Connecting Ozaukee County's Past, Present & Future
The Ozaukee Interurban Trail was not always a trail, but the route of the Interurban Electric Railway. It opened in 1908 and ran from Milwaukee to Sheboygan. The Northern Route had stops in the mostly rural communities of Brown Deer, Thiensville, Cedarburg, Grafton, Port Washington, Belgium, Cedar Grove, Oostburg, and Sheboygan. Until it ceased operation completely in 1951, many people leaving the city for work or play traveled on the railway.
Workers used the railway to access factory jobs, making cigars, shoes, nails, and pearl buttons. Perhaps the most famous “commuters” were the African American blues singers who traveled north in the 1920s and 30s to use the recording studio in the Grafton chair factory, which eventually became Paramount Records.
After the railway ceased operation, the land was retained, and the company, by that time called Wisconsin Electric (now We Energies), began to convert parts of the trail into bike paths in 1975 - an easy conversion because the trail was built on old railroad beds. In 1998, Ozaukee County and several of its communities received state funding to lease the land from Wisconsin Electric and complete what is now known as the Ozaukee Interurban Trail.
October 1907: Milwaukee Northern Railway (MN Rwy) began interurban service between Milwaukee and Cedarburg
November 1907: Service extended to Port Washington; MN Rwy began local streetcar service on its line in Milwaukee
September 1908: Service reached Cedar Grove and Sheboygan, entering the city on the tracks of Sheboygan Light, Power & Railway
April 1923: Milwaukee MN station closed and cars began using Public Service Building
1922: Acquired by The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company (TMER&L) and operated as a subsidiary
1912: Line became double-tracked from Milwaukee to Brown Deer
1925: Cars shared new Sheboygan terminal with the Wisconsin Power & Light
April 1928: Officially merged into TMER&L system
December 1931: New route through Port Washington used part of former C&NW spur and passed through the Wisconsin Chair Factory building
October 1938: TMER&L became Wisconsin Electric Power Co. (WEPCO); transit operations taken over by the Milwaukee Electric Railway & Transport Co. (TMER&T)
July 1933: Route in Milwaukee changed from 6th Street to 3rd Street; freight service ended
September 1945: Line between Milwaukee and Port Washington sold to Kenosha Motor Coach Lines (KMCL)
1947: KMCL sold to Shore Line Transit Corp
Afterwards: After the line was abandoned, some portions of the right of way were sold (e.g. Fire Ridge Golf Course). Some parts were on city streets and were abandoned. Some trestles were torn down such as the ones in Mequon and Grafton. Sections were taken for road construction (e.g. I-43). The Culvert under the railroad tracks in Port Washington was filled in.
March 1948: Line abandoned between Milwaukee and Port Washington; a section of track in Port Washington remained in electric freight service to bring supplies from an interchange with the Chicago and Northwesten Transportation Company (C&NW) to the power plant (lasted until mid 1970s)
Thank you to the Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society and the Milwaukee Transit Archives and Museum for information and photos used in this page.
September 1940: Line abandoned between Sheboygan and Port Washington; cars turned on a new loop in Port Washington
Outbound Interurban Car
Historic Milwaukee-Northern Interurban Car
Viaduct in Grafton