virtually all railroads of the period, Green Bay and Lake Pepin (later,
Green Bay and Minnesota) relied on hand-tooled 4-4-0s for early motive
power. Tiny machines by today's standards at about 35 tons, they
nevertheless performed the mission they were intended for. These engines
must have seemed almost jewel-like to their crews. Note the polished brass
#1 at New London, 1871. From "The Story of the Green Bay
and Western" by Ray and Ellen Specht, 1966.
Jim Kube collection.
the time the Green Bay, Winona and St. Paul had taken over from the
GB&M, slightly more powerful 4-4-0s had joined the roster. It was also
in the time of the GBW&SP that airbrakes and automatic knuckle
couplers replaced mechanical brakes and the link-and-pin coupling system,
making for much safer railroading. Looking at this GBW&SP engine, one
notices an immediate difference from the GB&LP loco above- much less
#15, possibly at Grand Rapids (now Wisconsin Rapids), c.1885. T. Van
Dreese collection. From "Green Bay & Western" (Hundman
Publishing, 1989), by Stan Mailer.
the turn of the century, GB&W began purchasing heavier power to
replace older 4-4-0 locomotives. Several 2-6-0 types were brought on
board, the last arriving just before World War One. The proud 4-4-0 type
did not quite die out, however; one or two lasted in service until the eve
of World War Two. A remarkable story of longevity and practical
usefulness. The lives of the 2-6-0s were no less productive; the last of
them was retired from the Green Bay Route in 1948.
|In the 1920's, GB&W bought 2-8-0 locomotives,
enabling the retirement of all but a handful of 4-4-0's as 2-6-0 types
replaced them in local freight service. New management decided to
accelerate the trend, buying the largest Green Bay Route steamers- a half
dozen 2-8-2's, among the last of the type built for an American railroad.
Small but elegant state of the art, 1937 style.
GB&W 2-6-0 #256 at Green Bay, late 1940's; photographer unknown,
collection of William A. Raia.
|LEFT: KGB&W's sole 2-8-2 #403, at Green Bay
during the late 40's. Photographer unknown, collection of William A. Raia.
Jim Kube collection.
|Green Bay and Western bought it's first diesel in
1938- an Alco switcher- which preceded the last order for 2-8-2s by a
year. Another diesel switcher was added just before WWII. After the war,
GB&W acquired several cab road freight locomotives, and initially ran
them mostly as single units on freights. Only after several road switchers
were added to the roster in the early 1950's did these units begin to
operate in pairs. The fact that these 1500 horsepower engines could singly
pull sixty or more cars at an average of 40 MPH daily made clear the
superiority of diesel power to steam, in most respects. All GB&W
diesels were Alco's. Several were owned and lettered for subsidiary
KGB&W, when it was an independent entity.
Most likely a KGB&W FA-1 (#501 or 502) near
Kewaunee with a long train in 1948. Photo by Robert G. Lewis. From
"Green Bay & Western" (Hundman Publishing, 1989), by
Two of GB&W's earliest road switchers late in
their careers, on a 1976 fan trip. Note the simplified solid red paint
scheme- a cost saving measure- adopted in 1969.
GB&W-issued postcards: top
card shows a shiny engine pulling a trainload of paper products in new
GB&W boxcars, from one of several paper mills located on the line;
bottom card shows a builder's photo of a then-state of the art high
horsepower road switcher in 1960. Note the Alco-designed red with grey
sash paint scheme, certainly one the handsomest ever to grace a diesel
from the Jim Kube collection
from the Jim Kube collection
nearly a century, car ferries provided GB&W with a steady stream of
traffic. When car ferry loadings peaked in the 1950's, so did GB&W.
Even so, had it not been for a large originating and terminating traffic
base of paper and agricultural products, it is likely Green Bay and
Western would have folded in the 1930's. Loading and unloading the boats
was a sight to behold- sometimes it appeared that the vessel would flip
onto it's side, as the load inside the car ferry became unbalanced! That
only happened once or twice however, early in their use on Lake Michigan
C-424 #311 works the ferry dock at Kewaunee in June, 1975. From the
collection of Bill Raia.
unit lash-ups were common on GB&W road freight trains No. 1 and 2 from
the mid-1970's until the end (except when times were bad, as in the early
1980's). Here's my favorite, RS-27 number 310 leading two other Alcos on
train Number 2 pausing at Amherst Junction, in 1978. During this period,
Green Bay and Western usually ran one through freight each way a day
between Green Bay and Winona, two each way daily between Green Bay and
Kewaunee. Except for a local freight operating between Wisconsin Rapids
and Plover (and then up to Stevens Point), the other locals were abolished
by the early 1970's.
meant No's. 1 and 2 tended to run heavy and slow, except between stops
when they would run flat out, occasionally breaking the company- imposed
speed limits. Even so, twelve hour days were the rule for crew members,
not the exception. And look at the 310 and her sisters starting to kick
out the smoke, as this 100+ car train resumes it's run east!
by Jim Kube
Green Bay Route!
would a train be without a caboose? Sort of like a sentence ending without
a period! Seen here at Green Bay in 1979 is #602, one several homebuilt
GB&W transfer cabooses which were constructed by the line's extremely
capable Norwood shops in the early 1970's. The light blue 1963 Rambler
American parked on the right, blocking the driveway? That was mine, of
by Jim Kube.
No, that's not a FRED, or whatever they're calling
them these days. That my friend, is a caboose! GB&W's signature colors
for it's last forty years were red and yellow; high visibility and high
style. I still smile when I see an old ex-Green Bay and Western yellow box
car, or a former GB&W diesel still decked out in red.
miss the railroad and reckon I always will.
Caboose #615 pulls up the rear of a long, long
eastbound Number 2 at Amherst Junction in 1978.
by Jim Kube.