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home : top stories : top stories April 16, 2014


5/8/2013 12:51:00 PM
Readers can travel old Blueberry line through book

Arlyn Colby of Barron is leaving tracks as an author after the recent release of a second book on railroad history.
"The Blueberry Line" is a 180-page paperback book that chronicles the history of the 66-mile Rice Lake, Dallas and Menomonie Railway that began chugging its way through Barron and Washburn counties in 1894.
The railway was dubbed the Blueberry Line because of the abundant blueberry bushes that grew along the tracks. After extensive logging operations in northern Wisconsin, blueberries thrived on the land.
Legend has it that trains on the Blueberry Line would stop so passengers could pick blueberries en route. Colby suspects one train would drop passengers off and another would pick them up.
The Railway, which was purchased by the Soo Line Railroad, spanned from Ridgeland, Dallas, Hillsdale, Barron and Cameron to Rice Lake, Campia, Mikana, Birchwood, Edgewater and Reserve.
It was projected to extend north to Lake Superior and south to Menomonie but was never completed to those destinations.
Over time the lines were abandoned-the branch line from Birchwood to Reserve in 1931, from Rice Lake to Birchwood in 1936, and from Ridgeland to Barron in 1962.
The branch from Barron to Cameron is in use today by the Canadian National Railroad.
Colby's first book, "The Mondovi Line," was published in 2008.
He is also working on another book, "The Chippewa Valley Line." It tracks down the history of the Milwaukee Road track that ran from Wabasha, Minn., to Durand, Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls with a branch track to Menomonie and Cedar Falls.

Ties well-established
Colby is a graduate of Eleva-Strum High School and UW-Eau Claire who established ties in this area as a high school mathematics teacher and coach in Barron from 1970-2000.
He explained his switch from math teacher to railroad history enthusiast.
"I have always had an interest in railroads and now that I am retired, I have the time to research and put the material together. I want to see the history and pictures saved about these railroads before they are no longer available. And I don't think many people will put the time into the research that I have. For my next 'Chippewa Valley Line' book, I have been researching that material for 5 years."
"The Blueberry Line" is the result of a year and a half of research. It contains 180 high -gloss pages with 191 black-and-white pictures, 12 color pictures, 38 maps, and 121 charts, letters and reports.
In addition to an overall history of the railroad, there are chapters featuring each community on the line with a brief history of the town, a map showing industries on the railroad and railroad pictures.
"I pursued every avenue I could find for pictures and information," Colby said. "Many pictures and much valuable information came from the Soo Line Railroad Historical Society archives in Appleton. I went there four times."
The author added, "Much information was gathered from the Barron and Rice Lake libraries going through old newspapers, starting with the year 1883."
Others who contributed are mentioned in the book's credits.

Enjoying the ride
Although Colby never had the opportunity to ride the Blueberry, Mondovi or Chippewa Valley lines, Colby has been able to visualize what it might have been like through his research.
He remarked, "Sure wish I could have, but pursuing the history of the lines makes me feel like I was actually there as I read the old newspaper accounts."
Through his long journey of research, Colby's enthusiasm never derailed.
"The Blueberry Line" is available for $30, and "The Mondovi Line" for $25, including tax, plus $4 for postage.
Colby is also offering a compact disc of 39 vintage Hillsdale pictures for a minimum $5 contribution. All proceeds will be donated to the Barron County Pioneer Village Museum.
To order a copy of his books or CD, contact Colby by calling 715-637-3928 or writing to him at 427 Pine St., Barron, WI 54812. Or go online to "barronrrbooks@yahoo.com."

Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, February 28, 2014
Article comment by: Jacob Kuykendall

Arlyn Colby, - My grandfather Fred Kirk (Kuykendall) was the construction manage for the section of the Blueberry line that extended up to Reserve, WI. When he finished the project he married a Chippewa lady and built a farm on her 80 acre allotment on the reservation at Blueberry Lake (don't know if he named the lake) - but he was one of the first white settlers to live there. I grew up on the farm.

Would be pleased to tell you what I know.
Jacob Kuykedall
25 Hampshire St.
Sudbury, MA 01776
(cell) 978 505 5022

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