Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR) is in the midst of $3.7 million tie replacement project between Avoca and Prairie du Chien. The project involves the replacement of 36,000 railroad ties, about 800 per mile.
“Wisconsin & Southern Railroad is working with the state of Wisconsin to invest in that line and bring it up to modern safety standards,” said Ken Lucht, WSOR Director of Government Relations. “We’ve seen a real uptick in freight traffic on our Prairie du Chien to Madison line, but over time the condition of the rail has deteriorated. Most of that line is 100 years old.”
An inspection of recently removed steel flanges at the Boscobel Industrial Park last week revealed a date of 1916.
Rail ownership and maintenance is a somewhat complicated relationship between the state of Wisconsin, Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission and the railroad. The state owns the land and 80 percent of the infrastructure like ties and rails, with the Commission owning the remaining 20 percent. Once the work is done, Wisconsin and Southern Railroad will be responsible for maintaining the tracks to their new modern standard.
“It is a partnership that has continued to evolve since 1980, and it works,” Lucht said.
Phase One of the project will be the removal and replacement of railroad ties between Avoca and Prairie du Chien.
“Replacing this line will secure the safety of the tracks; it has outlived its useful live,” Lucht said, adding that the track replacement should be completed this coming spring.
Phase Two of the project involves replacing the old jointed rail with modern new domestic welded rail, which weighs 115 pounds per yard, compared to 85-90 pounds for the old jointed rail. That work is expected to take five years.
The rail replacement will begin in Prairie du Chien and proceed east. The Crawford County portion from Prairie du Chien to Wauzeka is expected to cost $5 million.
“We are working under traffic,” Lucht explaned of the construction schedule. “Our customers are working around our construction schedule.”
That means more rail traffic at night and on the weekends.
Lucht said the line hauls “mainly grain,” mostly corn and soybeans, as well as frac sand and lumber.
“We don’t haul any petroleum products on that line,” Lucht said.