Tomah Subdivision

Last updated
Tomah Subdivision
EMD SD60 SOO 6022.jpg
Soo Line 6022, an EMD SD60, pulls a train through Wisconsin Dells on June 20, 2004.
Owner Canadian Pacific Railway
Locale Wisconsin
Termini La Crosse
TypeFreight, passenger
Operator(s) Canadian Pacific Railway, Amtrak
Line length103 mi (166 km)
Number of tracks1–2
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Route map


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south to CP/ICE Marquette Subdivision, north to River Subdivision
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Bridge Switch (La Crescent)
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Mississippi River
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Black River
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West Wye Switch
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La Crosse BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg
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Grand Crossing (BNSF Railway St. Croix Subdivision)
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West Salem
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Fort McCoy
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Tunnel City
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to Wyeville (Union Pacific Railroad)
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Tomah BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg
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to Wyeville (Union Pacific Railroad)
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Camp Douglas
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New Lisbon
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to Wisconsin Rapids (Canadian National Railway)
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Mile Creek
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Lyndon Station
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Wisconsin River
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Wisconsin Dells BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg
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Portage BSicon LOGO Amtrak2.svg
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east to Watertown Subdivision

The Tomah Subdivision or Tomah Sub is a railway line that runs about 103 miles (166 km) from La Crosse, WI in the west to Portage, WI in the east.

The line is operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway through its subsidiary, the Soo Line Railroad. The line crosses the Mississippi River between La Crescent, MN and La Crosse. Junctions in La Crescent lead to the River Subdivision to the north and the Marquette Subdivision to the south. East of Portage, the rails continue as the Watertown Subdivision. [1] Interstate 90 runs roughly parallel to the rail line.


Most of this segment of track was quickly built over the span of two years. The line was completed from Portage to New Lisbon in 1857, and from New Lisbon to La Crosse in 1858. It took several more years for the crossing of the Mississippi River into Minnesota to take place, but that finally was completed in 1876. [2]

The Tomah Subdivision previously had been operated by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road). In 1935, the Milwaukee Road introduced the Hiawatha passenger train, which ran at high speed between St. Paul and Chicago. Speeds were routinely over 100 mph, and with ATS in use between Portage and Hastings, MN, the Hiawatha had no speed limit. The Soo Line Railroad took it over in 1986 before Canadian Pacific did so in the 1990s.

Current usage

Today, Amtrak's Empire Builder uses the CP between Chicago and St. Paul, but speed is limited to 79 miles per hour (127 km/h). Along this segment it stops in La Crosse, Tomah, Wisconsin Dells, and Portage.

The Union Pacific Railroad has trackage rights from Tunnel City, WI through La Crosse. [3] These date from the Chicago and North Western reroute after the collapse of the CNW tunnel. [4]

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  1. Don Winter. "La Crescent to Portage". Milwaukee Road Hiawatha Routes. Retrieved May 31, 2010.
  2. Matt Van Hatten (September 2010). "Map of the Month: Milwaukee Road growth". Trains. pp. 50–51.
  3. Trains Hotspots:LA CROSSE, WISCONSIN. September 2014
  4. Tom Murray. Chicago & North Western Railway. Voyageur Press. pp. 18–. ISBN   978-1-61673-154-0.