Development of the rail lines in this area was begun in 1871 from Hudson, Wis., by the North Wisconsin Railroad Co., and completed by the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha RR Co. to Ashland, Superior, and Eau Claire by 1890. The Chicago & Northwestern Railway Co. acquired the Omaha in 1892, but did not operate the Omaha lines in this area in the name of the Chicago and Northwestern until 1956.
In 1882, the Division Headquarters were moved from Chandler two miles north and located here at Spooner, the center of this area, named after Senator John C. Spooner. A large passenger depot, freight depot, express office, restaurant, switching yards, roundhouse, locomotive and car shops, lumberyards and Division Offices for the superintendent, trainmasters, dispatchers, master mechanic, road masters, and bridges and buildings supervisors were constructed. In all, some 600 persons, including depot and freight agents, engineers, firemen, conductors, brakemen, switchmen, repairmen, baggagemen, expressmen and office workers were employed here during this time.
Every day eighteen passenger trains, eleven logging trains, ten freight trains, 4 section crews and 55 chain gang crews ran out of Spooner. Passenger service terminated in 1961. Wood burning engines were used 1871-1885; standard coal burning, hand fired engines to 1912; Mikado (heavier) engines started to be used in 1913, stokers in 1930, and diesels in 1950.
Spooner continues as an important railroad center of the Chicago & Northwestern, handling tremendous tonnage. Its large payroll is a vital part of the area's economy.