The Milwaukee Menomonee Falls & Western Railroad

The Milwaukee, Menomonee Falls & Western Railroad, a subsidiary of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway (also known as the Milwaukee Road) began service in 1890, and quickly became known by the nickname of the Bug Line, running between Granville and North Lake, WI. (Right of way)

Milwaukee, Menomonee Falls & Western Railroad Depot at Menomonee Falls. (Wisconsin Historical Society)

This nickname, "Bug Line," is believed to have originated from the small size of the train and the frequent stops it made along its route, resembling the pattern of a bug crawling along a grapevine. When it comes to old timey railroad nicknames, I must say it's pretty obvious that the 19th century had more of a vivid imagination with regard to operations than we do today. 

In addition to the main line, a track serving businesses along the Menomonee River in Menomonee Falls also existed west of the river, as shown below in a Sanborn Map.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Menomonee Falls, Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Sanborn Map Company, Oct 1910. (Library of Congress)

The railroad was intended to serve the limestone quarries in the area, as well as the agricultural and industrial businesses along the route. The railroad also provided passenger service, connecting the rural communities with the city of Milwaukee.

The railroad operated until 1978, when it was abandoned by the Milwaukee Road, which was facing financial difficulties and competition from other modes of transportation. The railroad tracks were removed, and the right-of-way was acquired by Waukesha County, which converted it into a recreational trail in 1983.

Another angle of the Bug Line Railroad Depot at Menomonee Falls. (Wisconsin Historical Society)

As stated, one of the line's primary hauls was limestone from the Lannon area, and that activity is quite evident from aerial images early in the line's history:

USDA Aerial Image, 1937. University of Wisconsin Libraries, annotations by Forgotten Lands, Places and Transit.

Today, limestone quarrying still exists along the route, albeit served through trucking interests as opposed to the railroad.

View of the Bugline Trail (Menomonee Falls website)

Today, the Bugline Trail is a popular destination for bikers, hikers, joggers, and skaters, who can enjoy the natural beauty and historical features of the trail. Some of the attractions along the trail include: 

The Sussex Depot, or Madeline Park Train Depot, a restored 1890s train station that now serves as a museum and a meeting place for the Sussex Lisbon Area Historical Society. The depot displays artifacts and memorabilia related to the history of the railroad and the local communities.

The Lannon Quarries, the source of the famous Lannon stone, a cream-colored dolomite that was used for many buildings and monuments in Wisconsin and beyond. There are still active quarries today, but the largest has been converted into the Menomonee Park, a 464-acre park that offers a variety of recreational activities, such as fishing, boating, swimming, camping, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. The park also features a beach, a playground, a disc golf course, and a historical marker that commemorates the MWF&W Railroad.

Map of the Bugline Trail south of Menomonee Park. (Waukesha County)

Thanks as always for reading!


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