Dropping rail service
Line may be discontinued in Manawa
By Ben Rodgers
Wisconsin Central is seeking a formal discontinuance on a stretch of railroad from New London to Manawa.
“Simply put, to abandon a rail line is to permanently close it down and take it out,” said Patrick Waldron, spokesman for Wisconsin Central. “But discontinuance is a little more technical. It removes what is called a common carrier obligation from that specific rail corridor.”
That obligation means Wisconsin Central would no longer serve the 10.3-mile line from New London to Manawa.
“Between those two locations there is no rail customer and there hasn’t been a rail shipment since 2012,” Waldron said.
From the railroad’s perspective the first step is publishing a public notice, which will appear in the July 14 edition of the Waupaca County Post.
After the notice has been made public, documents will be filed with the Service Transportation Board.
From there STB has 50 days to resolve the issue.
“This isn’t abandonment,” Waldron said. “The infrastructure, the rail line, the rail corridor, still would exist after this is completed.”
He also said if things change, service could come back onto the line.
“A discontinuance preserves the rail corridor and if economic circumstances were to change the rail’s service could be restored,” he said.
Manawa Mayor John Smith would rather see the line go altogether.
“It certainly is a step in the right direction,” Smith said.
Currently a rail spur runs behind the western part of Manawa. If that was totally abandoned it would open up more commercial opportunities in town.
“It may open up lots of new opportunities for us and I believe that it’s a step in the right direction for some of our other projects to start to move forward as well,” he said.
Another project Smith would like to see in the Manawa area is the rails to trails program, which would convert the old train line into a trail for hiking or biking.
“As far as the main rail line goes, this discontinuance, that part of it will allow the state of Wisconsin to move forward with the rails to trails program which benefits many smaller communities like ours,” he said.