Sept. 28, 1871, was an exciting day for the people of Waupaca.
The first train arrived in town on the newly laid tracks of the Wisconsin Central. The city finally had its window to the world where people and goods could efficiently be transported, allowing it grow and prosper.
For decades, the people of Waupaca relied on passenger trains to take them and their loved ones wherever they wanted to go. Businessmen and those in the military traveled by train. Tourists used the train, making Waupaca a popular vacation area. Mail and packages were transported in the railroad baggage and mail cars.
Over the years, technology changed and people preferred to use their own automobiles, especially as the roads were improved. Long distance travel by air was quicker. Fewer passengers boarded trains.
On Jan. 15, 1965, northbound Soo Line train No. 3, “The Laker,” the last passenger train to stop at Waupaca, departed from Chicago on its final trip to Duluth, Minn.. Pausing at the Waupaca depot, five Waupaca area people, wanting to make the final trip, boarded the train and left the station at 2:50 a.m. Jan. 16, ending nearly a century of service
The Waupaca County Post ran a story about the train in the following week’s paper. As a 9-year-old boy, I cut out the story to paste in a railroad scrap book I was making as a Cub Scout project. I still have that scrap book. Little did I know that some day I would be restoring the depot for the Waupaca Historical Society.
To commemorate 50 years since the last passenger train stopped at the depot, the facility will be open for visitors from 7-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 16, and again from 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17.
The restoration is nearly complete. There will be refreshments and a presentation on the history of Waupaca depots. Visitors may also try cross country skiing or snowshoeing on the quarry trail behind the depot if the weather permits.