Make your own free website on
The Bayfield Transfer Railway Page

Table of Contents

The prototype Bayfield Transfer Railway

The Bayfield Transfer Railway is the third attempt at a railway connection for the town. In the 1850s the Bayfield and St. Croix railway almost connected Bayfield to St. Paul just as both towns began their boom cycles. However, Bayfield lost this chance thanks to a Louisiana senator named Proctor Knott -- for whom the town of Proctor, MN, on the DM&IR was named.

The railroad finally came to Bayfield in 1883 with the arrival of the C.M.St.P.&O. Also in 1883, William F. Dalrymple founded the Bayfield Transfer Railway. Dalrymple had huge farm holdings in the Dakotas, and he wanted his railroad to provide cheap transport for his grain to Lake Superior.

Dalrymple's plans never materialized, and he built just over 3 miles of track. In 1914 Henry J. Wachsmuth bought the line and turned it into a logging railroad with just over 8 miles of track total. There is also a record of at least one locomotive, Bayfield Transfer Railway #1, a Lima Shay. A photo of a Shay, probably #1, is on display at the Bayfield Heritage Association.

By 1924 the timber industry was finished in Bayfield, with the last sawmill closing in that year. With no logging, there was no need for a logging railroad; thus the Bayfield Transfer Railway folded, also in 1924.

The model Bayfield Transfer Railway

Overall Concept

The model Bayfield Transfer Railway is a freelance model railroad set in northern Wisconsin in the mid 1980's. Briefly, the genesis of the BTR is hypothetically much like the genesis of the Wisconsin Central -- a shortline spun off of a larger railroad. However, instead of SOO Line spinning off the WC, the BTR was spun off from the C&NW. The two roads connected many of the same towns, and in fact there are places along the South Shore where the two railroads run parallel to each other for a considerable number of miles.

Routes and Traffic

The Bayfield Transfer Railway trackage is based on the northern part of the Chicago and NorthWestern Lake Shore Division, with a dash of BN. Specifically, the lines are as follows:

The main line starts at Itasca Yard in Superior, WI. Eastbound out of Itasca, we follow the old NP/BN line towards Ashland, WI, until we reach Ashland Junction. At Ashland Junction the ex-BN line has been joined to the ex-CNW line. Thus there are now 4 lines from the junction (all lines are ex-CNW unless otherwise noted):

Continuing east from Ashland Junction we pass through Ashland itself. Just east of Ashland is the ex-CNW ore yard, which was also used as a division point, and thus had a sizeable engine facility. This is the major classification yard and engine terminal of the BTR.

East of Ashland is the small town of Saxon, WI, with an automatic interlocking protecting the diamond across the SOO, with which the BTR interchanges in the town of Saxon itself. From Saxon we continue east to Hurley Junction. The Bayfield Transfer Railway continues east, rather than south along the Antigo line. At Ironwood, MI is interchange with another short line, the Ashland, Odonah, and Marengo (yes, it did exist).

From Ironwood we continue east to Wakefield, MI (really!), to Watersmeet,and at last to the CNW's Antione Yard in Iron Mountain, MI. This yard is shared between the BTR and the CNW, and is the eastern terminus of the BTR. However, trackage rights on the CNW allow BTR trains to continue to Green Bay and eventually to Chicago.

It is this Chicago connection that creates the economic drive for the BTR. When I first conceived of this railroad, I checked a 1981 Official Guide and found that no railroad in 1981 connected Duluth/ Superior to Chicago in less than 36 hours! Based on the mileage, I calculated that the BTR, following the above route, could connect the two cities in 12 hours, thus saving a full day. Amazingly, this was achieveable even on Class III track at a mere 40 mph.

This bridge traffic is the bread-and-butter of the BTR. The other conspicuous type of traffic is the paper industry traffic -- especially pulpwood. Pulpwood is in some ways a curious commodity; any paper mill has enormous piles of it, but yet it is still picked up one car at a time, here and there. If you like old-fashioned way freight operation well into the 1990s, pulpwood is the commodity for you.

The third type of traffic is a reflection of the modern economic situation in northern Wisconsin. In the last 10 to 15 years, this part of the state has seen solid economic growth -- such diverse industries as printing houses, plastic molding plants, chemical distributors, food processing, and the like have sprung up in and around the Fox River Valley and north. The BTR would, I assume, get its fair share of this general freight traffic.

Historical Differences

As with many freelance model railroads, especially those that closely follow a prototype railroad or geographic area, there are a number of assumptions made where the fictional history of the BTR differs from history as it happened. Understanding these will make the concept of the BTR much clearer. The major assumptions are as follows:

1) The Bayfield Transfer Railway, rather than just disappearing forever in 1924, was absorbed by the Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Omaha (Omaha Road) as a "Paper Corporation", much as the early Wisconsin Central was absorbed. After the CNW consolidation of the 60s, BTR became a subsidiary corporation of CNW, much as did the Omaha, M&StL, and CGW.

2) The Chicago and North Western was not in quite such a screaming hurry to tear up the rails after abandonment in the late 1970s. Thus, there were actually rails available after the Staggers act passed in 1980.

3) The BTR is formed from abandoned CNW lines in 1980.

4) The Milwaukee Road does NOT sell its Green Bay-to-Channing line to ELS, so the Milwaukee is still present at Antione Yard once a day to swap ore trains.

5) Since the BTR existed in 1980, the economic factors that lead to the SOO selling off its Lake States Division in 1987 never came to be; thus, in the world of the Bayfield Transfer Railway, the Wisconsin Central does not exist. (Sorry, Mr. Burkhardt)

Numbering, Painting, and Lettering Standards



The numbering of rolling stock on the Bayfield Transfer Railway depends entirely upon the time period involved. In the late 1970s, the BTR was a ‘paper corporation’ formed by Phineas T. Stouphangel in a horrendously unsuccessful attempt to cash in on the mid-70’s boxcar shortage and the IPD shortline boxcar craze. Thus, the rolling stock fleet and numbering scheme of the 1977-1980 period reflects this. The BTR boxcar fleet of this era was a mishmash of leftovers; in his haste to ‘cash in on the boxcar shortage’, Stouphangel purchased a large number of near-derelict cars, including a sizeable number of used 40’ boxcars -- as if any railroad would pay IPD rates in the 1970s to lease a 40’ car!

There were also, however, a number of 50’ boxcars, and some of them did get leased. Many of them were 20 to 30 year old AAR 50’ cars with 6’ and 7’ doors; some were slightly more modern 50- footers of the early 60’s. In any case, these boxcars wound up on the road with the minimum work necessary; usually, the reporting marks were painted over and “BTR” stencilled in, and that was it. Whatever number had been used by the owning railroad was kept, so numbering in this time period followed no system at all. Therefore, you would see older style, extremely beat-up boxcars, heavily weathered, with a set of road initials that did not match any of the other type faces of the car. Any heralds or trademarks were painted out, often very roughly. To get some idea of what these cars looked like, think of the CNW repaints of the ex-Rock Island cars in the early 80s, the Escanaba and Lake Superior’s overspraying of Soo Line white and red boxcars, or CNW converting ex-Norfolk and Western boxcars by painting a ‘C’ in front of the ‘NW’.


After the Staggers Act passed in 1980 and the “shortline boom” began, Stouphangel incorporated the Bayfield Transfer Railway as an actual railroad. At that time a new painting and numbering scheme was devised. The BTR has a logical, if overly complicated, numbering methodology for its rolling stock.


Locomotive numbers are either 2, 3, or 4 digits. 2-digit numbers are assigned only to switchers. 3 and 4 digit numbers are found only on road locomotives. On road locomotives, the number indicates the rated capacity and type of locomotive. The first digit of a 3 digit number, or the first 2 digits of a 4 digit number, indicate the rated pulling power of the unit. This is expressed in terms of number of loaded cars, where the average weight of a load is considered 75 tons, the ruling grade is 1%, and track speed is 40 mph. (Further discussion of the effects of load, grade, and speed on diesel locomotive pulling power can be found in the Appendicies of Kalmbach Publishing’s Contemporary Diesel Spotter’s Guide.)

The final 2 digits of a road locomotive’s number are its unique class number. On the Bayfield Transfer Railway, note that all 4-axle diesels are numbered between 01 and 49, while all 6-axle diesels have numbers that end in the digits 51-99. The numbers ‘00’ and ‘50’ are never used, for much the same reason that a railroad timetable never shows a 12:00 departure using a 12-hour clock.

Thus, based on the above, the locomotive BTR 617 (a BL-2) is a 4-axle diesel rated at 6 loads on the ruling grade, while BTR 1044 is an ex-CNW GP35 rated at 10 cars. BTR 1455, similarly, is a six- axle engine rated at 14 cars --an ex-SP U36C. Thus, the number of a unit tells a great deal about it.


Waycars (cabooses, on other roads besides BTR and CNW) are divided into ‘Maintracker’ and ‘Local’ waycars, and numbered in different series accordingly. The term ‘Maintracker’ originated on the Omaha Road, and its use by the BTR reflects the CNW/CMO influence on that shortline. The term as used on the Bayfield Transfer Railway has been slightly modified and refers to trains that either do not switch between terminals, or stop only in major yards to drop and pick up blocks of cars; in other words, trains that do no local switching. ‘Local’ waycars, in contrast, are used only on freights that work local industries.

The distinction between ‘Maintracker’ and ‘Local’ waycars is more than academic. All ‘Maintracker’ waycars are of the coupola type. However, there are still many industrial locations where vertical clearances are extremely limited -- a holdover from iron-mining days. Thus, all ‘Local’ waycars are of the bay-window type. Further, ‘Maintracker’ trains have a two-man crew, with the engineer in the locomotive cab and the conductor/brakeman in the waycar. Thus, ‘Maintracker’ waycars are equipped with permanently mounted long-range radios, the same as are in the locomotive cabs. ‘Local’ waycars, however, are not equipped with radios since local trains have three-man crews; the engineer and conductor are both in the locomotive cab, so the conductor has direct access to communication with the dispatcher. The waycar on these trains is occupied by the rear brakeman, who carries a portable radio to enable communication with the front of the train. Similarly, the conductor also has a portable available for when he must dismount to act as brakeman.

All waycars of both classes have numbers of five or more digits. All ‘Maintracker’ waycars have a number that begins with the digit ‘0’ (zero). ‘Local’ waycar numbers always begin with the digit ‘9’. The exact number of digits in the road number varies because of the BTR management’s propensity for ordering cars out into service immediately. Thus, many waycars are seen on the end of trains still in the badly-weathered and rusty paint of their previous owner, with either a ‘0’ or a ‘9’ hastily hand- painted in front of the existant road number, and a line through the previous reporting marks with ‘BTR’ roughly added. (The use of crayons for this purpose has never been proven -- or disproven.)


Freight cars on the Bayfield Transfer Railway are numbered in a six-digit scheme. The first two digits indicate the year that this car was purchased. The third digit indicates which purchase of cars for the year the car was purchased in. Thus, the first group of cars purchased in 1981 would, for instance, be ‘811nnn’, while the second 1981 purchase would be ‘812nnn’. The first three digits provide a chronological placement for the car. The last three digits are the car’s serial number within that purchase order. Note that while the BTR has occasionally purchased more than 100 cars at a time, it has never purchased even 500 at once; therefore, the likelihood of needing more than three digits is extremely remote.

Some wags have observed that the BTR numbering scheme, having only 2 digits to indicate the year, is not “year 2000 compliant”; that is, after the year 2000 there will be no way to tell a car purchased in 2011 from a car purchased in 1911. When confronted by various wits on this subject, rather than long, tedious explanations about legal restrictions on the number of years a car may remain in service, Colonel Stouphangel merely smiles politely, tips his hat, and replies, “Kiss my caboose”.

Note also that he invariably refers to the last car of a freight train as a “waycar”.


(Diagrams/photos forthcoming)


All Bayfield Transfer Railway lettering is in Times Roman White, all upper-case. In HO scale, use 10-point type.


Locomotives on the Bayfield Transfer Railway are painted forest green (Southern Ry. Sylvan Green) and white. The entire body, including steps, is green. The ends, and, on low-short-hood units the numberboard area, is white. There is a wide white stripe along the bottom of the side sill that covers the ends of the handrail stanchions. Frame, trucks, and fuel tank are black. Snowplows appear on all road units, and are left natural aluminum.


Waycar painting follows locomotive color standards. Note that on ‘Maintracker’ waycars the cupola ends are white, but on ‘Local’ waycars, the ends of the bay windows are green.


Painting standards for Bayfield Transfer Railway freight cars depend on the type of car. BTR divides its cars into ‘standard’ and ‘equipped’ cars. The distinction is based upon whether tarrif rates allow a higher charge for the car due to accessories such as load dividers, cushion underframe, etc. This is similar to the “Colormark” distinction of the Soo Line, where the ‘de luxe’ cars are painted in white and red, but the ordinary cars still appear in freight car red. Similar schemes are also found with the CNW (Standard Yellow/Zito Yellow vs. box car red) and Milwaukee Road (Federal Yellow vs. tuscan red).

Equipped cars are painted as are the locomotives, with a body color of Southern Ry. Sylvan Green. The use of white is getting more and more rare, however; the ‘811nnn’ series of XL boxcars featured a white door, for instance, whereas by the time of the ‘861nnn’ series of Evans RBL cars, the white was eliminated.

Equipped cars also tend to have much more lettering; cushion underframe slogans, large initial- type heralds, and the like. (For the herald, use the uppercase initials BTR in 72-point type for HO scale).

Standard cars are painted much more simply. The overall color is boxcar red, and the lettering is reduced to the absolute minimum lettering required by federal standards. The exact shade of boxcar red that the Bayfield Transfer Railway uses has generated considerable contraversy. The true reason behind this is simple; there is no standard color! Rather, the BTR uses whatever approximately boxcar red paint is cheapest at the time the car in question is being painted. Thus, although most cars are a fairly light color (Polly S Boxcar Red) that is close to ATSF mineral brown, a wide range of colors are appropriate, from maroon to tuscan and everything in between.

There is no truth to the rumor that the BTR uses whatever color of brown Rust-Oleum (tm) in spray cans is on sale at the Washburn Tru-Value Hardware (tm). However, this is only because the store won’t give a quantity purchase discount.

BACK to BTR Home Page