Arlyn Colby’s interest in western Wisconsin railroad history has resulted in The Park Falls Line, his fifth book in a series about local abandoned branchline railroads.  

This 75-mile railroad in northwest Wisconsin was built by the Omaha Railway in 1902. Originating in Barron County, it traversed through southern Sawyer County and into western Price County. It branched off the Omaha’s mainline track from Eau Claire to the Twin Ports north of Rice Lake. Locations on the line were Tuscobia, Brill, Angus, The Narrows, Birchwood, Wooddale, Yarnell, Lemington, Couderay, Radisson, Ojibwa, Winter, Loretta, Draper, Kennedy, Kaiser and Park Falls. It was built to move hardwood logs to area sawmills and became a general freight line after the logging industry ended.

The railroad line was abandoned in 1965. Today the line is an all-purpose trail called the Tuscobia Trail and enjoyed by many ATV riders.

A chapter about each town on the line gives its history, a railroad track plan in the town, and many pictures.  

Colby wrote his first book, ‘The Mondovi Line,’ and it was so much fun to research and write, and was so well-received, that he decided to write another book.

“There were several abandoned branch lines in West Wisconsin that I wanted to learn about, so I decided to put my findings into more books,” he said.

The most surprising thing Colby learned was the number of spur lines, or logging lines, that branched off the Omaha Railway tracks.  In the last 54 miles from Yarnell to Park Falls, he found evidence of 54 spur lines that brought logs from the woods to be hauled to the lumber mills.

“When I was young, I would see these branchline railroad tracks, but never with a train on them,” Colby said. “I always wondered where the tracks went and what the trains were carrying.”

Colby, who taught mathematics and coached for many years at Barron High School and graduated from Eleva-Strum Central High School and UW-Eau Claire, previously wrote four books about local abandoned branchline railroads.  They were The Mondovi Line, The Blueberry Line, The Chippewa Valley Line, an The Cornell Line.  

Colby hopes his books inspire readers to become interested in northwoods history and its historic railroads.

“I hope that readers will develop an appreciation for our local history, including the part that the railroads had in developing northern Wisconsin,” Colby said.

The book has 224 pages that include 286 pictures and 171 maps, charts, and diagrams. It sells for $35 plus $5 postage and handling, and available in Perfect binding or Spiral binding.  

Find more information about the five books at www.wisconsinrailroadbooks.com

Colby’s next book will be The Spring Valley Line and Ellsworth Lines, about the Omaha Railway’s track from Emerald to Weston through Spring Valley and the track from Stillwater, Minnesota to Ellsworth through River Falls. If you have pictures or information about these lines, please contact Colby at barronrrbooks@yahoo.com or call 715-418-0258.

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