July 20, 2015 Travis Dewitz

Where the Wisconsin Central Transportation Corporation Turned Two Mainlines into One – Historical Railroad Geography Series

No. 4970 - Canadian National - Gordon, Wis.

No. 4970 – Canadian National – Gordon, Wis.

A trio of General Electric locomotives hustle this train north to Canadian National’s Pokegama Yard just southwest of Superior, Wisconsin. The history of this location is slightly complicated located here in Gordon, Wisconsin. Presently this is CN’s Superior Subdivision which is part of the Wisconsin Division. The Wisconsin Division is mainly everything that once was the Wisconsin Central that CN purchased in 2001. This is now CN’s mainline between the Twin Ports and Chicago that handles a lot of their Canadian traffic. At this moment, the front of this train is on ex- CNW trackage and the rear is on ex-Soo trackage. The ex-Soo right-away ran north from Ladysmith to Gordon (where it crossed over the CNW) to Ambridge (halfway between Pokegama Yard and South Itasca, just south of Superior). The ex-CNW trackage ran north from Cameron through Gordon and into South Itasca.

There was a non-compete clause, that agreement stated that the Wisconsin Central could not ship Canadian National traffic south out of the Twin Ports.

Vintage 1908 Railroad Map of Gordon Wisconsin

Where the Soo Line crossed the North Western – Gordon, Wis.

In 1985, the Soo Line bought the Milwaukee Road and sold off portions of its system in the state which formed the Wisconsin Central two years later. The WC gained access to the Twin Ports with trackage rights over the Soo Line from Ladysmith north. There was a non-compete clause, that agreement that stated that the WC could not ship CN traffic south out of the Twin Ports. In 1992, the Wisconsin Central purchased the 98-mile Cameron to Superior line from the Chicago & North Western for $5.8 million in an effort to be able to ship the Canadian traffic south to Chicago. After this sale, the Soo Line agreed to sell its line to the WC. Now with two lines to Superior, the WC joined them at Gordon using the ex-cnw line to the north and the ex-Soo line to the south. They chose to use the ex-CNW line for the slightly better grade. The ex-Soo right-of-way is now the Wild Rivers Trail and is just out of the frame to the right. The cement bridge abutments are still left standing just beyond the trees in the center of the frame where the Soo once crossed over the CNW.

The third unit in this consist is an ex-CNW C40-8 which may have once ran here in either CNW or UP livery. This line is the Union Pacific’s only access (with trackage rights) in and out of Superior and their South Itasca yard. CN trains head west just south of South Itasca through Ambridge, Saunders Jct. into CN’s ex-DW&P Pokegama yard.

Map of the current Canadian National alignment in Gordon, Wisconsin.


About the Photographer
Travis Dewitz is a professional photographer located out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He has been published in many books and magazines including many in the railroad industry. He does a lot of photography work and environmental portraitures for many companies and heavy industries in and around Wisconsin. He has grown up with trains and railroads are one of his passions that he pursues. His railroad photography can be seen on his website The Railroad Collection.


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Comment (1)

  1. Randal Nicholas

    Mr. Dewitz,

    Thank you for these excellent articles, and especially the terrific photography.

    Just a nit-picky point: a railroad operates on a “right-of-way”, which is a legal term. It would be easy to correct this very minor error.

    Again, I really appreciate these articles. Thank you so much for posting them.


    Randal Nicholas

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