In 1864, the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company consolidated with the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad Company, owners of the Beloit and Madison line.
The new transportation route meant many changes in the way farmers and merchants marketed and received their goods. Shipments of grain and livestock to Chicago markets increased the income of local farmers and decreased the produce lost in shipment over muddy and sometimes impassable dirt roads.
Local merchants purchased goods in the Chicago markets and shipped them to Evansville for distribution to their customers. No longer did they need to rely on wagon loads of material. The rail cars offered a safer mode of delivery. Hotels, liveries, warehouses and lumber yards prospered near the railroad depot.
Railroad transportation improved steadily and in the 1870's Evansville was one of the main stops on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. A local newspaper reporter counted twenty-six trains in twenty-four hours in 1875.
By 1879 there were so many trains scheduled to meet in Evansville that the railroad company had to install a side track, east of the depot. The route was well traveled and Evansville was the half-way point between the depots at Baraboo, Wisconsin and Harvard, Ilinois.
The railroad brought many visitors to Evansville over the years. President Rutherford B. Hays made a whistle stop appearance at the Evansville depot in September 1878.
A company poster, circa 1950's
The railroad built a new coal shed along the Janesville cut-off. The new shed was the site associated with Evansville's first ghost story. on May 31, 1887, James A Flowers, a railroad employee was thrown from a coal car he was riding into the shed. he was crushed beneath the wheels of the car and killed.
On still nights through the winter of 1887, the railroad men said they could see the ghost of Flowers moving through the coal yard with a lantern. The spirit wandered near the tracks, even when a train was coming and the train men were afraid of hitting the ghost. The following February, the coal shed mysteriously burned to the ground.
By the early 1900's there were 13 north bound and 14 south bound passenger and freight trains arriving at the Evansville depot each week day. Evansville was a stop on the Chicago & Northwestern 400 line. The 400 signified the 400 miles and 400 minutes between Chicago and Minneapolis, Minnesota.