WSOR Waukesha Industrial Spur, North End

South End View

Looking South, CN Cars Stored on the "Main Track" behind Waukesha Electric Company


Railroad, Waukesha go to court over access to industrial park

By Joe Taschler of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Oct. 30, 2009

Waukesha The Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. is asking a judge to find the City of Waukesha in contempt of court as part of a long-simmering legal dispute centering on what the railroad says is lack of access to an industrial park, court records say.

Filed in 2006, the case has seen a host of legal arguments, a proposed settlement that unraveled, and a judge's gentle admonition that lawyers on both sides "take a breath" as the proceedings grew in intensity.

The roots of the case date back to railroad tracks and rights of way along the former Chicago & North Western railroad granted to the City of Waukesha in 1988.

Wisconsin & Southern says that as "CNW's successor," it has the right to use tracks in the Waukesha Industrial Park. But a redesign of the rail network in the area, undertaken in 2001 and approved by the city, prevents the railroad from serving new customers, the company says in court documents.

In a court filing this week, attorneys for the company that was involved in the track redesign, Waukesha Electric Systems Inc., said the issue was decided in 2005 when a judge ruled the railroad does not have easement rights.

Wisconsin & Southern argues in the documents filed in the 2006 case that the changes in the track configuration, and railcars' being parked on tracks, block its access to the industrial park.

In late June, a judge ordered the City of Waukesha to provide access to Wisconsin & Southern trains and make certain track improvements, including installing a rail switch in the area.

On Oct. 20, attorneys for Wisconsin & Southern asked a judge to order the city to comply with the June ruling and hold the city in contempt.

The city, in a letter, says it complied with the order, forwarding the information to Waukesha Electric, which, according to court documents, has railroad cars parked on the tracks that Wisconsin & Southern seeks to use.

The railroad's attorneys say the judge's order requires the city to handle almost all aspects of opening the tracks in question.

"The clear meaning of this language is that the City of Waukesha, as owner of the trackage in question, and as grantor of the easement  must remove the barriers which impede access to the tracks in question, which barriers currently exist in the form of parked rail cars and rail car wheel stop devices," according to a letter filed by railroad attorneys on Oct. 22.

The filing on behalf of Waukesha Electric says the railroad failed to disclose to the court that it "had previously litigated, and lost, the issue of whether it hade enforceable easement rights in the property," according to a filing Wednesday.

Attorneys involved declined to comment.

Bill Gardner, Wisconsin & Southern CEO, says the railroad's rights are being violated. "We have legal rights and access to the industrial park," Gardner said.

Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson said that because the situation is part of ongoing litigation, he couldn't comment on specifics of the case.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 17 before Circuit Judge Ralph Ramirez.



Looking North ( note cut brush along ROW )


Looking North towards Sentry Drive


Looking South from Sentry Drive


Looking South from Bike Trail.  Note paved over rail!


Looking North towards Fox River Bridge


View of Fox River Bridge looking North


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