Transportation Planning Board

Rail Service

Rail freight service in Dane County is provided primarily by Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Company (WSOR), a short-line regional carrier. Watco Companies, LLC (Pittsburg, Kansas), a privately held transportation services company, acquired WSOR in 2011. Under the agreement, WSOR will retain its Milwaukee headquarters and all necessary operations in order to serve its existing and future customers.

WSOR is the principal or only operator on all rail lines in the county except a portion of the line running from Madison through DeForest owned by the Canadian Pacific Rail System. WSOR dispatches 36 trains per week or about 1,900 annually out of the Madison rail yard. In 2011, WSOR shipped 800,000 tons or 8,200 carloads of freight. Grain (31%), aggregates (18%), and chemicals (13%) made up the largest percentage of car loadings shipped in 2011. In terms of county origin/destination traffic, aggregates (29%), grain (25%), steel (16%), and consumer products (13%) made up the largest percentage of car loadings.

Three rail transit commissions have been created in southern Wisconsin to preserve rail service or the potential for rail service, and to influence policies on the future use of rail corridors if rail service is discontinued. Dane County belongs to two of these commissions, the South Central Wisconsin Rail Transit Commission (SCWRTC) and the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission (WRRTC).

The WRRTC has an operating contract with WSOR for rail freight service on the publicly owned east-west rail corridor. Freight rail service was terminated on the publicly owned north-south rail corridor from Madison to Monroe in 1996. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WisDNR) entered into an agreement with the SCWRTC and WisDOT to operate a recreational trail and take over management responsibilities for the rail corridor. The southern segment of the trail from Belleville to Paoli was completed in 2007 and the paved northern segment through Fitchburg and connecting to the Capital City Trail was completed in 2010.

Union Pacific discontinued service on a rail line south of Madison and north of Evansville before the City of Fitchburg and the Village of Oregon purchased it in 1999 with a grant from WisDOT for a planned joint business/industrial park. That project has yet to be implemented. In 2013, a concrete and building supply company, which expressed interest in using a reactivated rail line, began constructing a new ready-mix concrete plant in the Village of Oregon’s Alpine Business Park. In September 2013, WSOR received a Freight Railroad Preservation Program (FRPP) Grant in the amount of $2.3 million to help pay for the improvements needed to open the 10-mile railroad corridor between McCoy road in Fitchburg and West Netherwood Road in Oregon. Funding for rail and rail crossing improvements will also be provided by the WisDOT, Fitchburg, Oregon, and the concrete supply company. The concrete plant is expected to open in October 2013, and the rail line is expected to reopen in late 2013 or early 2014.