Chicago and North Western Railway (C&NW)

Discover the storied history of the Chicago and North Western Railway (C&NW), a key player in shaping the transportation landscape of the Midwest. Explore its origins, expansion, and pivotal role in connecting Racine to the broader rail network. Uncover the legacy of C&NW and its lasting impact on regional transportation.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, State Street depot, Racine Racine Transit Center, Liberty Street, baggage and express station workers, 1915

Passenger and express workers pose for the photographer on a baggage cart under the brick arch at the south end of the Chicago & North Western Railway station platform near Liberty Street in Racine, about 1915.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Passenger train, State Street depot, Racine Transit Center, 1902

A northbound steam-powered passenger train stops at the State Street depot in Racine. The station was opened in 1902. It was the gateway to the nation’s rail transportation network for most of eastern Racine County. Hundreds of rail passengers passed through the busy station each day.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Post card, State Street depot, Racine Transit Center, Frost & Granger, U.S. Department of Interior List of Historic Places, 1902

The well-known Chicago architectural firm of Frost & Granger designed the Racine Passenger Station for the Chicago & North Western Railway (C & N~W Ry.). Frost & Granger designed more than 300 buildings for midwestern railroads around this time period, including many of the stations on the Chicago-Milwaukee route. Today it is registered on the U.S. Department of Interior’s List of Historic Places.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, CNW 1329, Passenger train, Loading U.S. Mail, RPO, State Street depot, Racine Transit Center, 1940

In addition to passenger services, the State Street depot in Racine provided fast mail and package express service. U.S. Mail workers quickly loaded the mail cars while the trains stopped for passengers.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Passenger train, The “400”, Streamliner, E3, CNW 5001, 1939

In 1939 the Chicago & North Western placed the new streamlined “400” passenger trains in service on the Chicago-Minneapolis route. The high-speed trains traveled at speeds of more than 100 m.p.h. The trains were named, The “400” because they traveled the 400 mile route in less than 400 minutes.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Passengers boarding train, The “400”, Streamliner, State Street depot, Eau Claire, Racine Transit Center, 1955

A crowd of passengers board The “400” in 1955. The streamlined, air-conditioned streamlined trains were a very popular way to travel to Chicago, Minneapolis, Green Bay and throughout the state of Wisconsin.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Passenger train, State Street depot, Racine Transit Center, Capitol “400”, Streamliner, CNW 5023A, August 1952, World’s fastest scheduled passenger train

With brakes smoking, the Chicago to Madison Capitol “400” screeched to a halt at Racine in August 1952. This “400” passenger train was the world’s fastest scheduled passenger train at that time, reaching top speeds of 117 m.p.h. when running between Waukegan and Kenosha. Ernie Maragos photo.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, State Street depot, Racine Transit Center, Liberty Street, Railway Express Agency, REAX, REA, Delivery trucks, March 1, 1954,

Delivery trucks from the Railway Express Agency are being loaded with packages for the Racine area at the express room of the Racine depot near Liberty Street on March 1, 1954. The depot was one of the main hubs for package and express delivery in Racine. Bob Gaulke photo.

Oshkosh, WI, Vintage billboard, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Bi-Level “400”, Streamliner, 1958

A billboard announces the arrival of the new Bi-Level “400’s” in 1958. Passengers rode on two levels in these modern, streamlined cars.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Passengers boarding train, The “400”, Streamliner, State Street depot, Racine Transit Center, 1966

A bi-level commuter train bound for Chicago brakes to a stop at the Racine station in 1966. The railroad provided fast commuter service to all cities between Milwaukee and Chicago. Passenger service to Racine ended in 1972.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, elementary school field trip, The “400”, Streamliner, State Street depot, Racine Transit Center, April 30, 1972

The C&NW train conductor stands by as a group of elementary school children and their teachers gather on the platform after riding a commuter train from Milwaukee to Racine on the last day of operation for commuter trains, April 30, 1972. Learning to ride trains and buses was once a regular part of the school curriculum. Ralph Justen photo.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Frost & Granger, Racine Transit Center, Isthmus Architecture, Tri-North Construction, May 2005

In 2005 the City of Racine converted the C&NW train station into the Racine Transit Center for use by bus passengers. Isthmus Architecture, Inc., architects, and Tri-North Construction, general contractors, were hired to restore the building to its original appearance. Keith M. Kohlmann photo.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Frost & Granger, Racine Transit Center, Isthmus Architecture, Tri-North Construction, June 21, 2021

The Racine Transit Center provides a warm and welcoming place for bus passengers to safely transfer between routes. The restored station reflects Racine’s rich architectural heritage. Keith M. Kohlmann photo.

 Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Frost & Granger, Racine Transit Center, Isthmus Architecture, Jim Otto Architect, Berglund Construction, January 2021

The 1902 mixed Arts & Crafts design of the Racine depot is visible on the east side of the Racine Transit Center. The restoration included painting the windows and doors in their original colors. Keith M. Kohlmann photo.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Frost & Granger, Racine Transit Center, Isthmus Architecture, restored windows, Jim Otto Architect, Berglund Construction, terrazzo tile floor, June 2021

The windows of the main waiting room inside the Racine depot are resplendent with morning light reflecting off the polished marble terrazzo tile floor. Keith M. Kohlmann photo.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Frost & Granger, Racine Transit Center, Isthmus Architecture, Tri-North Construction, restored waiting room, June 2021

The waiting room inside the Racine depot was restored to match the original 1902 appearance. It features an oak beam ceiling and oak paneling, pink terrazzo marble flooring as part of the original color scheme. Replica lighting, travel information, and wide views through the windows create a unique rider experience. Keith M. Kohlmann photo.

Racine, WI, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Frost & Granger, Racine Transit Center, Liberty Street, Isthmus Architecture, Tri-North Construction, Train station snow, January 2012

The Liberty Street side of the Racine depot under a blanket of fresh snow, January 2012. The Transit Center is open six days a week. Visitors are welcome. Keith M. Kohlmann photo.

 Racine, WI, State Street, Union Pacific Railroad, UP 8884, Oak Creek coal train, Chicago & North Western Railway, CNW, C&NW, Frost & Granger, Racine Transit Center, July 2022

The Union Pacific Railroad operates coal trains to Oak Creek and rock trains from Caledonia. These and other freight trains pass by the Racine Transit Center everyday. Keith M. Kohlmann photo.

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