Your Help is Needed to Complete Our New Display Building

Mid-Continent Railway Museum has one of the largest restored wooden car fleets in North America and is continuing to obtain and restore additional wooden cars. Nowhere else is there anything like it, and its potential is tremendous. At the present time the restoration department is actively restoring two wooden passenger cars and has many more cars waiting to be restored. Of those cars waiting restoration, many are stored outside and subject to further deterioration by the elements. The Car Shop, where the restorations take place, has room for approximately 8 cars and is currently full. If you would see, or have seen, the wooden cars that have been restored by the member volunteers, you would agree that the restored cars are works of art. 

Currently once a wooden car is restored, there is no place to display or store the car. Mid-Continent has only one building on the property that is currently used for the display of restored cars, the Coach Shed, and that building is filled to capacity (13 cars). Three of the cars currently stored in the Car Shop are fully restored and take up room where other wooden cars could be stored pending restoration.  It would be totally impractical to place a restored car outside, subject to the elements, especially a Wisconsin Winter, as the car would have to be restored again in just a few years. The only reasonable solution is to build an additional coach shed for displays.

Tarped train car

A shortage of indoor storage and display space leaves tarps and temporary coverings as the only means of providing a modicum of protection to many of Mid-Continent’s treasured collection items – obscuring them from public view in the process.

In 2016, Mid-Continent received the final payment from a bequest from the estate of Laurence H. Dorcy totaling $968,046. The funds received from the Dorcy estate were restricted, but could be used to build “a structure for the restoration and storage of railroad cars.” The Board of Directors of Mid-Continent has approved the building of a new Coach Shed #2. At the present time, work has begun on the site development and grading phase of the building project. The next phase of the project is the construction of the Coach Shed and the building of track to the new Coach Shed. The total estimated cost of the project is $1,144,000.

Proposed site plan for new display building.

Proposed site plan for new display building.

Site development and grading can be viewed in real time on our webcam. Images update every 10 seconds.
Q: Why hasn’t there been any activity on the camera in March?
A: Due to warm weather in February and March, local roads currently have weight restrictions in place. Dump trucks cannot resume hauling until the restrictions are lifted.


The mission of Mid-Continent is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the railroad legacy for the educational benefit of the general public. Its primary focus is on railroading of the Upper Midwest during the Golden Age of Railroading, 1884-1915.

This is why we are turning to you now. We need $176,000 to complete the project. Would you help preserve wooden railroad cars of a bygone era?  Please consider making a contribution to Mid-Continent so that this worthwhile project can be completed.

Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society, Inc., a not-for-profit Wisconsin Corporation, is an outdoor living history museum and operating railroad, and is accredited by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization. All contributions to Mid-Continent are tax deductible.

Make your donation via mail using our New Display Building Donation Form or donate online using the form on our Donation page. Be sure to write in “New Display Building” in the online donation form. Credit/debit card donations can also be accepted by phone at 608-522-4261 or 800-930-1385 during museum office hours. Donation acknowledgement letters for tax deduction purposes are promptly mailed after each gift.

Fundraising total last updated: March 6, 2017

A Message from the Restoration Department

Our very large collection of wooden passenger cars dates from the Golden Age of Railroading (1884 to 1915). Several of the restored cars have received prestigious awards for their historically accurate and high quality restorations. These cars are gems, with the restored cars being diamonds and the cars awaiting restoration being diamonds in the rough. 

The wooden passenger car collection consists of (24) cars, built by (9) different car builder companies dating from 1864 to 1912. Nine of the wooden cars have been painstakingly restored, two are in the process of being restored and the balance of the cars are awaiting resources to restore the cars to their former beauty. Restoring a 100+ year old wooden car is no small undertaking as it can take some 10,000 man hours and anywhere from $150,000 to $1,200,000 depending on the level of volunteer labor.  In the Car Shop the volunteers strip the wooden cars to their frame, replace any rotten or defective wood, and then rebuild the cars to their original glory, meticulously following the details that the original builders made when the car was originally built.

The collection contains a full array of passenger cars including luxurious first class cars, business cars, coaches, combination car, a sleeping car, baggage and mail cars. In addition the collection includes the only original “fish” car that has been preserved and restored. This unique car was built for the Wisconsin Fish Commission in 1912 to stock fish (fingerlings) in streams and rivers throughout the state of Wisconsin. The collection also includes complete sets of passenger equipment from specific railroads such as the Soo Line, Lake Superior & Ishpeming, Copper Range and the Duluth South Shore & Atlantic. These sets of equipment add to the importance and significance of Mid-Continent’s wooden car collection.

Presently only 50% of Mid-Continent’s wooden car collection is under cover with only 25% of them accessible for the public to view. This priceless collection is at significant risk due lack of appropriate enclosed exhibit space. The challenge now is to find the necessary resources to protect these gems from the harsh environmental conditions of Central Wisconsin. A new exhibit building is urgently needed to house Mid-Continent’s wooden passenger car collection, provide public access, provide additional exhibition space, and assure that these gems are preserved for future generations. We thank you for your consideration.

Photo gallery shows before and after photos of Copper Range Railroad #25.

September 24-25, 2016 Flood Update and Detour Route

UPDATE WEDNESDAY 9/28/2016 9:31 AM

Water levels have steadily gone down since Monday morning. Museum Road remains closed as of Wednesday morning but is expected to reopen by late Wednesday or Thursday. Roads have also reopened in the neighboring village of Rock Springs. Museum visitors coming for the weekend of October 1-2 are not expected to encounter any travel impediments.

UPDATE SATURDAY 9/24/2016 9:07 AM

Hwy 136 and County Hwy DD in the village of Rock Springs are now closed. This will impact visitors traveling via Reedsburg and points immediately west. It is recommended from Reedsburg to follow Hwy 33 east all the way to Baraboo in order to approach North Freedom from the east via Hwy 136 and County Hwy PF. Using this detour, travel time from Reedsburg is estimated at 40 minutes rather than the typical 20 minutes.

Flooding Closes Area Roads

Recent heavy rains have caused the Baraboo River to rise to moderate to major flood levels. Water is anticipated to completely cover Museum Road (a.k.a. Diamond Hill Road) by the afternoon of Friday, September 23 and remain covered throughout the weekend. Museum Road is the primary route used by visitors to reach Mid-Continent Railway Museum.

The flooding is not anticipated to impact Mid-Continent’s ability to remain open and operate train rides as scheduled.

When arriving from the direction of Baraboo/Wisconsin Dells/Madison, a detour route is available which requires an additional five minutes travel time. White ground-directional signs pointing the way to Mid-Continent will be placed along the detour route, beginning at the 4-way stop sign in downtown North Freedom. Directions are as follows:

  1. From the 4-way stop sign in North Freedom, follow County Hwy PF south for 3/4 mile
  2. Turn right on Ulrich Road, follow it for 1 mile
  3. Turn right on Museum Road, follow it for 3/4 mile
  4. At the stop sign, turn right. Continue for 500 feet. The museum depot is located on the left side of the road.

Google Map of Suggested Detour Route

For any questions, please contact Mid-Continent Railway Museum at 608-522-4261 or toll free at 800-930-1385.

MCRM Awarded $10,000 Grant from Emery Rail Heritage Trust for DL&W 595

MCRM has generously been awarded a grant from the John H. Emery Rail Heritage Trust for the museum’s Delaware, Lackawanna & Western No. 595 coach car. The Trust recently announced the car is receiving a $10,000 matching grant toward rebuilding the trucks on which the historic 1915 coach rides.

The rebuild is being completed as part of a major rehabilitation program of Mid-Continent’s four Lackawanna coach cars, the backbone of the museum’s operating fleet. DL&W Nos. 425 and 557 have already gone through the truck rebuilding program and No. 563 will follow. The cars have faithfully served the museum for decades, but wear and tear have finally caught up with them, necessitating substantial truck overhauls.

As a dollar-for-dollar matching grant, Mid-Continent must receive $10,000 in donations toward DL&W No 595 by no later than March 31, 2017. To ensure Mid-Continent is able to make full use of the grant, please consider making a donation.

The Emery Rail Heritage Trust previously awarded Mid-Continent $10,000 toward the Chicago & North Western No. 1385’s boiler during the Trust’s inaugural series of grants awarded in August 2015.

The Emery Rail Heritage Trust was established in Paola, Kans. by the late John H. Emery. John was a long time Chicago resident, but had deep family ties in Paola. He was an avid rail enthusiast who loved to ride trains around the world, and wanted to help preserve rail equipment and infrastructure that will allow future generations to share his experiences during what he considered the “Golden Age” of railroads, from 1920 – 1960.

Make your donation via mail using our printable donation form or donate online using the form on our Donation page. Be sure to write in “D&LW 595 Matching Grant” on both the printed and online forms. Credit/debit card donations can be accepted by phone at 608-522-4261 or 800-930-1385 during museum office hours. All donations are tax-deductible.

Fundraising total last updated: March 14, 2017

Update 3/14/2017

Thank you to the donors who helped us reach the $10,000 goal. Your donations together with the John Emery Rail Heritage Trust have combined to raise over $20,000 towards the D&LW #595. 

DULUTH Arrives at Mid-Continent

By William Buhrmaster, Mid-Continent Railway Museum

On September 7th the DULUTH sleeping car arrived at Mid-Continent Railway Museum.
The sleeping car was unloaded on September 8th and is now setting on a pair of 6-wheel trucks for the first time in 82 years.

Duluth South Shore & Atlantic sleeping car “DULUTH” is one of a series of five 10-section sleeping cars built by The Barney & Smith Car Company of Dayton, Ohio in 1902. The car is of all wood construction, with varnished mahogany interior, fine marquetry throughout, stained glass windows and green plush upholstery. In addition to the sleeping section the car features a stateroom, a smoking room as well as men and women lavatories. The car was used on the DSS&A’s North Country Mail (between Duluth, MN and Sault Ste. Marie) and remained in active service until 1934. The car left the DSS&A in December 1934 when it was sold to a Michigan resident and hauled to the shores of Lake Superior where it has been used as a summer cottage for the past 81+ years. In December 2015 the owners, Bob and Beth Krasche, generously donated the DULUTH to Mid-Continent Railway Museum. Since then museum volunteers have been finalizing plans to load, move and acquire appropriate trucks for the car.

The team helping unload at North Freedom.

The team helping unload at North Freedom.

See also: DSS&A Sleeping Car DULUTH Fund Drive Begins