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Milwaukee Road Online: Richland Center branch

Pine River Valley & Steven's Point #1 on it's way to Richland Center in 1876. Photo courtesy Stuart Kurth.
 In the 1870's Richland Center, Wisconsin was a thriving community of around 3000 people. The soil was rich for farming and the hills were covered with trees just waiting to be made into lumber. However, Richland Center lacked a railroad to transport this wealth out to the rest of the world. While a railroad had been built through Lone Rock, 16 miles to the south, in 1856 by the Milwaukee & Mississippi, it's destination was Prairie du Chien. As it followed the easy grade of the Wisconsin River, it's builders bypassed Richland Center.
In 1872, the town fathers of Richland Center decided that they needed a rail outlet. Apparently, they couldn't convince the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul to build a line to their thriving community, so they built one themselves. 

Following the valley of the Pine River, it ran 16 miles from Richland Center to Lone Rock on the CM&St.P's mainline. To keep costs down, the line was originally built with wooden strap rail with a gauge of three feet.

Porter built #1, named the "Richland Centre"
(Proper spelling for the time)
Photo courtesy Stuart Kurth
The line would be completed in 1876 giving the town a competitive route for it's commerce. The little line would only operate 4 years before the CM& St.P decided they wanted a route to Richland Center after all. Soon after the purchase in 1880, the line was relaid with iron rails set to standard gauge eliminating the time consuming and costly transfer of goods from narrow gauge to standard cars at Lone Rock.