Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc.

Search this site and our local communities. Wisconsin History Search Only

You may now join, or renew your SLAHS membership using your PayPal account, credit, or debit card.

Please use the following link to make a secure on-line payment.

About Us
Search this site
Monetary Donations

Artifact Donations

Buy A Brick Donation

Fundraiser Letter

Notable Links
Index to Wisconsin Brewery and Related Articles


Visit the Museum 

Depot history 1909 - 1919 , 1920 - 1975, 1976 - 2001, 2001 - Present, Miscellaneous Photos


Depot History

by Mike Reilly,  4/28/03, updated 11/08/2013

       The Depot history continues from the 1920's to the present.


1920's -  water tower and pump house (right) with Lingelbach's hill in background. Persons unknown.

This photo probably taken same time, note individuals - shows outhouse to west of depot.

This 1920's picture of the Chicago & North Western depot in the Town of Lisbon (now the Village of Sussex) is perhaps the earliest known photographic depiction. Pictured is (left) Otho Noble and an unidentified "gandy dancer" astride a hand pumped section crew cart. This photo appeared in a Fred H. Keller "Yesteryear in Sussex" column in the Sussex Sun (publication date currently unknown) later published in his book Yesteryear in Sussex on page 38.
The 1920 Federal Census lists Raymond J. Morgan as a "Ticket agent" with his brother-in-law, Dewey Hirmer (?) age 20 as the "Operator at R.R. depot". Dewey was obviously his backup or support at the depot. The C & NW though not officially endorsing nepotism, often encouraged it. Ray's wife no doubt worked with him at times.

Photo to the left is c. 1920 with five unidentified males.


Both photos here c. 1920 Wreck of Northwestern, near Templeton, just east of lime of flour smashed up. Fred H. Keller collection.


This circa 1930 photo from the collection of Roy Stier shows Raymond "Ray" J. Morgan.  The Waukesha Freeman reported in its' Sussex column  December 28, 1916, that Ray is the new North Western railway agent. A position held until a week before March 16, 1933 (source: The Waukesha Freeman) when he took to his home ill. After his death he was succeeded by George Bauer from Necedah (The Waukesha Freeman June 22, 1933)

Railroad workers living in the 1930 Sussex - Lisbon Area (unfortunately the railway they worked for isn't listed.)  Source 1930 Federal Census.

The local fire department was called out Monday afternoon to the Northwestern depot, where an overheated stove caused a fire which might have been serious if assistance had not arrived in time. Source: Waukesha Freeman, January 22, 1936, page 2 of 9.

Ray, from Ridgeway, WI., took a company promotion (salary increased from $40 to $55 per month) and moved to Sussex with his wife Shirley A.  (8/23/1892 - 5/1980 in Sussex). He worked from 7 am to 7 pm six days a week. The 1930 Federal Census listed his age as 37 yrs and his occupation as "telegraph operator railroad".  (Source: The photo and some of the above information first appeared in the Sussex Sun, Tues., June 29, 1976, later in the book Yesteryear in Sussex by Fred H. Keller, page 31.)

1955/ Feb. 15 - Burglars took an undisclosed amount of money from the Northwestern depot office Monday night by breaking a window, and unlatching it to gain entry; three other Sussex businesses were also burglarized that night.

1955/ Oct. 2 - John Mudlitz, a section hand for the railroad between 1920 to 1950 when he retired died today. Source: Waukesha Daily Freeman, Wednesday, October 5, 1955, page 8.

The Highway 74 crossing near Whiskey Corners. All that is left of the double tracks built in 1910 by the Chicago & North Western Railroad. Photo source: Lisbon 2000 Millennium Book, page 83

Train wreck in Mapleway Park

It was a cold clear night on Feb. 19, 1966, 43 years ago. A Chicago Northwestern Railroad train was treading its way through Wisconsin toward Sussex, on its way to Milwaukee. At about 2:30 a.m. it passed the Sussex Depot on Maple Avenue. It was said that the crew knew there was a problem with a possible hot box in a faulty journal, connecting two cars. Just as the front part of the train cleared Maple Avenue, it derailed and sent 13 railroad cars into an accordion pile of debris where Mapleway Park is today.

Nine of the 13 cars were loaded with coke, a type of processed coal used for making steel. The coke spread across the lightly snow-covered tundra a yard thick in some places and in other places just inches thick.

Maple Avenue was closed for some time by the accident, but by early morning, cars and trucks could pass through. An estimated 50 railroad workers converged on the scene, attempting to clear the coke spill and other debris.

One must look at the landscape to fully appreciate the wreck. The land north of the tracks was depressed, a former swamp and headwaters of the Sussex Creek. This bottom muckland was considerably lower than the surrounding area and full of black peat soil that Ernie Pfeil farmed sporadically and profitably. For many years he could not farm it because of high water and the resulting mud.

He sold the land for development into the Sussex Heights subdivision, and this "hole" on the north side of the tracks was going to be filled with dirt and debris to make an outlot. It developed as a flat spot at a similar height to the adjacent Maple Avenue.

In 1978, topsoil would be added and grass planted, and in time trees and playground toys would be added. However, the southern part of the park lawn was never developed other than the lawn as it is on We Energies land for the overhead high-power electric lines. Then the land dips down to the railroad, which currently belongs to the Union Pacific Railroad. The village owns about 2 acres, and there is an additional acre that other landowners allow the village to use for park lawn.

At the site of the wreckage in 1966, the coke spillage was scraped up and reloaded into gondolas. Coke was still present for years afterward, particularly on the north side of the tracks. Occasionally, people would scavenge for the coke to possibly use for home heating, but today there is nothing left. The addition of new ballast and the dumping of debris has now hidden most evidence of the accident, though a 50-foot section of steel rail still sits in the nearby tall weeds. At 100 pounds per foot, the rail would weigh more than 5,000 pounds. It is possible that it belongs to the derailment wreckage.

Sussex Mills was contacted to furnish a truck driver and truck to help move the 56-pound boxed butter that was in two box cars. Railroad employees handled the boxed butter, loading the mill truck and repacked onto a box car at the Sussex Depot.

I happened to be the truck driver, and I was shadowed by a railroad detective who watched over the entire transporting of the butter. In the end there were two cartons of the butter that were squashed open, with debris embedded inside. I thought that the detective would throw them on the side of the loading dock, abandoning them as unfit for consumption. I figured that if he threw them away, I could salvage them, cut off the damaged part and have butter for a year. But the detective wrapped up the boxes in paper and tape and put them in the outgoing cars with a proper note attached.

By Monday afternoon, Feb. 21, 1966, the wreck and debris were cleaned up. Today, only old photographs and memories are left of the early morning wreck. At the accident scene many years ago, a small boy told a reporter that his grandmother had heard something in the night but thought they were switching trains. Longtime Sussex resident Joyce Egle found five old slides she had taken of the wreck and gave them to the historical society.

Today, when you are walking along the far western Mapleway Park trail that goes from Maple Avenue to Waukesha Avenue and the Bug Line Trail, look at the peaceful site immediately south of the park and imagine 13 smashed up railroad cars and piles of coke spread over the landscape.


Depot history 1909 - 1919 , 1920 - 1975, 1976 - 2001, 2001 - Present, Miscellaneous Photos

Home / About Us  / Membership / Search this site

Copyright Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc., , 2002 - 2016, Except as noted: All documents placed on the website remain the property of the contributors, who retain publication rights in accordance with US Copyright Laws and Regulations. In keeping with our policy of providing free information on the Internet, these documents may be used by anyone for their personal research. They may be used by non-commercial entities, when written permission is obtained from the contributor, so long as all notices and submitter information are included. These electronic pages may NOT be reproduced in any format for profit. Any other use, including copying files to other sites, requires permission from the contributors PRIOR to uploading to the other sites. The submitter has given permission to the website to store the file(s) for free access. Such permission may be revoked upon written notice to the website webmaster. Website's design, hosting, and maintenance are donated by Website Editor & Webmaster: Michael R. Reilly (Mike)