The earliest railroad in Wisconsin began operating in 1851 and by 1856 rail had come to Ripon. This allowed Ripon to become a regional hub and agricultural shipping center as Ripon was the most western extension of the rail line at the time. Passenger service started in the late 1850s and increased with the rail extension to Green Lake Center and onto Princeton in the early 1870s. This allowed travelers from the south access to the cool waters of Green Lake and its resorts. With rail lines running through Ripon from five directions, passengers and freight could travel by train anywhere in the nation.

Passenger rail ended in the 1950s, but trains still pass through Ripon carrying goods across the nation. Several of the rail lines are gone, but they have been converted into recreational trails for hiking, biking, and snowmobiling.