Only foundations remain of River Colony, a former neighborhood of a half-dozen year-round homes on the east bank of the Milwaukee River on the north side of the Locust Street bridge. The homes faced the water. Immediately to their rear the river bank climbed steeply to a railroad cut made by the Chicago & North Western Railway (today’s Oak Leaf Trail). East of the railroad tracks, the ground again rose steeply to Cambridge Avenue, about forty feet above the colony. Photo by Carl Swanson
Just north of the Locust Street bridge, Cambridge Woods Park narrows considerably squeezed between the Milwaukee River and the Oak Leaf Trail. Here the walking path passes a number of tightly spaced crumbling concrete foundations, some covered with graffiti, some barely more than rubble amid the weeds and wildflowers.
You are walking across the doorsteps of River Colony and in its day this was one of the most unusual neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
This segment of Milwaukee’s Oak Leaf Trail between the lake front and Estabrook Park was built on the former Chicago & North Western Railway’s main line north of its former lake front depot. Eighty years ago, this was the route of the fastest long-distance passenger train in the world. Photo by Carl Swanson
Most users of Milwaukee’s Oak Leaf Trail between the lake front and Estabrook Park are aware, or could easily guess, they are using an old railroad right-of-way. Few realize this was once the route of the fastest long-distance passenger train in the world – the Chicago & North Western Ry.’s 400, which routinely covered the 400 miles between St. Paul, Minn., and Chicago in just 400 minutes – and that included all station stops in between.