Clarence Strouts brings train routes to Marshfield
By Kris Leonhardt
The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad (C&NW) began its dominating railroad business when it was chartered by the states of Wisconsin and Illinois in 1859. After acquiring multiple other railroads, completing connections mostly north and west from Chicago, C&NW gained controlling interest of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway, also known as the Omaha Road.
In 1901 additional line was laid from Wisconsin Rapids to Marshfield, extending a recently added connection from Princeton to Wisconsin Rapids and creating a joint connection for the railway system in Marshfield.
Clarence E. Strouts was the son of English-born parents, who had moved west to the Chicago area when the city was still small and Native American villages occupied areas now heavily populated. After the family’s move to Minneapolis, Strouts became employed by the Omaha Road, and in 1905 he came to Marshfield as the company’s agent.
In the early weeks of May in 1909, Strouts would return to the former home of his parents to speak with railroad officials. While in Chicago, Strouts would lobby C&NW to bring passenger trains No. 409 and No. 410 into the Marshfield station, two locomotives that originally had layovers in Wisconsin Rapids.
Armed with a petition from local businessmen, the Marshfield agent reasoned with officials on the benefits of providing service to the active city.
By the time he returned from his trip, Strouts received official notice that service would begin May 23.
By cutting down on run time between Wisconsin Rapids and Milwaukee, the trains would reach Marshfield at the same time they would have entered the station at Wisconsin Rapids.
The 410 was then scheduled to leave Marshfield at 5 a.m. and enter the Milwaukee station at 11:30 a.m. The 409 would leave Milwaukee at between 4 and 5 p.m. and arrive in Marshfield at 11 p.m. A roundtrip would allow five hours in Milwaukee.
In addition, those taking the regularly scheduled 12:50 p.m. train with direct access to Chicago could return on the 409, giving them a few hours in Chicago.
The move made daily access available to Marshfield businessmen and gave area residents more options for daily excursions.
Years later, Strouts would purchase a bus and baggage business, which would bus customers to and from the Hotel Blodgett as well as other Marshfield locations. His son, George H., would take over as ticket agent at the Marshfield depot. Service to and from Marshfield would later fall victim to advancements in transportation and the changing times.