both Bayfield and Washburn. There was $55,000 in bond money from the county awaiting the party that could finish this line. The connection with the WB&IR was never built and Bayfield Jct. was never more than an immaginary location. A third road called the Bayfield Western was incorported on April 21, 1899. The BW's goal was to construct 6 miles of track from the end of the BGH&W by Nov 30,1899 and collect $30,000 in bond money for construction of that particular portion of track. The BW was promoted by former U.S. Senator D.M. Sabin of Stillwater Mn, who was the chief promoter of the failed Washburn Bayfield & Iron River. (see ahead) The WB&IR had gotten $185,000 in bond money and was an almost immediate business failure. Because of this, Sabin was somewhat unpopular among local residents who were very leary about giving him another $30,000 of their money. Many residents, in an effort to keep the line from being completed in time, resorted to sabuatage. Telegraph wires were cut, residents tried to convince employees to leave their jobs, and on Nov. 30 the last day of construction, residents set out barrels of whiskey in an attemopt to get the employees drunk to prevent completion of the road on time. All the ruses by the local residents worked, as the line was completed on Dec 1, six hours too late to collect the bond money. On March 14, 1900 the BW's track was deeded to the Bayfield Superior & Minneapolis RR (The Bayfield Western continued to exist as a corporation and built several sections of track for logging--see Bayfield Western entry ahead.) The BGH&W was leased immediately after construction to the Bayfield Transfer, and after a brief one or two months of its own operation, the BS&M followed the same path. Together the three railroads had constructed a continuous fifteen mile line that ended at Racket Creek. Yet another Bayfield Western was incorporated on Nov. 2, 1901 to build from Bayfield to Poplar in Douglas Co. It never laid any track and was sold to the BS&M on Dec. 22, 1906. There was also a Bayfield & Western in there incorporated in 1895, but it also constructed no track. From June 30,1904 until June 30,1905 all these railroads were leased to yet another railroad called the Bayfield Lake Shore & Western. The BLS&W was incorporated in 1899 and projected to build from Racket Creek west to Cornucopia and then to Superior. This line was graded as far as Cornucopia and surveyed as far as Port Wing, but only 2.75 miles of track were ever laid and this track was never used. It was taken up in 1910. On Jan 1, 1916 all the fanciful names were put away and the entire affair was leased to the H.J. Wachsmuth Lumber Company of Bayfield, which operated it as a logging railroad. In truth, despite all the grand planning and names there was never much beyond operation as a logging railroad. The equipment from the original B.T. was not included in the lease, and Wachsmuth aquired all new equipment. The Bayfield Transfer still existed as a common carrier to haul freight for anyone outside of Wachsmuth who may have demanded it. None was ever hauled. Passenger service from Bayfield to Red Cliff also ceased at this time. The west 5.59 miles of the main line were abandoned in 1921. Another .41 miles came up the following year. In the last few years of operation on the west end, crews were afraid to man the train as it ran across the bridge over Racket Creek. This was due to the bridge's deteriorated condition. The engineer and fireman simply hopped off the train as it slowly approached the bridge and allowed the engine to steam across on its own power. When the locomotive stopped, the crew walked across the bridge, got back on and went on their way. Wachsmuth ended operations on the remainder of the line in September of 1924. The track remained in place until 1933. From 1924 until 1933 the Bayfield Transfer still existed as a corporation. It operated no trains, and its only revenue came from renting out its office space.

3.)Brown-Robbins Lumber Company.

This line ran inland from the mouth of the Sioux River a few miles north of Washburn. The track was narrow guage, and it was operated from 1899 until 1903. The rail line ended at a dock into Lake Superior, from which logs were dumped into the lake and rafted to the CC Thompson Lbr Co mill in Washburn. This railroad was operated by the same Brown-Robbins Lumber Co which ran a narrow guage railroad out of Rhinelander in Oneida Co.

4.)Ashland Siskowit & Iron River Logging Railway Co.

The headquarters of this narrow guage road were at Nash located on Lake Superior a few miles south of Washburn. Construction was begun here in the late spring of 1890 by the Shores Lumber Company of Ashland. One and a half miles of track were laid that year. In the fall of 1891, Shores sold the railroad to Stitt & Cartier who were logging contractors. They supplied logs to Shores' mill and to the R.D. Pike mill in Bayfield as well. By the summer of 1892, Stitt & Cartier were operating a three mile railroad with 4 locomotives and 50 cars. In June of 1893, ownership again changed hands when the Chequamegon Logging Co. took over. By this time the railroad had 4 locomotives and was 12 miles in length. The Ashland Lumber Company was incorporated in May of 1894. it took over an existing sawmill in Ashland as well as the Chequamegon Logging Co RR. By the end of 1895, the railroad was 15 miles in length. On Dec 24, 1894 the headquarters camp at Nash burned down with the loss of several logging cars. Another railroad called the Siskowit & Southern was built south from Cornucopia to Siskowit Lake. It began operations on Sept 22, 1894. It had a rather interesting method of dumping logs into the lake. At the north end of the railroad was a loop of track which had its far end on a trestle over the lake. A car long section of that track was mounted on half a 4' wide pine log. This log was mounted on an axis so that it could be turned. Horses on shore pulled ropes causing this 4' wide log with the loaded car to tilt dumping the logs into the lake. The Siskowit & Southern was known as the "Pleas Road" after W.F. Pleas, the contractor, who owned it. Pleas was a contractor for the Keystone Lumber Co of Ashland. Almost immediately after construction of the S&S, there was talk of joining its line together with that of the Ashland Lbr Co. The two lines ended only two miles apart, and considerable money could be saved in towing charges to the mills at Ashland if logs were towed from Nash rather than Cornucopia. Negotiations carried on for over a year, and on November 7, 1895 the Ashland Siskowit & Iron River Logging Railroad was incorporated. The AS&IR was owned jointly by the Keystone Lbr Co and the Ashland Lbr Co. The AS&IR was often called the "Peanuts Johnson" road after the railroad company's first general manager. This railroad had no cabooses and a brakeman had to ride on the end car of every train. It is said that in the winter there was a high turnover rate for brakemen. The railroad ran year round. In the winter time when Lake Superior was frozen logs couldn't be rafted to the mill. This was a prime logging season. Logs that were cut were hauled to Siskowit Lake and decked out on its frozen surface or on the surface of Lake Superior at Nash. During the summer, when less logging was taking place, the logs cut the previous winter were hoisted out of Siskowit Lake, loaded onto cars, hauled south to Nash and rafted to the companies' mills. The AS&IR was notorious for all the bad accidents that occured on it. It was said by the employees that it ran 3 shifts; one shift ran the trains, one was going to the hospital, and one was coming home from the hospital. Things became so bitter that one of the managers of the railroad was murdered by a former employee who had been disabled in a wreck. It is known that they ran at least one log train off the end of the unloading trestle at Nash into Lake Superior, and supposedly one of their locomotives is still at the bottom of Siskowit Lake. One of the reasons for all the accidents was the fact that the AS&IR had an oddball system of car couplings. Their log cars were extremely short with a pole sticking out each end. There was a link on the end of this pole. It was a ticklish process to link the cars together while they were moving. All cars had hand brakes and the locomotives only steam jam brakes. On August 29,1901 the Wisconsin Railroad Commission forced the AS&IR to construct an interlocking and tower at its crossing with the CSPM&O Bayfield line at Nash. This was not the AS&IR's first run in with the commission who insisted that they report and be regulated, while the AS&IR addamantly claimed that it was not a common carrier in any form and did not need to report. The AS&IR was no doubt very upset that the state presented it with a tax bill in 1898 for over $5,000, which was about twice as much as the Green Bay & Western, a major common carrier, paid. The Attorney General of Wisconsin eventually became involved. A settlement must have been reached, because after 1900 the AS&IR no longer made any reports to the commission and no longer paid taxes to the state. The AS&IR quit running in September of 1903. The rails were shipped to Mantisee Mi. for use on another logging railroad, and the large unloading dock in Lake Superior was cut up for lumber. A significant portion of the railroad was sold to the neighboring Washburn & Northwestern for further operation by that company.

5.)Minneapolis St Paul & Ashland RR

This line was built by the Standard Construction Co. It was initially run by S.G. Cook who had a mill located in Ashland, and also by the Keystone Lumber Co. After March of 1900, it was run by Frederick Weyerhauser who had taken over the Cook mill. The MSP&A operated from Ashland southwesterly to a point called Chequamegon Jct., where it met the main line of the DSS&A. Ashland County bonded for $140,000 to build this road. It never hauled any regular passengers, and never amounted to anything more than a logging railroad. The original main was built in 1895 and 96, and opened in January of 1897, but more importantly beginning in 1899, a branch was constructed from a point on the mainline a few miles west of Ashland. This branch meandered across Northern Bayfield County and eventually ended about a mile away from Port Wing. The reason for this branch was for logging off several sections of land owned by Fredrick Weyerhauser. The logs were hauled to the Weyerhauser's mill in Ashland. This railroad was referred to as the "Peerless", which seems to have been a brand of tobacco commonly used by the employees. When logging was completed in early 1906, the railroad was completely abandoned except about 1 mile on the Ashland waterfront, which was left in to serve a box factory. This was removed in 1911. The irony of it all is that Ashland County was paying off the bonds for this road's construction up until 1918, some 12 years after it was taken up. It's puzzling how Ashland County officials could be duped into bonding for a railroad projected between Ashland and the Twin Cities when the CSPM&O already had a route between them. Even as late as 1912 a scheme was being hatched to build a railroad between Ashland and the Twin Cities that would utilize the old MSP&A grade. After abandonment a loaded log train was left in the woods in the vicinity of Hoist Lake. It sat there until WWI when the price of scrap metal was high enough to justify the local residents cutting it up and selling it. Yet another locomotive was found by CCC crews in the 1930's near Ashland. It may have come from this road as well. Yet another locomttive was supposedly lost in the woods north of Ino as well. It is known that five rod locomotives and one Shay went to the Duluth & Northeastern of Cloquet Minn, which was controlled by Weyerhauser at the time.

6.)Bayfield Western Railroad.

This was a somewhat mysterious operation in that it was promoted by the same D. M. Sabin who had promoted the Washburn Bayfield & Iron River. (see entry ahead) After losing control of the WB&IR in late 1898, he seems to have incorporated the BW to further pursue his railroad building projects. Initially the BW constructed 6 miles of track west of Bayfield that became part of the Bayfield Transfer operation. (see above) In August of 1899, the BW began constructing a line north from Iron River as a logging railroad. Logs were hauled by trackage rights over the NP to Duluth and Superior. (Mainly to the old McCord mill at Superior which was being operated by Edward Hines at the time.) The BW also had trackage rights on the WB&IR from Iron River to Washburn and handled logging contracts off of the WB&IR main line. The headquarters of the road was a couple of miles north of Iron River, and the vast majority of the track was in the area. Some was at Bena and Lenawee on the WB&IR, and may have been at various locations on the NP main as well. Under its agreement the BW paid NP $.50 per train mile it operated. The NP's president at the time characterized D.M. Sabin as "slippery", and the whole thing becomes so convaluted that even the NP didn't know at times who they were dealing with; whether it was the WB&IR or the BW. D.M. Sabin died in 1902, and it seems that Bayfield Western operations passed into the hands of W.H. Gilbert who operated in Douglas County. (see Douglas County page)

7.)Washburn & Northwestern.

This railroad ran from December of 1887 until April of 1905. It was narrow guage and its headquarters was located about 10 miles southwest of Washburn. The line was owned from 1887 until 1902 by the A.A. Bigelow Lbr Co of Washburn. It ended on a dock in Washburn where logs were dumped into Lake Superior. Major lines extended west to the Pine Lake area, and southwest into the Moquah area. Around the turn of the century a long line was laid into the area directly south of Port Wing. This track was laid after 1902, when Edward Hines took control of the road in order to reach timber owned by his company. There was an interchange with the AS&IR at Grand Jct. Both railroads made extensive use of each other's tracks to access various blocks of timber, and after the demise of the AS&IR in 1903, the W&NW seems to have bought a portion of the AS&IR's track. There was a very steep grade into Washburn and it was dangerous for loaded log trains headed for the mill. Two men were killed in one runaway incident in 1890. In 1889 a locomotive engineer was killed when his locomotive fell off of the tracks into the Sioux River. The W&NW also had a head on collission between locomotives at Washburn in 1892. In 1902 Edward Hines bought out Bigelow and operated the line another three years. On May 23,1902 Hines incorporated the Washburn & Northwestern Railroad to take over this line and his logging railroad lines in Douglas county to operate them as common carrier railroads to serve the settlers and farmers who would buy up all the cutover land. Railroad guides from the early 1900's show the W&NW as having a daily mixed train from Washburn to Pine Lake. This connected with another mixed train from Chicago (Grand Jct) to Boynton. None of this ever happened. There was no rush to settle the cutover land. In reality it was no good for farmers. The only crop it was able to grow was trees. When the W&NW was abandoned in April of 1905, the track, cars and locomotives were moved south to Cusson and became the White River Railroad. (See Bayfield County South) In 1892, Northwestern Lumberman lists the W&NW as the first logging RR in the US to use a telephone line to dispatch trains.

8.)Cranberry Lumber Company.

This line was located at Herbster, and never connected with any other railroad. All rail, cars, and locomotives came in by barge. Logs were dumped off a dock into Lake Superior and were rafted to Duluth Minn. This line was originally constructed in the spring of 1890 with 15# rail and an 8 ton saddle tank engine, but this was soon found to be inadequate for the job. Heavier construction and equipment were in order. In February of 1895, the Cranberry's headquarters camp and enginehouse at Herbster were consumed by fire. In October of that same year, Cranberry leased its railroad, which consisted of 16 miles of track, 2 locomotives and 58 logging cars to Simpson Gould & Co. Simpson was a Duluth based logging contractor who used the railroad to not only haul logsfor Cranberry, but also for Merrill & Ring. Operations ceased in May of 1899. After abandonment rails and equipment were taken by barge to Duluth from whence they came.

9.)Washburn Bayfield & Iron River Railroad.

This story reads like an old western. It is probably one of the most interesting contained in these pages. In about 1894, former U.S. Senator D. M. Sabin from Stillwater Minnesota came around promoting a railroad running from Washburn and Bayfield to Iron River and on to Minneapolis-St Paul. On June 28, 1895 the Washburn Bayfield & Iron River was incorporated. Preliminary survey work began on Oct 1, of that year. On Oct 4, Bayfield County voted to bond itself for $240,000 to aid the WB&IR's construction. A right of way was granted and all surveying was complete by June 31,1896 but no construction of track commenced. It seems that the bond issue was tied up in court. Several residents saw through Sabin and didn't see the WB&IR as a bonafide railroad. They thought that they were going to have to pay for nothing but a private logging line. (Subsequent events proved them right.) 20 miles of track were laid beginning in July of 1897 and 15 more miles were laid the following year. On April 1, 1898 the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the Bayfield County bond issue and the WB&IR received $185,000 for the track constructed. Operations began on July 8,1898. The following year construction was begun on a 30 mile branch north from a point in section 28 of town 48n R8W to Port Wing. Only about 6 miles of track were ever laid, and the line soon degenerated into a logging branch. The WB&IR was contracted to haul some 127 million board feet of logs out of the area in its first year of operation. A few miles of track were built northeast from a point called Bayfield Jct located in section 32 of Town 49N R6W. This track was anticipated to connect up with the Bayfield Harbor & Great Western. (see Bayfield Transfer entry) This line also became only a logging spur. The WB&IR operated 2 main line mixed trains daily in either direction, on top of logging trains. The WB&IR also had a trackage rights agreement with the NP for log trains between Iron River and Superior. The WB&IR paid the NP 50 cents per train mile. The WB&IR was refered to by employees as the "Battleaxe". As in the case of the Minneapolis St Paul & Ashland, it is believed to have been named after a brand of tobacco used by employees. After a little more than a six months of operation, the company went bankrupt. This didn't stop D. M. Sabin who promoted the Bayfield Western Railroad (see above) The WB&IR quit running on December 20,1901. By then all of the company's rolling stock had been sold and all branches and spur tracks had been removed. At this time the bankruptcy judge in Madison ordered the main line torn up and the rail sold to pay off the WB&IR's creditors. Bayfield County, which felt that it had a vested interest in the line, wasn't going to allow this to happen without a fight. When the court appointed trustee showed up with a crew of men in Iron River to begin removal of the tracks, he was met by the Bayfield County DA who had gotten an injunction to prevent him from completing his job. The trustee and his men were also met by the Bayfield County Sheriff who had conveniently scheduled target practice for his men along the WB&IR right of way. The Sheriff promptly arressted the trustee and his men. When the bankruptcy judge heard of this he had the Bayfield County DA and Sherriff brought up on charges for contempt of court. Tempers cooled when the Wisconsin Supreme Court entered an injunction preventing track removal, pending possible sale of the line to another operator. On June 16, 1902 the bankruptcy court sold the line to the Northern Pacific for $125,000 (about $100,000 less than the trustee was looking for, and about $20,000 under the line's scrap value). NP began operations on October 12. It operated the line as a branch to Washburn. NP started operations with mixed trains daily in each direction, this fell to one mixed train in each direction daily, and eventually to 3 times a week in the final years of operation. There was a seven mile downgrade for loaded trains coming into Washburn, and on at least one occasion the brakes weren't set right and a run away train screamed through the city of Washburn and crashed into the barrier at the end of the tracks. In 1907, deep snow trapped a train on this line. The NP engineer's feet were so badly frozen that he had to be taken to the NP's company hospital in Brainard Minn, to have them amputated. NP abandoned the line in sections; the first from Coda to Washburn going May 31,1922 and the second from Iron River to Coda on May 13,1926. Bayfield County paid off the last bonds in 1923 by issuing more bonds. The county never saw much out of its investment.