Historic Town Hall Amberg Museum

Sketches of Amberg Train History

In 1884 the Milwaukee & Northern railroad reached the community of Pike and set up regular passenger and freight service to the area. Prior to the arrival of the train, access to the remote community was provided by the Pine River road that continued north from Ellis Junction (Crivitz). Drivers had to strap themselves in the high seats of the wagons to keep from being thrown down due to the stumps and logs of the corduroy road that passed through the numerous wetlands.

The Pike River road also provided access. This road began in Marinette and was built by the Menominee River Boom Company to haul supplies to the logging camps.

The railroad was a welcomed improvement and made possible the transportation of the granite paving blocks, building stones, and later gravestones, products of the granite quarries that made Amberg a leading producer of granite in the Midwest. Six years later the community of Pike became the Town of Amberg and by 1905 the population had grown from a few settlers to 2,802.


Train cuts

The "Cuts"

There is an area north of Amberg, similar to the rock ledge shown in this photo, known as the "Cuts." It took about two years for the crew to cut through the granite ledge. Two blacksmith shops, a boarding house, and a tavern were built there and remained until the work was completed. Near the "Cuts" a spur was later built to the Aryle and Martindale quarries.

Mail bag

The Mail Bag

A mail crane enables the train to pick up mail without stopping the train. There is a catcher arm attached to the train that is adjusted so it catches the bag where it is tied in the center.  Incoming mail bags are thrown off the train.

There is an interesting story in the Cedarville deport exhibit when a store clerk sent a package by mail. Check it out when you visit the museum.

Train engineer

The Train Engineer

The engineer sits on the right side of the train to watch the train and observe  the signals along the track.

The long lever held by his left hand is the throttle that controls the speed of the train. Below that lever is a small handle that controls the engine's brakes. Below and to the left is a sand control. Further down near his right hand is the air brake that stops the train. The large lever on the right side of the cab reverses the train's direction. See if you can find the whistle cord?

Conductor & Engineer

Keeping the Train On Time

The engineer and the conductor compare watches to make sure they agree.

Prior to 1883, just before the railroad came to Amberg, cities and towns went on "sun" time. In other words, each had their own time.

After 1883 a standard time was developed. Clocks in railroad stations were corrected daily. Railroad workers could then adjust their clocks to keep the time uniform and maintain regular schedules.

Trains were often identified by the time of departure. For example, there was a 7:56 train arriving from Republic, Michigan, on the 24th of January, 1861 at the Amberg depot.

Loading baggage

Loading Baggage

One of the jobs at the Amberg Depot was loading and unloading baggage for the passenger trains that stopped at the station.

The baggage car was usually located just ahead of the passenger cars. It was used to transport trunks and smaller pieces of baggage or suitcases.  Other personal bulky items such as bicycles, skis, or even pets were carried in these cars.

An original baggage cart such as the one in the photo is on display in the Amberg depot.

Hauling Freight

Hauling Freight

Hauling freight was a chief responsibility at the small Amberg depot. Local businesses depended upon the railroad to ship their goods for resale. People who moved to town shipped their household goods by train. People living in town could take overnight shopping trips to Marinette and then ship any goods purchased back to town by the railroad.

Freight could also be shipped anywhere in the United States by the Railway Express Agency. Need a new ice box or refrigerator? You could purchase it using a Sears catalog and ship it by Railway Express Agency right to the Amberg depot.

Shipping Logs

Shipping Logs

In the early years of logging, logs were moved by the Menominee Boom Company down the Pike River which flows into the Menominee River to sawmills in Menominee and Marinette. The last river drive in the Amberg area occurred in 1913.

After the Menominee Boom company ceased, lumber companies began building their own railroads to connect to the main line, the Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul, which bought out the Milwaukee and Northern railroad in 1893.

Car inspector

Car Inspectors

Incoming trains at larger stations and railroad yards such as Green Bay were inspected regularly. Car inspectors were one railroad worker who was always "looking for trouble."

In this photograph the inspector is examining the cotton packing in the journal box to make sure it is properly packed and oiled. Failure of a journal box caused friction and the heat could require the train to stop to cool off.

Notice the lantern. There are several examples in the Amberg Depot exhibit.

Taking on water

Taking on Water

Steam engines require water to make steam. In this photograph the fireman is filling the tender tank. These tanks can hold as much as 15,000 gallons of water. The tender also carries the fuel to run the engine. Most to the steam engines ran on coal which is stored in the front of the tender and shoveled into the engine by the fireman.

Amberg had a water tower located near the Amberg Granite Company finishing shed just north of the depot.

The conductor

The Conductor

The conductor is like the captain of a ship. He arrived before the train left the terminal to make sure all personnel were ready for duty and the train was properly outfitted for the journey. He also collected tickets and fares of passengers taking short trips and punched tickets of other passengers who made stops along the way. It was his responsibility to make sure the train left the station at the exact time of departure. Under no circumstances could a train leave the station before its scheduled time. Can you think of a reason why?

The caboose

The Caboose

The caboose was the office of the freight train. The conductor kept track of each shipment kept on the train.

The caboose was equipped with a table, water cooler, benches and chairs, a washstand, and other conveniences for the crew of the freight train. The cupola was where the conductor or brakeman kept careful watch over the train. The wheel at the end worked a hand brake. The ladder helped workers climb on the roof to signal the engineer. Signal lights were attached to brackets on the side of the caboose.

Today trains no longer use a caboose.

Stop, Look, Listen

Railroad Crossings

Remember to "Stop, Look, and Listen" at a railroad crossing.

In 1957 a death occurred in Amberg from a train when six-year-old Russell Koster was killed. This exhibit is presented in his memory.

Bear in mind, "Better Safe than Sorry."

The above photographs were taken from "A Study of Railway Transportation" by the Association of American Railroads, Washington, D.C., 1945. The photographs and two-volume teaching unit are now stored in the Amberg Museum archives.