Tracks ahead

Ground broken for last phase of Plymouth-Falls rail line restoration
by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff


PLYMOUTH DONALD POHLMAN, Wisconsin Secretary of Transportation Mark Gottlieb and Sheboygan Falls Mayor Randy Meyer were among those wielding shovels at a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday in Plymouth for the final restoration of the Plymouth Sheboygan Falls rail line. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner 
Review story andphotos byEmmitt B. Feldner PLYMOUTH DONALD POHLMAN, Wisconsin Secretary of Transportation Mark Gottlieb and Sheboygan Falls Mayor Randy Meyer were among those wielding shovels at a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday in Plymouth for the final restoration of the Plymouth Sheboygan Falls rail line. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner Review story andphotos byEmmitt B. Feldner PLYMOUTH – A long journey of almost a decade’s length embarked on its final leg Tuesday.

Between Plymouth’s two historic rail depots, ground was broken for the final reconstruction of the 11-mile rail line from Plymouth to Sheboygan Falls.

“This is the kind of thing that can result from teamwork,” state Secretary of Transportation Mark Gottlieb told a crowd of some 80 people at the ceremony hosted by the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce.

“This is a historic day in the city of Plymouth,” Mayor Donald Pohlman commented. “We really appreciate everything that’s happened and the long journey it’s taken to this point.”


GROUND WAS BROKEN yesterday for the final restoration of the Plymouth-Sheboygan Falls rail line, but the $17.1 million project has already begun with work on several bridges along the line, including in the city of Sheboygan Falls (above and below). Work is expected to be completed by the fall. — Submitted photos GROUND WAS BROKEN yesterday for the final restoration of the Plymouth-Sheboygan Falls rail line, but the $17.1 million project has already begun with work on several bridges along the line, including in the city of Sheboygan Falls (above and below). Work is expected to be completed by the fall. — Submitted photos Wielding shovels for the ceremony were local and state government officials along with representatives of industries that will be served by the restored line, which had been dormant for more than 20 years.

North Shore Track Service of Duluth, Minn., is the contractor for the $17.1 million project and has already begun work on several rail bridges along the route.

The effort to restore service on the line began back in 2006, when the Union Pacific Railroad terminated service to several Sheboygan Falls businesses on its spur line from Sheboygan (see timeline accompanying article).

Sheboygan Falls Randy Meyer remembered receiving a phone call from Joe Richardson of Richardson Industries when that happened, asking if the mayor was aware that the rail service had been ended by the UP.

Meyer told the audience that Richardson’s call was the first he had heard of the closing and that the UP had not communicated at all with city officials.

“This is what communication, coordination and cooperation looks like,” Meyer said, pointing to the group gathered for the ceremony.

David Howell, corporation counsel for Bemis Manufacturing – another Falls industry that lost rail service in 2006 – spoke for the affected businesses in praising the restoration of the rail line.

“Logistics is really the name of the game in today’s competitive world, so we’re very thankful this project came together the way it did,” Howell stated.


DOT SEC. MARK GOTTLIEB DOT SEC. MARK GOTTLIEB Bemis, Kettle-Lakes Cooperative and Morrelle Transfer Inc. are among the local industries and businesses providing funds for the $2 million pledged by local /governments and businesses.

The line is owned by the state of Wisconsin, which is paying the major share of the project cost/ The Wisconsin and Southern Railroad will operate trains along the line and be responsible for maintenance and upkeep.

“We look forward to working for many, many years with these communities,” Ken Lucht, director of government relations for the WSOR, told the crowd. “We are paving a path forward into the future, not just for the next five years but for the next 50 years.”

According to Lucht, the railroad is working with several area businesses to establish multi-modal capabilities on an existing spur.


MAYOR DON POHLMAN MAYOR DON POHLMAN The rail line, when restored, will serve industrial parks in the cities of Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls along with the existing industries in Sheboygan Falls.

The work will include reconstruction of 36 rail crossings and the replacement or rehabilitation of four railroad bridge structures.

That includes bridges in the city of Sheboygan Falls, but initial plans are for trains to run only as far as the Bemis plant on the city’s west side and not continue into or through the city.

The line is being restored as far as Kohler, where it connects to tracks owned by the Union Pacific. WSOR is negotiating with the UP to use that line to run trains to Sheboygan, but that is years in the future, according to officials.

“It is important to have a strong multi-modal transportation system that includes a strong freight rail component,” Gottlieb said in his remarks at the groundbreaking. “The Wisconsin DOT is proud to be part of that.”


MAYOR RANDY MEYER MAYOR RANDY MEYER He pointed out that manufacturing, agriculture and tourism are the three major components of the state’s economy, “and every one of those requires a strong multi-modal transportation system.”

“There is no other place in Wisconsin that has done a project like this,” Dane Checolinski, executive director of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp., said of the public-private partnership that financed the line restoration.


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