Wednesday, October 02, 2019

looks like a bit of abandoned rail road, which would be a good place to ride with a custom bike for riding rails, from County Rd DL to Devils Lake, and then on to the Wisconsin River, in Sauk City Wisconsin (90 miles West of Milwaukee)

the above sign says that this was a C and NW railway, which went bankrupt and was bought by Union Pacific  

the blue lines are now owned by other railroads; dotted lines are abandoned.

and another leg goes to Baraboo from Sauk City, and this 140 year old stone bridge will likely outlast us all, on Halweg rd,  by Merrimac Town Hall

and out there in the middle of no where it looks like there used to be a military base or something like a town, which has little but old pieces of paved road left now

near Merrimac, but there's very much a lot of city grid pattern road, and nothing else

Huh, well, I got lucky in very little time,
"Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area was once designated as an army ammunition plant that manufactured nitrocellulose-based propellants during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It was the largest munitions factory in the world during World War II.

So.... "the largest munitions factory in the world during World War II" 100 miles West of Milwaukee
was known as the Badger Army Ammunition Plant

The plant was in production from 1943-1945 for WW II, from 1952-58 for the Korean War and early Cold War period, and from 1966-75 for the Vietnam War. 25,000 worked here on construction and production during WWII alone, with a maximum of about 6700 at one time—a population larger than the those of the nearby villages of Prairie du Sac and Sauk City combined. Women Ordnance Workers, nicknamed “WOWs”, were especially important during WWII, and they comprised about half the work force by the end of that war.

Badger Army Ammunition Plant

The bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 brought the U.S. immediately into World War II. Within a few weeks, planning for construction of the Badger Ordnance Works (later Badger Army Ammunition Plant) on the Sauk Prairie began. Within several months, 74 farm families had been forced to move off their farmsteads, the farm buildings, churches and schools were moved or destroyed, and construction of the largest propellant factory in the country began in earnest. The Plant eventually encompassed 7,400 acres and contained over 1,400 buildings and more than 120 miles of road and rail. The Plant was idled but kept in a state of readiness from 1975 to 1998.

Safety was a critical issue here, and the security force guarded all entrances, checked employees as they arrived and left, and patrolled the interior and the perimeter roads by foot, car and motorcycle.

And there was an additional cadre of safety inspectors. Matches, lighters and smoking materials were strictly prohibited. Many are the cat-and-mouse stories of workers sneaking smokes, and some getting caught and fired, or disciplined for as little as a single overlooked match in the bottom of a purse.

Why was the ammo plant making gunpowder in Wisconsin?

The supply of wood pulp.

Cotton or wood pulp was combined with nitric and sulfuric acid to produce nitrocellulose, to begin the transition into propellant. With each production step the material was moved eastward to new buildings designed for the next process, which included mixing, hydrating, drying, wringing, heating, pressing, screening, rinsing, resting, and extruding and cutting strands of propellant. As the material moved eastward and became more explosive, the buildings took on features such as break-out doors, escape chutes, lamps that shown into windows from the outside, and bunkered barriers. The buildings also tended to be separated by more grassy space, so that if any building were to explode, it would not set off another.

Ball Powder was a double-base propellant. It began with nitrocellulose, made in the adjacent smokeless production area, and was augmented with highly explosive nitroglycerin, also produced at Badger.

During the Vietnam War, peaceful protests occurred at the front gate. The first was in 1966, when a group of 45 adults and children walked up from Madison. A less peaceful protest was made by the Armstrong brothers, who dropped ineffective, homemade bombs from a stolen airplane to the north of the front gate, on New Year’s Day 1970.

What they didn't know back then, was what the ammo plant pollution was doing to the ground water, and short story? It flowed to the Wisconsin River, and then South

The ammo plant was the origin of a plume of groundwater contaminated with chemical toxins and carcinogens, like carbon tetrachloride and dinitrotoluene, which have flowed south beyond the Plant, to residential wells and the Wisconsin River below the Prairie du Sac Dam.

If you think that's strange, and unexpected, try looking up a local kook, Dr Evermor, and his mirror eye, and the Forevertron, and Memorial to the Munitions Workers of America. Hippie weirdness of course, taken to the extreme

The Forevertron was going to be the world’s largest scrap-metal sculpture, weighing in at 300 tons, incorporating such historic pieces as Thomas Edison dynamos from the 1880s, and the decontamination chamber from the Apollo 11 spacecraft.

That's what happens when you drink the kool aid, and take the bad acid. So, don't do drugs.

The Future: Sauk Prairie Restored!

When the Army announced in 1997 that the Badger Plant was to be decommissioned, a group of representatives from the area’s conservation community came together to discuss the opportunity for a “green future” to heal the land at Badger.

From the above satellite view, they failed.

they wasted money on this painting through.  A painting by renowned artist Victor Bahktin, “Sauk Prairie Remembered” was commissioned to serve as the future vision of the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance for the land. There were many years of public planning of the Badger property, and then deconstruction of the buildings ensued from 2004 to 2013. Then, when the govt no longer funded anything, nothing was done. The artist died in 2016

as you can see if you click on these for full size, there appears to be some abandoned rail cars, and switch yards (below is next to the St Vincent DePaul)

and the closer it gets to Sauk City the easier to see that it's been abandoned since at least the 1995 sale to Union Pacific

lower left corner is a good indicator that it's not just abandoned, it's ignored, and overgrown.

The CNW was known for running on the left-hand side when running on double track mainlines. In the United States, most railroads used the right-hand track along double-track mainlines, while left-hand running was more common in countries where British companies built the railroads.

According to a display in the Lake Forest station, the reason for this was a combination of chance and inertia. When originally built as single-line trackage, the CNW arbitrarily placed its stations on the left-hand side of the tracks (when headed inbound toward Chicago). Later, when a second track was added, it was placed on the side away from the stations so as not to force them to relocate.

Since most passengers waiting at the stations were headed toward Chicago, the inbound track remained the one closest to the station platforms. The expense of reconfiguring signals and switches has prevented a conversion to right-hand operation ever since.

 Might be getting made into the Great Sauk Trail, piece by piece, mile by mile

and from the piece of rail in the back of this old rail station (Sauk City Prairie De Sac) still with a sign claiming "The Milwaukee Road" I'm guessing there was a hope of a rail road museum

and in the above image, upper left, you can see the Great Sauk Trail come from the upper right of the image, down to the left, cross the road, and then it is a nice biking trail along the river

one of the many historical items of interest are the few Center Harp Shorties wig wags, iconically and nearly only used on the CNW, they were deemed unable to do the job by the feds in 1949, but rarely were replaced and often survived until the 70s, and a couple are still out there in the far abandoned places where no one goes anymore

here you can see that the line dead ends on an isthmus, where the bridge was torn down over the river

on the far side of the river, is what's left of the bridge

The railroad operated what was once the largest "potato yard" or potato market, at its Chicago Wood Street yards. Potatoes came to the yard from every point in the United States to be bought or traded by produce dealers and brokers.

A couple significant and historically important employees of the CNW were
Charles Ingalls, father of Laura Ingalls Wilder,  William B. Ogden, the first mayor of Chicago and  Abe Saperstein, founder of the Harlem Globetrotters.

and here I thought the most interesting thing I'd post all day was that Harley was a bridge engineer, and some of his bridges might still exist for Harley Davidson motorcycles to drive over


  1. Soil remediation is probably the big issue for funding.

    1. Agreed.... and contaminated water... I added some more to the post, I'm not sure how complete it was when you read it, I worked on it all afternoon

    2. Excellent bit of work BTW. Hadn't thought of the water supply, that's often troublesome with these old military installations and ammo factories as well. Dinitrotoluenetoluene (DNT) is nasty because it doesn't degrade much when its in groundwater. Carbon tet is bad too but isn't completely soluble in water so it can be filtered, or aerated out-but that's tough because you have to figure out where it is, and it can take decades for the chemicals to bloom in the groundwater.

  2. That river looks like sludge...

  3. Epic post. Well done!

  4. All of the old Ammo production plants are terribly contaminated,
    Ive helped test the ground water at the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant in Chattanooga TN
    part of it was that back then no one knew all those chemical were terrible pollutants, and the other part was that if we didnt win the war against the Germans and Japanese, then what difference would some pollution make?

    another terribly polluted site in in Hardeman County TN, where a company called Velsicol (which was never fined and is still in business polluting every site they have) buried 300,000 fifty-five gallon drums of D-D-T and carbon tetra chloride.

    1. 300,000 drums, so, about 1.6 million gallons of DDt and Carbon Tetra Chloride..
      Good grief. Why the hell couldn't they have put all that in some train cars made up of oil tanks... the kind that transport oil from field to refinery, and left it in a train yard somewhere for us to deal with when we could figure out what to do with the stuff? Buried, it's just going to foul the water supply.. couldn't they find a friendly volcano and pour it in?

  5. My new job is located at what used to be the Erie Ordnance Depot. From WWI until 1965, artillery pieces were test fired here day and night. In addition to whatever chemicals may be in the ground, there are probably thousands of inert rounds and possible live rounds in the ground and out in Lake Erie. I was told that the Corps of Engineers and bomb squad have done a few clean ups along the beach to pick up projectiles that wash onto the beach.

    The 9th picture down shows the buildings that my company, ARES, uses and the concrete wall in the background is where the range starts.

    There is also a vacant factory on the property where Uniroyal used to make Naugahyde.

    1. wow, that's a crazy coincidence of where you now work, and my randomly made post! I didn't set out to find, or post about, this ammo factory.
      I didn't know that Uniroyal made naugahyde!
      History... so often it surprises the hell out of me