Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Saturday Morning Post - Meet the Nelsons

  • Mark and Mike Nelson are identical twins, and were born in tiny Cuba City, Wisconsin, where their father Clarence was the agent/operator at the Chicago & North Western Railroad depot.

  • Later they moved to Janesville, where their father worked as the operator at the CNW South Janesville yards. It is there where the seeds of Mark and Mike's love of trains were sown.

    Mark and Mike Nelson with their dog "Trixie"

  • They attended Marquette University Dental school and became dentists in the US Army, serving in Korea and Vietnam. Taking advantage of the ability to procure good 35mm cameras, they were on their way to capturing classic rail action once stateside.

  • Though they have photographed many of the fallen flag RRs, it was the CNW that was their first love. To this day their license plates read "CNW 400" after the famous 400 fleet. They live today in Oregon, Wisconsin and are still active photographing and presenting shows. They are also active in the Wisconsin Society Sons of the American Revolution.

    We now present Part 1 of the extraordinary and historic railroad photography of Mark and Mike. ENJOY !!!

    Chicago & North Western Railroad - CNW operators desk - South Janesville, Wisconsin - 1955. Its late at night and 3rd trick Operator Clarence Nelson, father of Mark and Mike Nelson, taps back the orders he's just copied on his Form 19 pad, confirming the Dispatcher's intent. These were the days when timetable & trainorders directed traffic and kept trains safely on the move and apart from one another. The telegraph was the conduit for the communications, thank you Thomas Edison. Later in his RR career Mr. Nelson served as Operator at the CNW Woodstock, IL., station. (Photo by Gus Gruver - Nelson Collection)

    Milwaukee Road - FM H-12-44 - General Motors Plant - Janesville, Wisconsin - June 17, 1976. The GM plant at Janesville gets switched simultaneously by Milwaukee and CNW jobs in happier times. GM will end all production at this plant, a community fixture since the 1920's, by the end of 2008.

    Chicago & North Western Railroad - EMD F7(A) - CNW yard - South Janesville, Wisconsin - May 31, 1970. CNW train #576, with 5 loads and 46 empties (left) readies for departure to Proviso yard in Chicagoland. It is viewed from atop a loaded in-bound autorack of 1970 Camaros. (Camaros and Firebirds were made in Norwood Ohio and Van Nuys CA). At one point, GM employed over 7,100 workers (1978) at Janesville, and by 2005 over 16 million vehicles had been produced at there.

    Chicago & North Western Railroad - EMD SD45 - CNW Madison sub - Janesville, Wisconsin - May 24, 1969. Hustle Muscle pulls muscle cars. CNW train #483 was a Janesville-Twin Cities manifest, seen here from the top floor of the old CNW depot with what appear to be Chevy Novas fresh from the Janesville GM Plant, slated to close 12/23/08 after 85 years of auto/truck production. Today, WSOR trains pass this spot on the way north to Madison, via ex-Milwaukee trackage.

    A special thanks goes out again to Ray Peacock at for doing all the leg work, putting this information together for the Viewliner Ltd. Thus, allowing us to see another great story of railroading in America, as it was.

    The Saturday Morning Post will feature Mark & Mike's photography every Saturday for the weeks to come. So don't forget to stop by and see more historic railroad pictures. Thank You!

    Anonymous said...

    Great photos. I especially love that trainload of Camaros! Camaros and Firebirds were made in Norwood Ohio and Van Nuys CA. The Janesville plant manufactured the GM A bodys the Chevy Caprice and Pontiac Catalina etc.

    John Pullman

    Anonymous said...

    Yes, Mr. Pullman is correct. I have discovered that those Camaros pictured were inbound loads so the caption is in need of correction. The train on the left is the outbound, getting ready for departure to Proviso yard in Chicagoland.

    In addition, the photo credit of Operator Mr. Nelson Senior should be given to Gus Gruver, a Nelson family friend, and is part of the Nelson collection.

    Ray P.

    Mark and Mike Nelson's future site:

    Viewliner Ltd. said...

    Thank you for the additional information Mr. Pullman. I have made the corrections. And thanks for stopping by. Very much appreciated.

    Thank you Ray. Getting the right information is great. I gotta tell you this is a lot of fun! Richard.