A Depot Destroyed - History Alive in Juneau County

by Bridget Lokken

Nearly 60 years ago on April 3, 1957 one of the biggest train
accidents in Mauston history occurred. Around 7:30 p.m. a
train with 139 cars derailed at the Division Street crossing,
hurtling 37 of its cars off the track. Two of them crashed
into the depot obliterating a large part of the building, another
two cars were split in two and some were telescoped into
one another. The rest of the cars blocked a few streets and
closed down Hickory Street.

Due to the extent of the wreckage, traffic had to be rerouted,
telegraph wires were knocked out and two railroad crossings
were destroyed. Initial reports stated that there were no injuries
or fatalities, but on the morning of April 4 as the clean
up crew were clearing debris the bodies of two men were
discovered crushed in the depot. The following day, the
body of a third man crushed under a steel beam was discovered
near where the other two men were found. It was discovered
the first two men were stowaways from Milwaukee
and the third man was a carnival worker from Racine
County. The stowaways bodies were never claimed and buried
by the county a few days after the accident. The last body was
claimed by family in Racine County and buried there.

It took about a week to finally have everything cleaned and
cleared up, traffic to return to normal and to rebuild some of
what was lost. It was later surmised that due to the finding of
two still burning wheels in the wreckage that a "hotbox" is
what caused the train to derail leading to the huge accident.

Thankfully, nothing of this magnitude has happened in this
town since that one day in April.