It has been over 40 years since the last passenger train roared down the rails in the Fox Valley. The Chicago & North Western’s 400s were among the last to offer intercity rail service between Chicago, Milwaukee, and Green Bay. The popularity of the automobiles and airlines put rail travel in peril. Private railroad companies had to cut back or discontinue passenger rail service to save money. Congress responded with the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 that established the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) to continue passenger rail service where private companies could not. However, the Fox Valley would not be serviced by Amtrak.
There is new hope for passenger rail service in our area! According the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Connections 2030 plan for the Fox Valley Corridor, an intercity passenger rail network could be a reality in near future. A line from Chicago to Green Bay with stops in West Bend, Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Neenah, and Appleton would be included. Can you imagine the use this stretch would have? The rail service would be heavily used during Packer games. It could also be potentially helpful for cities like Oshkosh that have major events during the year. Interstate 41 is heavily traveled and helps the west side of town. The railroad could help spur some tourism to Oshkosh’s downtown area.
I am not sure if this plan died along with the high-speed rail project, but I think the Fox Valley deserves a passenger train again. It could be good to the communities it would serve, and it could relieve some traffic on the roads. Maybe former railroad depots could once again be used as stations.I think a lot of work would have to be done to add additional tracks to keep the trains running on time. Have you been on Amtrak? Where did you go and how did you like it? Do you think intercity passenger trains would be a good investment in the Fox Valley Corridor?