November Views of a Station; Get Your Photos Soon, Before its Too Late!
Brookfield, Massachusetts; Brookfield, Illinois, and now Brookfield, Wisconsin—Have you noticed a theme?
The former Milwaukee Road passenger station at Brookfield, Wisconsin is located between Canadian Pacific’s main tracks at the west end of a grade separation. This unusually situated station has provided a visual link to the railroad’s past for many years, and is one of the last structures of the old order along this line.
Today, Canadian Pacific’s former Milwaukee Road mainline between Chicago and the Twin Cities is largely free from historical infrastructure. The days of an agent working at Brookfield have long since passed. Neither passenger trains nor freights have stopped here in decades. Yet, as of today, the old building survives at its traditional location.
Here’s some advice: get your photos NOW. Don’t wait. Word on the street is that the station will soon be either moved or demolished.
And even if the street gossip changes its tune, the reality is that old wooden railroad stations are ephemeral structures: Never assume the old station that has always stood there, will be there the next time you return.
I made these photos last week while re-exploring southern Wisconsin with Pat Yough and Chris Guss . Back in the 1990s, I made a number of photos of this old station, but I’ve learned you can never have too many images of something (or someone) once its gone.
Might the old station be preserved? Quite possibly, but it won’t be trackside, and thus will have lost its context. This location without the station will just be another characterless wide-spot along the line. Someone might call this ‘progress’; I call it ‘change’.
On Saturday November 9, 2013, I worked with three cameras and photographed the Brookfield station from a variety of angles as the sun came in and out of the clouds. Two eastward Canadian Pacific freights passed giving me ample opportunity to put the old station in context.
By the mid-1990s, Wisconsin Central Limited operated one of the largest fleets of secondhand 20-cylinder EMD locomotives in the United States, having acquired more than 100 SD45s, F45s, among other 20-cylinder models from class I railroads. It rebuilt the locomotives at its North Fond du Lac shops.
At the time, I lived in Waukesha within earshot of WC’s former Soo Line mainline to Chicago. A few miles to the north was WC’s crossing of Soo Line’s former Milwaukee Road mainline. (This confusing arrangement stemmed from Soo Line’s 1985 merger with Milwaukee Road, and the subsequent spin off of former Soo Line routes which in 1987 had been regrouped as Wisconsin Central Limited.)
Among WC’s freights was T047, which connected with Soo Line in Milwaukee and so utilized the former Milwaukee Road mainline between Milwaukee and Duplainville. On the afternoon of May 7, 1996, I exposed this Kodachrome slide of a pair of WC SD45s (one of which still wearing Santa Fe paint) leaving the Milwaukee mainline on its way north toward North Fond du Lac.
In 1996, I was living in Waukesha, Wisconsin and working for Pentrex Publishing as the Editor of Pacific RailNews. One evening shortly before sunset, a heavy fog settled in. Twilight is my preferred time to make signaling images because lower light in the sky allows for greater emphasis of signaling aspects. Fog is an added attraction, especially for searchlight signals. This style of signal head was developed by the Hall Switch & Signal Company in the 1920s. The searchlight uses a miniature semaphore in front of a focused beam of light that allows for a very low powered lamp to be sighted at a great distance. This effect is most evident when the focused light beam illuminates water droplets comprising heavy fog.