The Milwaukee Road
In the pioneer years of 1836 to 1855, people traveled by wagon, stagecoach, horseback, boat or on foot. Racine’s first railroad was the Racine & Mississippi Railroad. It ran from the harbor in Racine southwest through southern Wisconsin and northwest Illinois to the Mississippi River. The railroad crossed the river with a ferryboat to extend rail lines into Iowa.
The Racine & Mississippi Railroad was built to place Racine on the shortest trade route (via the Great Lakes) between the eastern U.S. and the Mississippi River waterways that reached into the western frontier. In 1869 the railroad was absorbed into the Milwaukee Road.
This small train waits for passengers at the platform in Sturtevant around 1910. It shuttled between the railroad stations at Sturtevant and downtown Racine.
The Milwaukee Road operated one of the nation’s first hybrid gas-electric trains between downtown Racine and Sturtevant beginning in December 1912. The Racine station was east of Main Street south of the Root River bridge. The train also stopped at Racine Junction (17th Street & Junction Avenue) and at a place formerly named Gatliff (21st Street, east of Green Bay Road near Culver’s). The Sturtevant station was originally north of Highway 11 on Wisconsin Street across the tracks from the Klinkert Hotel. The shuttle service connected Racine with the Milwaukee Road’s vast rail network running to Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Seattle.
The Milwaukee Road replaced the rail shuttle with a motor coach bus around 1928. The bus ran along Highway 11 making stops at Gatliff (Green Bay Road) and Racine Junction (17th Street) before reaching the interurban Union Station at 7th and Wisconsin in Racine. The Klinkert Hotel is in the background of this image. The service was abandoned in 1938.
Today’s passengers can take RYDE Racine Route 20 to reach modern Amtrak trains at the Sturtevant, WI train station. The Amtrak Hiawatha Service follows the historic Milwaukee Road route to Chicago and Milwaukee. Amtrak riders can access the entire nationwide Amtrak system from the Sturtevant station. Alan Baker photo.