News & Reviews News Wire Brookfield, Wis., depot prepared for move

Brookfield, Wis., depot prepared for move

By Jim Wrinn | October 29, 2021

Former Milwaukee Road station will be shifted about 350 feet from current location between railroad tracks

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Passenger train passing one-story wooden station
The eastbound Empire Builder passes the former Milwaukee Road station in Brookfield, Wis., in November 2018. The station is set to be moved on Nov. 4. (Trains: David Lassen)

BROOKFIELD, Wis. — One of the last remaining Wisconsin depots on the former Milwaukee Road main line is about to move after being in one place for more than 150 years. The 1867 Brookfield depot will be relocated starting at 10 p.m. on Nov. 4, city Economic Development Coordinator Todd Willis tells Trains News Wire.

The Italianate clapboard depot will be relocated 350 feet southwest to the corner of Brookfield Road and Northhills Drive and restored to become a coffee shop, Willis says. The often-photographed depot is located between Canadian Pacific’s two main line tracks, where they come together after running separately from nearby Elm Grove to the east and join to run side-by-side west through Duplainville to Pewaukee, where single track starts.

Heritage Movers is in charge of the relocation, and One Source Construction will handle the renovation for owner Ram Subedi. A Fiddleheads Coffee shop had been part of the plan for the restored depot, but another store, as yet unnamed, will occupy the space.

Willis said that workers this week are busy bracing the structure, taking down the chimneys, disconnecting the electrical and water and sewer systems, and preparing the foundation. The work window on the Canadian Pacific begins at 9 p.m. and goes to 1 a.m.

Both state and city funds are going to the depot move, a complicated project that has been in planning for five years because of all of the entities involved. “It finally came together,” Willis said.

14 thoughts on “Brookfield, Wis., depot prepared for move

  1. I rode the Cannonball when I was in the Cub Scouts in 1972. We had taken a school bus to the Milwaukee public museum, and then took the train back to Brookfield. Seems like I remember going in, and getting a little speech from possibly an old ticket agent in the ticket office. He showed us a few old telegraph keys, and I distinctly remember leaving the depot, and seeing a passenger train blowing through, which was probably the Empire Builder. I have taken many photographs of the depot over the years. The track circuit lights inside the bay window were very handy for knowing when a train was approaching. Standing next to that window at night, when Amtrak’s North Star train blasted by, was quite exhilarating! There can’t be too many depots sitting in between main line tracks like Brookfield’s does. Somewhat impractical and unsafe in today’s railroad operating environment. I hate to see it moved, but glad it’s being saved.

  2. Charles and Erich – Just a thank you for putting all this history and these memories on the record. Enjoyed reading it.

  3. Average ridership on the Cannonball prior to discontinuance was about 50-60 riders spread among the two cars. Easily handled by a single bus. Maybe 1-2 would get off in Wauwatosa and Elm Grove. Maybe 5 in Brookfield and Pewaukee. Heaviest users were riders in Pewaukee, Hartland, and Oconomowoc proximity of subdivisions to the tracks and distance from Milwaukee combined I believe is what fed that ridership. Watertown maybe on a good day 10 people. Milwaukee Road allowed the riders to bring booze on board the evening run, which was another popular feature passengers liked.

  4. Charles, I forgot to add the original Milwaukee and Mississippi line curved from Elm Grove and entered Milwaukee via West Allis and became the Air Line into Milwaukee. The original Milwaukee and Watertown took the present mainline route through Wauwatosa. The grade over the Milwaukee and Mississippi is less than the grade that the Milwaukee and Watertown chose, that is also why the lines bend away from each other in Brookfield.

    1. The indirect main line through ‘Tosa and the curves through Elm Grove and Brookfield make this a slow line unsuitable for commuter rail – or former Gov. Jim Doyle’s absurd proposal for “High Speed Rail” which would have winded its way through the western suburbs at 50 mph.

      Still in all, the long gone MILW Cannonball and the brief 1990’s traffic mitigation train gave the western suburbs rail access to Chicago, which we don’t now have.

      Back to the subject, I took me last bike ride of the season to the depot site to see what’s shaking. Biking there from home requires pedaling up the hill in central Brookfield, a hill both lines avoid by swinging north along lower ground.

  5. ERIC – Thanks for all the information. I always suspected the subject lines were built as two different railroads, as until fairly recently (but no longer) there were two MILW lines west from Brookfield Road as well as two MILW lines east from Elm Grove.

    Zisters restaurant in Elm Grove is my frequent haunt both for the great food and for patio dining with a view where EB and WB tracks come together. Almost every meal includes a CP Rail container ship – always with distributed power and occasionally with power at THREE locations, front, rear and middle. Thankfully Wisconsin was among the first states to reopen dining after COVID, despite the efforts of our wretched governor to keep the state locked down.

    The bridge over North Avenue is somewhat unique: HALF a grade crossing. WB trains go over North Avenue on that bridge. EB trains cross North Avenue at grade. Whoever paid for that bridge was prescient – at the time North Avenue was a two-lane rural road but the bridge spans allow for four lanes and two sidewalks. This years’ rebuilding of North Avenue (Waukesha County Trunk Highway M) fits under the bridge with room to spare.

    1. Erich,
      Very interesting to read your comments and extensive knowledge of the junction. Much of what I’ve read seems to suggest that the original M&M line was the one through Wauwatosa to Elm Grove and not the Air Line to West Allis. Historical accounts document the first trip by dignitaries traveling through Wauwatosa to Waukesha. See link:, which includes maps. What are your thoughts on this?
      Also, when leaves are off the trees, I believe the original M & LaCrosse embankment is clearly visible looking NW from the intersection of Elm Grove Rd and Juneau Blvd in Elm Grove, WI. Some homes now appear to be built on it. Also a couple of questions: What was the path of the LaCrosse from the intersection of Elm Grove Rd and Watertown Plank Rd south to where it would intersect with the current (abandoned) Air Line grade? When was the line from Elm Grove to Wauwatosa and Milwaukee double tracked?

  6. Another BTW, A truck struck the North Avenue Bridge which was a wood trestle in 1972 knocking the tracks out of alignment and derailing the Westbound Cannonball right after the bridge FP7, baggage car and one coach on its side, other coach tilted and about over on it’s side but not quite. The derailment obviously caused an immediate fall off in ridership and a number of people were hospitalized with cuts and bruises. I believe that was May 1972 and I am not sure the Milwaukee ran the train again after that derailment. They suspect it was a cement truck that knocked the trestle out of alignment. I saw the derailment aftermath as a kid. They replaced the trestle with the steel girder bridge you see in place over North Ave now shortly after the derailment (maybe in a year or two). Brookfield News has decent photos of the wreck if you can get into their archives or if the Brookfield Library has old issues or microfische.

  7. Charles Landley, I used to live in Brookfield and used the station and know it’s history quite well. First and foremost the seperation of lines through Brookfield is because they were two seperate railroads originally. In the picture above the Amtrak train is traveling through the former parking area of the depot for stages and buckboards. The line the Amtrak train is on was laid about 10-15 years after Depot construction. So in effect this is not designed to be the track facing part of the Depot. That is on the other side where the bay window is (dispatch ticketing area). Also why the integrated signal to stop trains is on that side of the depot. The far tracks were the first laid tracks and part of the Milwaukee and Mississippi. The tracks the Amtrak train is on used to belong to the Milwaukee and Watertown railway. West of Brookfield Road the Milwaukee and Mississippi crossed the Milwaukee and Watertown at grade and swung across the road where the Depot is moving to and onto Waukesha, then Prairie Du Chen, WI. The roadbed and steel bridges should still be in place for the Brookfield to I-94 segment. I walked it while it was still rail banked. It crosses a river several times on a steel girder bridges. Anyhow, Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul merged the Milwaukee and Mississippi, Milwaukee and Watertown, and Milwaukee and La Crosse railroads all under it’s single Corporate name of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul. The Milwaukee and La Crosse used the North Milwaukee Line and then headed West to Portage Jct to La Crosse. Milwaukee and St. Paul connected after merger the Milwaukee and Watertown to Portage Jct with the Milwaukee and La Crosse and had the bulk of it’s cities mainline. Brookfield used to be known as Brookfield Junction and was an interchange between Milwaukee and Mississippi and Milwaukee and Watertown. The interchange stayed active until the early 1980’s well into the Milwaukee Roads life. There used to be a Westbound Siding west of the Brookfield Depot that crossed Brookfield Road and served a Lumber Yard which is now a condo complex. Just before Brookfield Road was a small railroad warehouse which was torn down about 1970’s sometime. I speculate it used to be an ICE HOUSE for storing ICE and refrigerated goods for the Town of Brookfield. On the tracks Amtrak is on, they used to have a siding as well that crossed Brookfield Road. Brookfield Road used to be a 4 track crossing. Anyways the sideing on the tracks the Amtrak train is on were dead ended at Brookfield Road sometime before the 1960’s but the siding was kept almost all the way to Calhoun Road rejoining the mainline before the curve. So each long siding served as an interchange to the directional running in Milwaukee times with the branch to Waukesha and Prairie Du Chen. Westbound the siding would take interchange traffic West and Eastbound the siding would take interchange traffic East to Milwaukee. They sometimes would park a switcher at the Depot, after 1979 it was usually a single MP15AC. Primarily the interchange in Brookfield handled gravel by the small train load from the gravel quarry in Waukesha. Milwaukee Road used it for track ballast. So you would see long strings of hoppers with gravel sometimes on the Westbound main bound for Portage or on the Eastbound main bound for Milwaukee. The Depot itself, the part facing Brookfield Road opposite the end you see above was the Express / Baggage section and had a truck dock fitted to it after trucks came into fashion, Hence the large door there. The waiting room is what is facing the camera above with one window boarded up, the second window they covered with siding after the depot closed in 1972 but they used to have two windows facing this direction. It was a very nice waiting room with wood wainscotting going halfway up the walls, the depot had 2-3 church pew like benches inside for waiting for trains and could seat or hold about 20-30 people comfortably. The local Milwaukee to Watertown commutter train was nicknamed “The Cannonball”, not sure what it’s real name was on the schedule. Usually an FP7 and 2-3 coaches, sometimes 4 for the holidays. That was 1968-1972. Sometimes it was an E unit. Milwaukee Road ran that train for 1 year after Amtrak formation trying to get the City of Milwaukee interested in preserving the route. Mayor Mier of Milwaukee was for it, suburbs against. Under Henry Ruess D-WI, they got a $50,000 grant and resurrected the train in the mid-1980’s and used the new Budd SPV-2000 with an old Milwaukee Coach trailing. The coach you could not sit it but Milwaukee felt it had to be two cars to activate the signaling and one car was too short to be safe. They ran that demo for a week. It failed to garner enough interest to restart rail commutter service. Then came the Amtrak extensions in the 1990’s due to I-94 reconstruction. I was out of state by that time so I did not see those personally. The park and ride lots along I-94 were a compromise from the 1980’s run of the resurrected train and that is why you see Park and Ride lots today on I-94 Westbound out to at least Pewaukee (highway G) there was one in Delafield as well on highway 83. State contracted with Wisconsin Coach Lines to run service Milwaukee to Watertown into Milwaukee in the morning and outbound in the evening just like the train and on a similar time schedule. I rode that into UWM to go to college a few times, it was nice and you knew everyone on the bus……just like the train was when it ran.

  8. Wisconsin DOT sponsored a commuter run in the west suburbs maybe around 1997, consisting of a west extension of the a Hiawatha train. This was traffic mitigation for a paving project on IH 94 west of downtown. If I recall correctly 25 or so years later, it was a two-year paving project but the train ran only one of those two years. If ridership was announced at the time I have no memory. There was little or no parking at most locations, no suitable platforms … I boarded from a street in Elm Grove with the crossing gates down. Prior to that year and ever since, there has been no Amtrak stop in the west suburbs, which the Empire Builder runs through without stopping. Plenty of Waukesha County residents ride the Hiawatha but must get to downtown Milwaukee by car or bus to do so.

  9. So glad another old railroad structure was able to be saved and reused thanks to great determination.

    Larry Allen

    1. LAWRENCE – Not much of a structure, really. Maybe picturesque, but small and shabby. Just about the most minimal depot I’ve ever seen.

      Though on the main line, there was only one train that called there, according to a 1957 Official Guide I have. It was an all-stops local in from Watertown to Milwaukee in the morning, out from Milwaukee to Watertown in the afternoon. If memory serves it was discontinued around 1970.

      Interestingly, from Milwaukee to Chicago (or vice versa) in ran nonstop. So Chicago to Milwaukee it was an express; from Milwaukee to Watertown it stopped every few miles.

  10. Artist Gil Reid lived in Brookfield and said he’d painted that depot so many times he could do it with his eyes closed. I have a photo of him doing so – although presumably with his eyes open. Here’s hoping that whoever takes over will include at least a nod to the building’s history in its decor.

  11. I live nearby. The separation of the EB and WB tracks fascinates the railfan in me. The tracks are separated so far that people who live in Brookfield or Elm Grove between the two tracks (or visit a City of Brookfield park) can’t see trains on either.

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