That’s what a co-worker and I text to each other when the railroad crossing nearest to the office has its gates down, the red lights are flashing and there is a multi-car train passing through. It’s happened several times to both of us, on occasion making us late for an appointment or when returning to work from lunch.


Sadly, when I took this photo, I missed the TRAIN!!! by two minutes. I wanted you to get the true feel of the stop and wait.

National Train Day is May 14, 2016. National Train Day marks the anniversary of completing the transcontinental railroads in America. This day was created and started in the year 2008 by Amtrak and is celebrated annually in the month of May. This is an event for the lover of all things related to trains.

I do not happen to be a train lover, but I am a tried and true “follower.” So, when Dan at No Facilities, asked a small group of bloggers to write a post about trains to commemorate National Train Day, I immediately succumbed to the pressure.

Oddly enough, the National Train Museum is located a mere 40 miles away in Green Bay. I seem to remember visiting the museum once, many years ago, but I haven’t had the urge to visit again. Trains are like airplanes to me. They are there, meant to be used as transportation or cargo transport, but nothing to be revered like a motorcycle or bicycle. There’s no tantalization to draw me to conventions or rallies or museums relative to either.

But I digress. I agreed to complete a train post, per Dan, and that is what you will have.

“Appleton, Wisconsin is crisscrossed by the former main lines of the Chicago and North Western Railway (southwest-northeast) and the Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western (roughly southeast-northwest, and now largely abandoned except for local service to area paper mills and other industries). A north-south branch of the former Wisconsin Central Railroad passes on the west side of the city. All rail service is now operated by Canadian National Railway. Appleton has no intercity passenger rail service, although studies are being undertaken on the feasibility of extending Amtrak service to the Fox Cities and Green Bay.” ~Wikipedia~


The Fox Cities are comprised of the communities of Neenah, Menasha, Town of Menasha, Appleton, Kaukauna, Kimberly, Combined Locks, Little Chute, Town of Grand Chute, and the newly formed Village of Fox Crossing, with various little townships surrounding these communities. Throughout the area, waterways and train tracks are in good supply. The train above sits on a north-south track, not far from the south side of Neenah. The former husband and I moved to the Fox Cities circa 1978, in this part of town. At the time, Neenah was lacking a bridge or two over the railroad tracks to prevent frustration on the part of motorists. There came a time when the city finally realized they needed to build a bridge over the railroad tracks that crossed Cecil Street. (I was unable to find historical data that would remind me of the year it was built.)


This particular bridge was sorely needed as the tracks that crossed the street were part of a switching yard. Many locomotives and train cars came to a dead stop in the middle of that street. Then the train would move slowly forward, then slowly back, then stop, and repeat the process several more times before allowing drivers to pass. The Soo Line came through town at that time and their company name would appear in the newspaper several times, fined for overstaying their welcome on the tracks that traversed the street. In trying to research regulation as to how long a train can block traffic, I came up with a few responses of 10 minutes. One website stated, “No local ordinance exists that governs the length of time that trains may occupy road crossings.” I am unsure if an ordinance existed in Neenah in 1978, but I believe the fines were related to ambulances not being able to reach their critical destination, in a timely manner, due to train blockage. That’s not a healthy occurrence. Complaints about trains blocking the roadways continue to exist today, especially in the Town of Menasha (the town is now called the Village of Fox River Crossing). The city of Neenah eventually built two additional bridges over the railroad tracks, one further south and one over a main road leading to the downtown business area. Unfortunately, there will be no bridge to go over the tracks near the office. We’ll have to wait a few minutes in order to let the train pass.

For this post, I took a drive around the Fox Cities for photographs (Dan owes me $5.00 for gas) of crossings, trains and whatever else I thought would be of train-related interest. What I am about to share is not a comprehensive view of railroad crossings in the area, but rather a glimpse of crossings and tracks in the cities of Neenah, Menasha and Appleton.


1. To push or pull (a train or part of a train) from the mail line to a siding or from one track to another.

Their train had been shunted into a siding”

Shunting, in railway operations, is the process of sorting items of rolling stock into complete train sets or consists, or the reverse. In the United States this is known as “switching.”

So, there you go. Everything you need to know about shunt and shunting. Who knew? There’s plenty of that going on around the Fox Cities, especially with the majority of trains carrying freight to and from the paper mills and factories.

The remainder of photographs come from a working, but very old railroad bridge that cuts across a portion of the Fox River. (I could not find any historical information of when the bridge was built or the rail company that built it.) This bridge is located in an area known as The Flats, which is a river valley near Lawrence University and the downtown of Appleton. Click on this LINK to get a better view of the surrounding scenery.

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There isn’t much else to tell about the rail system or trains in the Fox Cities, unless you want me to spell out the history of every railroad company that’s ever been present.


I didn’t think so.

If you are truly interested in trains, I recommend a trip to the National Railroad Museum, followed by a tasty lunch and craft beer at Titletown Brewery in Green Bay. (My brother likes the beer, so that says something.) After this, feel free to drive south to the Fox Cities and enjoy the many railroad crossings that appear during your trek around the area. For you never know, you may be witness to flashing red lights and a speeding train while sitting still in your vehicle, texting your best friend…


46 responses to TRAIN!!!

  1. Dan Antion says:

    Oh my. Now I have to put Green Bay on my station-stop-bucket-list. This was such s fun read. I’m on my phone, but I’ll be back do I can enjoy the photos on a larger screen. You did such a good job. Over and above the call. I’ll see about the gas reimbursement. Maybe I’ll just buy you a beer/wine st Titletown. Off-season of course 🙂

  2. joannesisco says:

    I LOVE trains … mostly because I love bridges that trains need to keep rolling, but trains are cool too. I’m one of those rare people who actually get excited when the crossing arms drop down in front of my car and I have a front view of the passing train. Exact points if I’m on my bike.

    I wish I wasn’t SOOO busy. I’d write a train post for Dan too … even though it would be Canadian, not American. Oh well, maybe another time 😉

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Ohmigosh, I wish Dan would have been aware of your train excitement. That’s too funny! It’s really not too late to write about Canadian trains. May is train month and in reality, you could publish anything train related at any time. You’ll get one male commenter for sure!

    • Dan Antion says:

      Oh my! My major bucket list item for after I retire is to travel across Canada by train. I’ve driven west to east, I want to ride east to west! Mary’s right, there’s still time to write the post 🙂

      • joannesisco says:

        I did the panoramic train through the Canadian Rockies as a teenager. It was a highlight and I hope I can do it again someday.

        I have drafted a post that I hope I can publish, but I’m waiting for permission to use certain photographs.

      • Dan Antion says:

        I look forward to the post (if you can) and I’m jealous, but happy that you were able to make the trip. I’m encouraged by the fact that you would like to do it again.

  3. Ally Bean says:

    I grew up in a small town that was all about trains. My dad knew all about what the cars had in them, and what the lights & signals meant. And when certain trains came through town. And where they were going. I didn’t know about National Train Day, but now that I do, I’m psyched. Thanks for the info and the photos.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I’m thinking Dan should have had a Train blogfest challenge.

      That’s cool that your dad knew so much about trains…it’s like knowing car models and what year they were built. I will probably never share in the excitement, although I do find the graffiti on the train cars interesting.

  4. joey says:

    I am not a fan of trains, not like Dan, but I do enjoy living in The Crossroads of America. I have never in my Indiana life lived far from a railroad crossing, and I love the sound of the trains nearby. I almost always photograph them when they cross my path, so I enjoyed all of your photos, especially the bridge.
    I don’t hear these places much anymore, but one of my roommates in college was from Neenah, Wisconsin, and to this day, I cannot see a drain with Neenah on it and not think of her. (I hope you know what I’m talkin about.) These days she lives in Appleton. Without her, I wouldn’t know anything about these places. It’s a small world 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I assume you are talking about drains from the Neenah Foundry, which is not too far from the train that was sitting on the track. When I first moved to the area, I lived very close to the foundry.

      I like the sound of distant trains. It’s like listening to the waves of Lake Michigan…soothing.

      I think it would be hysterically funny if I knew your college friend, but I imagine, at the very least, we’ve probably crossed paths at Woodman’s, the local mega grocery store. I run into everybody there.

      • joey says:

        I am referring to the foundry. I never noticed it until she pointed it out! They’re everywhere!
        She’s married now and I regret I don’t remember her husband’s name. To be honest, I’m not sure she took it, as on my social media, she’s still using her maiden, which is Voelzke.

      • bikerchick57 says:

        Well, that doesn’t sound familiar. I haven’t checked the population of the area lately, but I would guess knowing her would be in a 1/160,000 chance…at the very least.

      • joey says:

        I wish I could remember her mother’s maiden name, but alas, it’s still a small world 🙂

  5. Dan Antion says:

    I just wanted to let you know that I came back to see the photos on a larger screen – Thanks for stepping up on this, Mary. I owe you a bike post (and a poem).

  6. Shunt and shunting sound like English (Anglophile) curse words to me. I think we could do this, “What a shunting mess he made of it!”

  7. Good one. I loved the amount of information balanced with images. I believe this will be a nice opportunity for me to know more about American railroads which so far I have only seen in Taking of Pelham 123, Unstoppable and many other movies shot in trains. I always wondered why the United States does not come up with a highly connected rail network that can connect cities together, or is it already there and I have no idea about it? I am usually going to ask the same question to others as well and see how different people come up with their answers. So, what is your answer? I understand you’re more of a Harley-fan and train is just a mode of transportation. Even in movies, I see people driving long distances from one city to another, so why there is no highly efficient public transport system?

  8. I think you’ve gone above and beyond the call with this post. Careful. Dan might have other challenges for you now that he knows you’ll take it on to the max.
    My dad was mad keen on trains. Buying him a train book or dvd for Christmas was usually a safe bet. I love trains if I’m trundling around Europe on them, less so if I’m up and back to Melbourne every day for work. Ugh. Don’t miss that period of my life at all.
    I love steam trains the most. There’s a local one that runs a “Blues Train” with bands and bars on board. I’m yet to try it out but it’s definitely on the bucket list.
    There’s a very cool train museum in York (it’s England’s National Train Museum). It has the Flying Scotsman.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Dan has already said he owes me a post about bicycles in poetry form (it’s a joke, sort of, but I’m serious).

      I want to come and hang out on the Blues Train. How much fun would that be? I think you and the Mister should plan a trip on that train. Given the right type of passenger train, I would go for a ride. Not the speeding Amtrak, but a steam train or one in Europe or Canada…something that offers scenery and a good time.

  9. LB says:

    Love this post and definitely love trains. Thank you for making the effort to document the history and to educate us a bit.
    I live in a train town, too. and have posted before, and am looking forward to visiting Dan’s blog.
    There’s just something about trains … history, romance, adventure, tragedy, fun.
    I’ll be marking my calendar for next year so I don’t miss National Train Day.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’re welcome, Laurie, and thanks for the positive comments. I do believe Dan needs to organize a train blogfest for next year. It seems that so many people have a love of trains and are willing to write about it.

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