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Chicago St Paul Minneapolis and Omaha in Cornell Wisconsin


Cornell Wisconsin

Cornell is located at the intersection of highways 27and 64. This river front town hosted a few businesses serviced by the railroad throughout the years. The paper mill and the local farmers co-op have been near the tracks for most of the last century, and they still providecornellarial.jpg (33209 bytes) services for the community. Changes have taken place over the years with other business that have came and gone, but the structures remained to host the new owners on their next endeavor. Along with the paper mill and co-op, there was an enterprise called Fireproof that manufactured fire resistant panels for structures. This as well as the other businesses needed raw materials and a method of transportation that could handle weight in tonnage as the product that the community created was sent throughout the world.

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plan1867.jpg (70360 bytes)The original plans of Cornell from the mid 1800's shown on the left reflect the city on the opposite (West) side of the Chippewa river. The smaller dams surrounding Brunet Island would control the logs coming in from the North.

cornell8.jpg (95131 bytes)Cornell city map from 1918 is shown on the right. This map shows the siding and rail owned by the Omaha. Additional rail was added by the mill owner to assist in delivery of pulpwood to the log pond. This photo came from a booklet publication that was distributed in the early 1900's which intent was the promotion and advertisement of the area called Cornell for settlers and businesses. It referred to Cornell as a community that was more than a just a "Millcornell9.jpg (260498 bytes) Town".

   cornellmill5.jpg (50429 bytes)The dam at the edge of the mill created power for the community and the industries. The town was named after Isra Cornell, founder of the famous Cornell university. ...a few years ago I came across a postcard with an example of a "Hannibal & Chippewa Falls RPO". It was a fairly poor strike, but it's the only one from this line ever reported to the Mobile Post Office Society, a group that researches and publishes catalogs of RPO markings. It appears to be postmarked on November 1, 1916, on Train 233. The front of the card is a real photo of the Cornell paper mill. 
Courtesy of Joe Fishbein

cornell20.jpg (88613 bytes)The Omaha laid track to Cornell in 1902-1903 as shown in the picture on the left. Work was hard for the crew and for the most part all manual. Occasionally a crane would be used to lift extremely heavy objects like girders and pilings, but laying track was primarily done by hand. Workers would dig out then fill an area with ballast or stone for drainage to prevent water standing that would rot the hardwood ties. Then the ties measuring from 9 to 11 inches wide and high by 8-1/2 feet long would be rolled from a flat car or horse drawn wagon, carried to position generally by two pair of workers using double tongs, and laid in order spaced evenly so ballast could be added between them for stability and rail support. Then the rails would be carried and laid on the ties and gapped at 4'-8-1/2" apart measured from the inside of the rail head. The spikes would then be driven to hold the rail in this position on the ties prevent them from spreading when the heavy locomotives and cars traveled over them. If the spacing was not correct or the rails were not anchored securely, cars could derail causing much damage to the equipment and cargo causing high expense to the railroad. Extreme care was required for quality of workmanship during this track laying effort.

The Omaha had regular runs to Hannibal from Norma in Chippewa Falls each day throughcornell21.jpg (62003 bytes) the first half of the 20th century. The train was a combination freight and passenger service as shown to the right. This picture of a Northbound shows the paper mill on the right, and feed mill on the left. In the early 40's a passenger car was no longer used as part of the train and the few passengers that rode the train spent their trip in the caboose with the conductor as reflected below. 

When I rode the train in 1943 and 1944 from Chippewa Falls to Cornell, I boarded the caboose of the train at the depot in Chippewa. There were very few passengers then. I don't remember anyone else getting on the train while I was riding. I did not ride all of the time, only when I went home for the weekend. I used to wave at my parent's place when we went through Jim Falls on the way to Cornell. Traveling was expensive then at 25 cents one way. I remember a small stove in the caboose which kept the car warm in the winter. It could have been wood, but probably coal because that was what the engine used. There were two small benches on either side of the caboose that were used for passengers. The car had small windows on the sides that I could look out while we were traveling.
Courtesy of Lila Pahl

mainstreet.jpg (49608 bytes)main street 2.jpg (62925 bytes)Cornell as any other town at the turn of the century contained most of the products and services required to maintain unity and comfort for the residents. General stores, grocery stores, barber shops, saloons, and other specialty shops existed as the town approached mid-twentieth century. Much of the replacement suppliesRP548.jpg (100043 bytes) arrived on the railroad from external sources. Deliveries of textiles, canned goods, coal for heating, oil for those who did not have electrical lamps, gasoline for autos, farm equipment, and building materials to name a few items commonly seen arriving on the Omaha.

farmstead.jpg (49998 bytes)Exports also existed from Cornell. There were paper products from the mill, sugar beets, milk and milk by-products, lumber, cattle, grain such as corn and oats, and fire resistant panels from Fireproof industries. Most product was processed through the depot located at the end of Main Street on the West side of town. 

cornell7.jpg (118423 bytes) The picture on the right was taken for the 1918 advertisement shows the depot that was built in 1902.

 Below pictures show additional pictures of the same depot .


cornelldepot1.jpg (85749 bytes) cornelldepot2.jpg (52471 bytes) cornelldepot3.jpg (53620 bytes) cornelldepot.jpg (50268 bytes)

   The Farmers Union CO-OP grain mill is located at the north-west side of the town next siding up from the depot on the East side of the tracks. Grain pick-up and deliveries by rail were everyday occurrences in this farming community. Early fifties still had horses for field work on some farms. We had two draft horses on the farm, and used them quite a bit.

cornell4.jpg (49628 bytes)Cornell is the home of the local area paper mill. The mill has provided work for many of the residents of the city. There is a very unique structure located across the highway from the main building called a pulpwood stacker. It looked like a large crane, housed an elevator, and carried pulp wood log bolts 150 feet into the air before dropping them into separate piles based on the type of wood used. Different wood wascornellmill7.jpg (184619 bytes) used for different products, and at the time a stacker was the most efficient method of cornellmill5.jpg (50429 bytes) inventory control. The logs were moved from the piles into an underground conveyor system through a sluice and carried under the highway and railroad tracks to the mill where they were ground  into fibers for pressed board, cardboard, and many other paper products. There was a small network of track that allowed cars to be moved into and out of the mill for paper pickup and pulpwood drop-off. 

cornell1.jpg (49789 bytes)cornell10.jpg (132677 bytes)This would be the Engineer's view of approaching Cornell WI as heading north on the Hannibal branch line. Notice how the additional pulp wood for the paper mill that could not be processed was dumped along the rails for skidding out in mid spring when it was difficult to get into the woods. The Mill Spur exited the main line to the left as shown heading toward the river and the mill pond

pulpwood.jpg (33818 bytes)This picture shows the Stacker and log piles for the paper mill as seen from the north-west end of the mill spur. Notice that there is only one set of rails for the gondolas and flat cars to use at the end.  This single rail held the cars that needed to be offloaded. This rail may have also been used to stage outgoing cars for the next exchange with the railroad. 


cornell6.jpg (176148 bytes)cornell12.jpg (83954 bytes)Logs were off-loaded at the mill pond by a steam crane, corralled up by workers in the hot pond, headed through the gate and onto the conveyor of the slasher where they were transported up into the slasher building and cut into 2 foot bolts for stacking based on wood type using the Stacker. Photo on the left shows the use of a boom car to offload the pulpwood into the pond rather than dumping the product as seen in some other mills.

cornell11.jpg (115615 bytes)cornellmill3.jpg (50709 bytes)From the slashing house the logs were sent up the crane shaped stacker  into piles of wood bolts based on type of wood. The paper  mill produced various products and certain wood cells were specifically needed. The position of the piles were relative to the position of the stacker. 

cornellmill4.jpg (66224 bytes)cornellmill1.jpg (49593 bytes)The two foot log bolts were floated in the plant heated sluice way that traveled under hwy 64 from the piles to the mill.

The grinders in the mill  received the 2 foot bolts and literally ground the wood into a pulp for the  use in the presses.

cornellmill2.jpg (49939 bytes)A close-up of the grinders shows the wheels used grinding pulpwood into a product that could be pressed into paper. After grinding the  wood into a fibrous slurry, the material would be rolled and pressed into many products that were used by the nation. The mill was very flexible and could make a variety of products. I remember some textured framed pictures in our house hallway that were made from the pictures from a calendar that somehow was glued and rolled into a 8 x 10. Not sure who made them but remember thinking about the diversity of products coming from the plant.

cornell13.jpg (150063 bytes)cornell14.jpg (110400 bytes)Product was gathered based on destination and transported out of the mill in boxcars as shown. loads were staged along the spur for pickup by the Omaha. hundreds of thousands of tons of rearranged wood fiber left Cornell to travel around the country and some possibly around the world .

cornell2.jpg (98930 bytes)Here is a picture  of the stacker, out buildings, and pulp wood piles from a time when the air was bustling with activity. Also is a brief description of what the stacker's  function was in years gone by. The stacker as seen today is very quiet. There is no more clanking and clattering of a chain dragging 2 foot bolts of wood high into the air. Where the buildings and great piles of wood the could be seen for miles once stood, is now a park and ball diamond for the residents. A museum  is next door to keep the  memories alive

cornell5.jpg (48990 bytes)cornell3.jpg (50684 bytes)The stacker and wood supply would have been on the North side of State highway 64 East of the river. The area where the stacker stands is currently a park with the road at the stacker leading to Brunet Island State park. Many camping sites of both rustic and powered are available. Lots of wildlife to view and lots of fish to catch. There are not many campsites that allow the boat to be tied up next to the tent. Showers, bath house and a nice beach with miles of trails and within walking or biking distance from a very quaint rural town is the ingredients to a nice vacation.

  If you have any information, stories, corrections, or pictures regarding this or any of the other towns along the Hannibal branch line, Please let me know, < E-mail > along with your permission to publish your personal memories in an attempt to keep the history available for future generations. Non-digital pictures and documents will be returned upon request.

Thanks for looking

Doug Stoll