How Did They Build This Thing?

By Glenn Guerra, ©2001 MCRHS

One of the questions visitors ask us when they come to an open house at the Car Shop is how were these cars built. Unfortunately there are no existing Barney and Smith Car Company records from the time when the Milwaukee Lake Shore & Western #63 was built. There is very little documentation from any of the car builders of this period. So to answer the question, we must piece together information from railroad trade journals, some company records, and information obtained from the car itself.

The Trade Journals

The Pullman photos on this page were taken of a car built by Pullman in 1889. This car was a standard 17-window coach identical to MLS&W #63. Pullman built the car for display to show its design and construction. Note the use of solid blocking which was not used in the MLS&W #63. Pullman Collection, Smithsonian Institution.

The Pullman photos on this page were taken of a car built by Pullman in 1889. This car was a standard 17-window coach identical to MLS&W #63. Pullman built the car for display to show its design and construction. Note the use of solid blocking which was not used in the MLS&W #63. Pullman Collection, Smithsonian Institution.

For this era, our best trade journal sources are magazines called the National Car and Locomotive Builder and Railway Car Journal and a book entitled Railway Car Construction. Both magazines covered the design and construction of railroad cars. During the late 1880’s, William Voss, who at the time was a master car builder with the Burlington Cedar Rapids & Northern, wrote a number of articles for the National Car and Locomotive Builder.1 In 1892 he was enticed to write a book on railway car construction. This book, Railway Car Construction, is the only such publication written on the topic for this era. What interests us most at Mid-Continent is that at the time Voss wrote his book in 1892, he was then employed as the Assistant Superintendent of the Barney and Smith Car Company.2 Therefore some of his writings in 1892 could help us understand our car built just four years earlier in 1888.

What is most lacking in these articles and books, however, is the details and progression of construction. We know the woods most commonly used and where the parts are located but not the order they were installed, fasteners used, joints used, and the method of forming the parts.

Company Records

build03Some company records would be of help but they do not exist and may never have existed. The few company records that do exist are not specifically related to construction but are contracts for the purchase of cars.

One such record is the handwritten order for the Duluth South Shore & Atlantic Railroad #213, which was built by the Jackson and Sharp Car Company in 1887.3 This car is also located at Mid-Continent. The order indicates the five cars were produced and shipped in 2½ months. This would seem to indicate that there was some standard design and tooling utilized to speed up production. We see other evidence of this in the quantity of cars that were assembled by all the builders in a year. For example, in 1888 when the Milwaukee Lake Shore & Western #63 was built, 2,471 cars were constructed that year in the entire United States.

Car Information

The side framing of the Milwaukee Lake Shore and Western #63 as we found it. Note the lack of blocking and other details found in the Pullman car.

The side framing of the Milwaukee Lake Shore and Western #63 as we found it. Note the lack of blocking and other details found in the Pullman car.

One of the triangular "glue blocks" used to support the siding on the car in lieu of solid blocking. The Pullman display car also used similar blocks (as seen in the photo on the opposite page). Photo by Paul Swanson.

One of the triangular “glue blocks” used to support the siding on the car in lieu of solid blocking. The Pullman display car also used similar blocks (as seen in the photo on the opposite page). Photo by Paul Swanson.

Our last clues about the construction come from the car itself as we rebuild it. Our pictures and notes are recording the construction sequence, materials used, machines utilized, and workmanship. Following are some examples of our findings.

Let us begin with the basic structure. The car is built primarily of wood. Yellow Pine is used for the wall posts. This is a departure from the more common practice of using Ash for these parts. The woods used are mentioned in the trade journals and William Voss’s book. However, what we see on the cars does not always agree with the written material. We must therefore record our findings for historical purposes.

Why did Barney and Smith use Yellow Pine for these parts? Studying the trade journals from this era, we see a desire for industry to be self-sufficient. We also see that the Barney and Smith Car Company had relations with an Atlanta, Georgia lumber baron named George Gress.5 This relationship culminated in Barney and Smith Car Company acquiring the mill, forest lands, and lumber railroad in 1905. These forest lands were in Georgia where large stands of Yellow Pine were located.

We now have a little more insight into the working of the car company. If they were dealing direct with a mill in 1888 that was cutting the Yellow Pine for the car sills, it may have been prudent to buy the rest of the production and use it for other framing on the cars they built. The Yellow Pine forests were also very close to Dayton, Ohio, which would keep transportation costs lower. This lumber may have been cheaper than buying Ash on the open market. The use of the Yellow Pine in the car’s wall posts was most likely an economic decision rather than a design decision.

miller1 miller2 miller3

Also regarding the structure was the construction of the end platform and Miller Hook coupler. We went to the Nevada State Railroad Museum to measure the Virginia & Truckee #18. This car was built by Barney and Smith in 1890 and is similar in many dimensions to our MLS&W #63. The V&T #18 still retains its original platform on one end and some of the parts from the Miller Hook coupler. We compared the dimensions of the V&T #18 to the remains of the MLS&W #63 and found that the platforms were most likely the same dimensions. We also found that the dimensions match the drawings in William Voss’s book (see below). This may be more than a coincidence since at the time of writing his book, Voss was working for Barney and Smith Car Company.

The grooves (indicated by arrows) in the clerestory sill at this location at the end of the car were cut using a handsaw and chisel.

The grooves (indicated by arrows) in the clerestory sill at this location at the end of the car were cut using a handsaw and chisel.

This part was cut and fit at the site as opposed to being pre-manufactured at some other location of the plant. The grooves held the deck roof ribs in position.

This part was cut and fit at the site as opposed to being pre-manufactured at some other location of the plant. The grooves held the deck roof ribs in position.

On #63’s framing parts removed for repair, we noticed the tool marks. For example the window sub sill on the left front corner of the car had to be replaced. The notches in the sill to fit around the body posts were cut by machine. We know this from the small pointed groove at the cheek and land of the notch. This mark is from a machine cutter head used at this time and only replaced recently in woodworking. These marks contrast with the marks on the grooves that were cut in the blocking on the clerestory to locate the deck roof ribs. Here we see the use of a hand saw to cut the cheeks of the groove and a chisel to clean out the land (see below photos).

We now begin to see the different workers involved in building the car. Some of the components, such as the window sub sill, arrive in the erecting room as pre-finished components from the mill shop. Other components such as the blocking, were cut at the site by the carpenters who assembled the car.

On the interior of the car, the capitals on the pilasters between the windows appear to be intricate carvings. They are not. Remember this car and the two others in this order were most likely finished in a few months. There are fourteen of these capitals per car, multiplied by three cars, resulting in forty-two capitals to fill this order. On closer examination we see that the capitals are made from two pieces. The lower piece is a straight molding. In one hour, one man could have fabricated a sufficient amount of this molding to supply all the cars. The upper piece with the rams’ horn was most likely done on a carving machine. We suspect this because of the small mark on the inside of the rams’ horn. This mark was the result of cutting out the small fillet that was there when the part came out of the carving machine. Again, one man could produce all forty-two pieces in less than four hours. The next cutting operation on these parts was to relieve6 the back of the upper piece so the lower piece could be installed. This is a fairly simple operation on a wood shaper.

The back side of the capital. The capital was actually made of two pieces of wood, the larger curved main carving, and the flat insert that formed the base of the capital. This construction made the capital very easy to mass-produce.

The back side of the capital. The capital was actually made of two pieces of wood, the larger curved main carving, and the flat insert that formed the base of the capital. This construction made the capital very easy to mass-produce.

The mark on the inside of the volute is from the hand chisel used to clean out the fillet left after this piece was cut on a carving machine.

The mark on the inside of the volute is from the hand chisel used to clean out the fillet left after this piece was cut on a carving machine.


From knowing what machines were available and looking at the construction and tool marks, we can learn much about the manufacturing of this car that is not recorded or may have never been recorded.

Workmanship is another aspect of the car’s construction we can study. Discrepancies noted in the construction of the car tell us there a fair amount of the decision-making regarding the construction was most likely left to the worker doing the work. For example, between the body posts and the sidewall truss, it was not uncommon to block the area in with solid blocks of wood.

We see this on other cars at Mid-Continent and in photographs of a Pullman-built car from 1889. Pullman made this car for a display but it is not known where. These photographs are of interest as the display car was built in the same era as MLS&W #63, and is the same class of car–17-window coach. In this car, the body posts were blocked in solid before the siding was installed. On our car, the blocking is very random and not complete at all. Where there was no blocking, small triangular blocks were glued to the body post and siding from the inside. It appears there may have been no official policy or design for installing these blocks at Barney and Smith Car Company when our car was built. On the hand-cut grooves mentioned earlier, we see some variation in spacing and depth. Also the removal of material with a chisel was not done very carefully. The location of the grooves may have been left up to the carpenter and the finish of the groove may be an indication of limited quality control.

By observing these types of things on MLS&W #63, and comparing what we see to what we read, we may gain a better understanding of how this car was built 113 years ago. The findings are also the justification for all the study, documentation, and sample collecting we perform on this car. This project is only the beginning of the work to be done at Mid-Continent. There are seven different railroad passenger car builders represented in the collection at Mid-Continent spanning from 1864 to the end of the wood car era. This collection and the material gleaned from it is one of the finest single source examples of the wood passenger car and its construction in the country. The methods used in the MLS&W project are the results of lessons learned from other projects and will be applied to the next.

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#63’s History and Original Fund Drive

Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western first class coach #63 Fund Drive and Restoration

Text by Don Ginter and Ray Buhrmaster
All Content ©2000, Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society, Inc.
Reproduction, copying, or redistribution without permission is prohibited.

If you have ever visited or seen views from the California State Railroad Museum, Nevada State Railroad Museum, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, or the B&O Railroad Museum, you probably marveled at their restored coaches and locomotives. The only difference between what they have done and what Mid-Continent can do is governed by time and money. We now have an opportunity to duplicate their restoration work.

In the past, our coach restorations have normally taken up to ten years to complete. When volunteers can only work one weekend a month, restorations take years to complete. Also, our restoration plan for a particular piece of equipment is often guided by the amount of money available from the museum’s budget. These two items (time and money) may not always allow a restoration to the most historic era. This could now change with our next coach restoration.

The Jeffris Family Foundation has awarded Mid-Continent a challenge grant for the restoration of its 1888-built MLS&W #63 coach (seen in the photo above about 1910 when it was owned by and lettered for the Chicago & North Western Railway). The total budget for the restoration/reconstruction of the coach is $350,000; the Jeffris Family Foundation challenge grant is for $175,000. We will provide the matching $175,000, which was successfully raised by the end of August 2000.

This budget will allow restoration of the MLS&W #63 to its 1888-1893 configuration as an MLS&W coach with Miller hook couplers, Spear heaters, and interior artistry by E. Colonna. Certainly, this is a task that the normal museum budget could not afford. Second, with this budget, the work will be done by hired professional people experienced in the railroad restoration field and other fields of restoration work. The restoration will be completed in two years. It could be done sooner, except our shop is not equipped with heat for winter work.

Major donors and gifts from our membership have raised the $175,000 in matching funds needed. Further donations will be accepted to help with contigencies. Read on to learn a little bit of the history of our “Lake Shore” #63, and continue visiting Mid-Continent’s website for future updates on the restoration, slated to begin in November 2000.

Historical Perspective 1888-1990

Passenger and freight business was brisk this day, as a Lake Shore passenger train stops at Antigo, Wisconsin. Langlade County Historical Society.

Passenger and freight business was brisk this day, as a Lake Shore passenger train stops at Antigo, Wisconsin. Langlade County Historical Society.


Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway passenger coach #63 was one of an order of seven cars built for the road in 1888 by the Barney & Smith Manufacturing Company of Dayton, Ohio. The cars, numbered 58 through 64, were received and placed in service during the month of August. Also in 1888, the Lake Shore road received five new locomotives and some 550 freight cars. Additionally, bids were being sought for another 500 new box cars. The year 1888, indeed, was one of tremendous expansion for the line.

The Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway had its beginnings in 1872 with the reorganization of several predecessor roads including the Appleton and New London Railway and the Milwaukee, Manitowoc & Green Bay Railroad. The MLS&W could trace its origin to the granting of a right-of-way to the Manitowoc and Mississippi Railroad in December of 1853.

By 1888, the Lake Shore was operating daily mainline passenger trains on the Milwaukee to Ashland route as well as frequent branch service to Rhinelander, Wausau, Oconto, Two Rivers and Oshkosh. Schedules indicate that almost eleven hours were required for the 367-mile Milwaukee-Ashland run. Coach #63 would have provided first- class accommodations on any of the Lake Shore mainline assignments. There were 48 passenger cars in use in 1888 made up of baggage-smokers, smoking or second-class coaches, first-class coaches, and four parlor cars. The three sleeping cars used by the MLS&W were furnished by the New York Sleeping Car Company.

Coach #63’s builder, the Barney & Smith Manufacturing Company, was a pioneer supplier of rolling stock to midwestern railroads. The company had its start in 1849 in Dayton, Ohio, as a partnership between educator Eliam E. Barney and former Baptist minister Ebenezer Thresher. This unlikely team, with only $10,000 in capital, had slow going through their first decade. In 1867, with several additional partners, the joint stock company of Barney & Smith Manufacturing Company was formed. Capital was at $500,000 and car production was twenty freight cars and two passenger cars per week. The works employed 350 men. The car works weathered the financial gales of the 1870s and expanded considerably in the 1880s. By 1880 Barney & Smith employed over 2000 workers and produced almost six percent of the total car production in a country already overcrowded with car builders. The Barney & Smith Car Company was formed in 1892 when the Barney family sold out to Cincinnati interests and the firm became publicly traded. The formation of car giants Pullman and American Car & Foundry Company plus Barney & Smith’s inability to successfully compete in the steel car market resulted in the closing of the famous works in 1922.

Noted postcard photographer J.M. Colby was certainly unaware of the historical significance of this scene he'd just recorded. C&NW coach #469, aka MLS&W #63 was part of the passenger consist when he photographed this north bound train at Eland Jct., c.1910. Photograph by J.M. Colby, Marathon County Historical Society, Wausau, Wisconsin. This is the only known actual photo of Mid-Continent's MLS&W #63 while it was in passenger service.

Noted postcard photographer J.M. Colby was certainly unaware of the historical significance of this scene he’d just recorded. C&NW coach #469, aka MLS&W #63 was part of the passenger consist when he photographed this north bound train at Eland Jct., c.1910. Photograph by J.M. Colby, Marathon County Historical Society, Wausau, Wisconsin. This is the only known actual photo of Mid-Continent’s MLS&W #63 while it was in passenger service.

In 1881, Barney & Smith retained noted architect Bruce Price as a car interior design consultant. Interior design had become a major consideration in the 1880s and it was necessary that cars bear a statement in regard to woodwork, fixtures, and colors. In 1885 Edward Colonna, a Price assistant, was hired as Designer-in-Chief. Colonna’s name became familiar to many as a leading Parisian exponent of Art Nouveau in later years. Under Colonna’s direction, the car works organized a carving and marquetry department, employing perhaps a hundred skilled woodcarvers. Barney & Smith soon became well known for their Colonna-inspired interiors. Colonna’s tenure at Dayton was brief. He left in October 1888, for Montreal where the Canadian Pacific Railway would become his major client. Lake Shore coach #63 is probably the most intact example of Colonna-era car design in existence today.

C&NW coach #478 (ex-MLS&W #73, similar to ex-MLS&W #63) is shown with another former MLS&W coach in the consist of a south bound passenger train at Eland, Wisconsin, c.1910. Photograph by J.M. Colby, collection of Ray Buhrmaster

C&NW coach #478 (ex-MLS&W #73, similar to ex-MLS&W #63) is shown with another former MLS&W coach in the consist of a south bound passenger train at Eland, Wisconsin, c.1910. Photograph by J.M. Colby, collection of Ray Buhrmaster

MLS&W first-class coach #63, as received, was typical of open-platform cars being built in the day preceding the use of steel. The car measured 49’2″ inside, was of all-wood framing, and contained reversible seats for 51 passengers. The car rode on wood-framed 4-wheel trucks and made use of the patented Miller hook coupling and platforms. The hook coupling was a definite improvement over link and pin couplings of the day by providing resistance to platform collapse during derailments or wrecks. The Miller coupler, by means of spring buffers, eliminated “slack action” between cars. Coach #63 was ventilated by use of a then-conventional clerestory equipped with 17 movable windows on each side. Heating was accomplished by means of two car stoves, one located in each opposite end corner of the car. Coach #63 may have been delivered with steam heating equipment as the Kaukauna Sun of January 25, 1889, details the departure of the Lake Shore road’s first steam-heated passenger train on the day previous. Dual heating systems were not uncommon as stoves provided a margin of safety should the steam heat lines freeze in extreme weather.

C&NW coach #478 (ex-MLS&W #73, similar to ex-MLS&W #63) is shown with another former MLS&W coach in the consist of a south bound passenger train at Eland, Wisconsin, c.1910. Photograph by J.M. Colby, collection of Ray Buhrmaster

C&NW coach #478 (ex-MLS&W #73, similar to ex-MLS&W #63) is shown with another former MLS&W coach in the consist of a south bound passenger train at Eland, Wisconsin, c.1910. Photograph by J.M. Colby, collection of Ray Buhrmaster

Seating consisted of 25 wood-framed reversible seats and one fixed seat. Seat covering was probably plush of an unknown color. Toilet facilities were provided by two saloons. The ladies saloon was 6’4″ long by three feet wide and contained a dry hopper and a sink. The men’s saloon was half as long and contained only a hopper. Washing was done at a sink secured to the outside wall of the saloon. Car lighting was furnished by five double-burner oil ceiling lamps. Bracket type oil lamps illuminated each saloon.

Interior finish of coach #63 was a highly polished cherry wood with much of E. Colonna’s ornamentation visible on window columns, bulkheads, and end door headings. The ceiling and headlining were covered with curved oak veneer stenciled with Colonna- inspired patterns. All of the coach’s hardware, lamps, hoppers, and basket racks were furnished by the Dayton Manufacturing Company. Dayton was established in 1882 by Eliam Barney and others to insure a steady supply of car hardware at reasonable rates. Decoration on Dayton’s car furnishings also reflect the designs of Edward Colonna. Evidence of this is especially noted in Dayton coach lamps of the period but can be found in such minor items as door hinges.

A diamond in the rough has been found! MLS&W coach #63, disguised since 1930 as C&NW's Wood St. Potato Mart office in Chicago, is examined by its new owners, Mid Continent Railway Museum, in October 1970 prior to its move to the museum. Photograph by Ray Buhrmaster.

A diamond in the rough has been found! MLS&W coach #63, disguised since 1930 as C&NW’s Wood St. Potato Mart office in Chicago, is examined by its new owners, Mid Continent Railway Museum, in October 1970 prior to its move to the museum. Photograph by Ray Buhrmaster.

By 1893, the Milwaukee Lake Shore & Western had become a major Wisconsin carrier and thus attractive to the expanding Chicago & North Western Railway. Since the Lake Shore depended upon the C&NW for a Chicago connection as well as numerous interchange locations, it was apparent that the interests of both lines could be well served by an alliance. This was accomplished by September 1893. Some 733 miles of Lake Shore road as well as 112 locomotives, 77 passenger train cars, and over 5000 freight cars became the property of the C&NW. The Kaukauna Sun of October 27, 1893 reported that a dozen painters in the shops were engaged in the painting out of the Lake Shore name on all cars and the re-stenciling with the North Western legend. It was at this time that Lake Shore coach #63 became Chicago & North Western coach #469.

The history of coach #469 during the early years of its North Western ownership is virtually undocumented. Photographs extant of other former MLS&W 1888 coaches do provide a glimpse of the exterior painting and lettering scheme that was adopted. The cars were repainted at an unknown date to the C&NW standard of yellow carbody, green letterboard, and maroon sash. By 1909 documentation was established in the form of a C&NW data sheet entitled “Record of Passenger Equipment.” The record for coach #469 provides a trail of the repairs and changes that took place during the various shoppings until 1930 when #469 left revenue service. Changes made in the period prior to 1909 by the C&NW would most certainly include the replacement of the Miller hook couplers with automatic Janney-type couplers and conventional platform buffers. These changes would account, in part, for an increase in car weight from 48,200 lbs. when built to the 53,300 lbs. indicated in the C&NW record of 1909.

Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western #63 inside the Car Shop at Mid-Continent, awaiting restoration.

Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western #63 inside the Car Shop at Mid-Continent, awaiting restoration.

Coach #469’s career on the Chicago & North Western could probably be characterized as work-a-day or uneventful. Photographic evidence tells the historian that #469 and sister 1888 coaches continued to operate over their old Lake Shore routes until the advent of numerous first-class vestibule coaches acquired by the C&NW after 1906. The modern C&NW cars put the former Lake Shore coaches into secondary status.

The shop record for coach #469 indicates an almost yearly frequency of repairs and improvements. In 1913, the original ceiling oil lamps were replaced with improved “Acme” lamps as manufactured by the Adams & Westlake Co. of Chicago. The lamp featured dual founts that were constructed as a single unit. The unit could be removed from the lamp easily thus saving time when cleaning and adding oil. A Blackall drop-handle ratchet style hand brake replaced the old type brake wheel on each end platform. An air brake retaining valve was installed near the train door on one end of the car. The hand brake and retainer changes were made during a 1914 shopping. In 1917 the original design wood brake beams were replaced with metal units which long before had become a standard on passenger cars. The ornate stenciled ceiling and its cherry trim were painted green in 1917 in an effort to reduce car refinishing costs. A water cooler compartment was added in 1918. A shop stint in June 1923, saw the substitution of 8’0″ wheelbase trucks for the original 7’0″ trucks. Journal and wheel sizes remained as before (4 1/4″ x 8″ and 36″ diameter, respectively). The 1923 shopping accounted for several other minor improvements including door post hand grabs, used cup receptacles, and double uncoupling levers. The final change performed on coach #469 was the painting of the ceiling in a cream color late in 1925.

By November of 1930, coach #469 is recorded as having been placed at the North Western’s Wood Street Potato Mart on Chicago’s west side. Coach #469 would unlikely see any further revenue service due to its age and the wholesale reduction of passenger service after 1929. The car’s duty at Wood Street was to house an office and waiting room facility used by produce commission agents and produce buyers. The contents of refrigerator cars were sold to local produce merchants after the cars had been delivered to the Wood Street terminal.

In 1931, coach #469 was officially taken out of the ranks of passenger equipment and renumbered X-300390, signifying a non-revenue category. It appears that in 1935 an Authorization for Expenditure (AFE) was approved covering improvements to the Potato Mart office. It is believed that the trucks and all underbody equipment were removed at this time and the coach body was placed on a concrete foundation. Other improvements included electric lights, water and toilet facilities, a mid-car partition, and an entry enclosure with steps. These changes obviously enabled former coach #469 to function effectively as an office. Thus, the subject car was transformed into a building, a fate not uncommon for obsolete passenger cars over the entire North Western system.

The activity at the Potato Mart decreased considerably by 1970 due mainly to the influx of produce trucking. The C&NW had planned to destroy the car body office and house the few remaining commission men in an existing building. Members of the Mid- Continent Railway Museum were notified of the situation and, after an inspection, determined the body was a worthy candidate for preservation. Finally, on October 16, 1970, former Lake Shore coach #63 was loaded aboard a flat car for shipment to the museum site at North Freedom, Wisconsin. Eight days later the body was unloaded and placed on blocks for storage and eventual restoration.

In the fall of 1973, trucks, brake rigging, draft gear, couplers and much in the way of metal coach components were purchased. These parts, from a demolished 1873 Chicago, Burlington & Quincy coach, were destined to outfit the Lake Shore car. Envisioned was a rehabilitation project that would result in a complete restored coach composed of authentic, although not original, parts and fittings. With this goal in mind, museum volunteers undertook the project in 1974. Work continued sporadically over the next several years. Work completed to date includes the installation of one end platform with new sills and draft gear with coupler. The body truss rod system was put in place resulting in a straight reinforced car body. Considerable millwork has been secured including car siding, battens, and lower sashes. Partial stripping of the interior paint and varnish has taken place.

Today, Lake Shore #63 is under restoration to preserve Edward Colonna’s work for future generations to enjoy.

We have presented this history of MLS&W #63 on the web to help raise awareness of the car’s signifcance, and the significance of its restoration. We are pleased to announce that the goal of $350,000 was reached on August 18th. Thanks to the many contributors, MLS&W #63 will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Although we have reached our goal, donations can still be accepted to assist with MLS&W #63’s restoration project. Extra funding above the budgeted work will be used for contingencies. When the car is completed by the fall of 2002, any monies left over will be applied toward the general fund for the wood car fleet.

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Mid-Continent Timeline

A Mid-Continent Timeline

Compiled by Jim Neubauer from past issues of Railway Gazette, Mid-Continent’s official news magazine.


April 29, 1959: Richard Hinebaugh, John Ford, Chet Kass, and Harold Olsen attempt to lease White Pass & Yukon 2-6-2 and track. Incorporate Railroad Historical Society of Milwaukee as a not-for-profit organization.

November 1959: Consumers Company’s donation of their locomotive #701 launches Mid-Continent Railway Museum. Search for home begins.


1960: Membership now at 18.

May 1960: Milwaukee & Suburban Transport Co. streetcar #978 donated.

1960: Badger #2 (donated by W.H. Knapp Co., railroad contractors) becomes first piece of passenger equipment. Membership jumps to 65. “Buy-a-Tie” program is launched.

1960: Thirty-ton Lima 2-6-0 located in Louisiana; scrap purchase bid made, engine is purchased.

January 1961: Twenty-nine members lend Mid-Continent $100 each to purchase #1385 from C&NW for scrap value. Mid-Continent moves Louisiana Cypress Lumber Company #2, called “Swamp Rabbit.”

September 1961: East Jordan & Southern baggage/coach combination car #2 is purchased. Car later found to have been contemporary with Abraham Lincoln.

EJ&S #2 enroute to Mid-Continent. Bill Buhrmaster collection

EJ&S #2 enroute to Mid-Continent. Bill Buhrmaster collection

October 28, 1961: Agreement is signed with shortline Hillsboro & North Eastern, between Hillsboro and Union Center, Wisconsin. Equipment moves to Hillsboro.

March 24, 1962: Milwaukee Road waycar #01524 delivered to Mid-Continent in Madison. First restoration completed 56 days later. Calumet & Hecla caboose secured.

Milwaukee Road #01524

Milwaukee Road #01524

May 26, 1962: Mid-Continent Railway Museum finds temporary home on H&NE, operates first train with H&NE’s Plymouth gas engine. Service opens with Milwaukee Road caboose #01524, EJ&S #2, Badger #2.

June 1962: Trains Magazine “Running Extra” column carries first ad: “May 27-Sept. 9: Mid-Continent Railway Museum will operate on tracks of H&NE Rwy. 35 miles from Baraboo and 40 miles from Wisconsin Dells, Wis. Ex-Milwaukee Road observation car 104 and cupola caboose No. 01524 will be used behind 1914 Alco 0-4-0 No. 701 each weekend from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (DST) until June 17, then daily as business warrants until Sept. 9 and weekends thereafter as long as weather permits. Copper Range combine 26 (sic) will be on property. For further information contact MCRM….”

February 10, 1963: Members approve corporate name change from Railway Historical Society of Milwaukee to Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society, Inc.

May 15, 1963: Mid-Continent Railway Museum buys Rattlesnake Spur from C&NW at North Freedom, with $25,000 worth of debenture bonds, moves from H&NE, starts operating season with #1385, EJ&S #2, MILW #01525, Badger #2 (numbered 104).

C&NW 1385 with train at Osborne's crossing in 1963.

C&NW 1385 with train at Osborne’s crossing in 1963.

November 10, 1963: Dardanelle & Russellville #9 delivered on own wheels by C&NW and steamed November 15th. First depot fabricated in Madison and transported to Walnut Street site. It served until 1966.

CNW 1385 and temporary depot in 1963.

C&NW 1385 steams past future site of museum grounds in 1963.

1963: Wisconsin Central coach #63 purchased.

February 24, 1964: Members purchase Western Coal & Coal 4-6-0 #1. Donated #6 (Vulcan 0-4-0), and Porter tank engine #5, arrives.

May 1965: Montana Western gas-electric motor car #31 arrives North Freedom Memorial Day weekend.

1965: AT&N #401, 2-10-0, arrives.

August 22, 1965: The Ouachita Valley Lady, W&OV #1, arrives at North Freedom.

October 30, 1965: WC&C #1 arrives at North Freedom on two flat cars.

December 1965: Rock Springs depot, donated by C&NW, is moved to North Freedom.

1966: Rock Springs depot remodeled and restored for use. New enginehouse constructed.

Summer 1967: Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society formed, spins off from Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society, and moves equipment (Milwaukee Streetcar, horse-drawn car, CNS&M coach) to East Troy. MCRM members who wish will have until March 1, 1968, to transfer membership.

Trolley car being loaded to leave MCRM.

June 1969; trolley car being loaded onto flatbed to leave the property; Jim Neubauer photo

October 1967: Missouri Pacific wrecking crane X-124 arrives at North Freedom.

December 1967: Concrete poured for engine house service pit. Members meeting glues 6″x9″ postal cars to calendar backing. Fred L. Tonne, the “Old Inkslinger,” retires as editor of primeval, mimeographed Railway Gazette, receives award.

February 1968: New magazine, The Railway Gazette, Vol. 1, No. 1, issued. Annual Banquet scheduled for February 11, 1968, at Herbie’s Supper Club, McFarland.

April 1968: Member Stan Mailer proposes building a platform at Rattlesnake’s Den, letting people off train to view displays on Iron Mining and Quartzite Industries. “A shelter could be erected,” he says.

Quartzite Lake. Sept.. 1973. Jim Neubauer photo

Quartzite Lake. Sept.. 1973. Jim Neubauer photo

June 1968: Mid-Continent equipment leased to Mirisch Productions for movie, “Gaily, Gaily,” to be filmed in Chicago.

MCRM coaches at Chicago (the yard south of Union Station) for filming of "Gailey, Gailey" a film on the life of Ben Hecht, portrayed by Beau Bridges.  Coach at left is WC 63, at right is Soo Line 957. Ray Buhrmaster photo.

MCRM coaches at Chicago (the yard south of Union Station) for filming of “Gailey, Gailey” a film based on the life of Ben Hecht, (played by Beau Bridges). Coach at left is WC 63, at right is Soo Line 957. Ray Buhrmaster photo.

June 8, 1968: Dave Wantz marries. Extra train with Spike tin cans tied under observation platform clatters to LaRue for reception and wedding dance.

June 22, 1968: Mid-Continent wins State Historical Society of Wisconsin Award of Merit.

August 28, 1968: Rock Island #95065 arrives at North Freedom, restored to RI #1094. The “Celestial Gardens” is later designated official bunk car.

June 8, 1969: 40 et 8 Day. Dedication of 40 and 8 Car donated to North Freedom by Wisconsin Voiture of the American Legion veterans’ organization.

Dedication ceremony for the 40 and 8 car on June 8, 1969. The car is now at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, WI.

Dedication ceremony for the 40 and 8 car on June 8, 1969. The car is now at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, WI.

August 2, 1969: Donation of Great Northern Railway drovers’ coach X791 was accepted.

August 9-10, 1969: First Antique Transportation Meet features aeroplanes, automobiles, steam engines.

September 2, 1969: Filming of “The Immigrants,” a story of Swedish immigration to America, starring Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow, begins on Mid-Continent tracks.

September 10, 1969: Armed robbery at LaRue’s Klingenmeyer’s Tavern kills Wanda Klingenmeyer, seriously wounds husband Larry. Assailant captured same day.

October 1969: LS&I XB-15, last available passenger car, arrives at North Freedom on two flats, awaits restoration.

November 1969: DSS&A #213 unloaded Thanksgiving Weekend. Jackson & Sharp car faces eight-year restoration program by Ray Buhrmaster and Bill Buhrmaster.


April 4, 1970: North Freedom depot burns in freight room, and attic above fire while work goes on to get it ready for opening day.

April 5, 1970 photo shows damage caused to depot by a fire a day earlier; MCRM collection

April 5, 1970 photo shows damage caused to depot by a fire a day earlier; MCRM collection

1970: Calumet & Hecla caboose ownership cleared up with C&H Mining. Waycar originally was St. Louis-Southwestern Railway, and restored by Carol and Jerry Mennenga after purchase from Museum.

Spring 1970: MLS&W 63 rescued from Wood St. Yard, Chicago, and arrives North Freedom.

May 1970: Chicago & North Western 25-foot narrow gauge box car body donated by Chester H. Graham of Fennimore, Wisconsin.

July 1970: Vince Vondran, Bob Droster, and Ron Jones end their tour of duty as Gazette editors. Stan Mailer and Jim Neubauer and Bob Ristow become joint Editorial Staff.

August 15-16, 1970: Second Antique Transportation Meet at LaRue. UTLX #8820 tank car arrives at North Freedom. Five locomotives under steam at ATM weekend!

October 4, 1970: “Railfan Steam-In” sponsored by The Railroad Club of Chicago, Inc., brings 185 fans to view freight and passenger operations at Mid-Continent.

October 11, 1970: #1385 Steams again; first time since 1964 following major repairs.

November 1970: CB&Q #4960, fan-tripper 2-8-2 used on Circus Train, donated by State Historical Society with approval of Burlington Northern Railroad.

July 13, 1971: Train breaks in two at top of hill; safety program enacted, air tests now required on each train departure.

August 1971: Passing Track (Run-Around) completed at Walnut Street, ending years of shoving-back from the Pit, formerly called Rattlesnake Den, about to be renamed Quartzite Lake. First run-around operation during ATM weekend.

September 1971: Narrow gauge car body moved into north display area. Montana Western #31 motor removed for repair. First $100,000 budget. John Jenswold elected President.

October 7, 1971: 20 acres of Hahn property purchased.

October 12, 1971: Vinegar car purchased.

December 12, 1971: Ron Jones named first Curator; 1971 patronage hits 43,000 following article in Standard Oil Adventure Road magazine.

January 1972: Great Northern drovers’ coach X-791 inspected; restoration begins with paint stripping which uncovers rare and beautiful marquetry: fine inlay work. Soo #957 also up for completion.

1972: Parts from narrow-gauge snowplow used on C&NW narrow gauge boxcar. These include trucks, coupler, K-type brakes and small fittings. Erie Stillwell coaches, used at ATM, and returned to owner. Sperry donates electric motor for Montana Western 31. Umbrella roof shelter proposed for Quartzite Lake.

February 1972: CIPS 0-4-0 #6 restoration started. Mid-Continent participates February 18-20 in Chicago formation of Tourist Railway Association, Inc.

March 17, 1972: GE 44-tonner #4 arrives.

March 1972: Lackawanna coaches #563, #557, and #595 purchased by Chuck Wiesner, who also buys DL&W Baggage-Coach combine #425.

April 1972: Board authorized production of 24-minute 16mm color film, “Whistle on the Wind.” Interior of DSS&A #213 is a jewel lurking under 26 coats of paint.

April 2, 1972: Steel Work for Water Tank erected.

March 1972: Great Northern Private Car #A22 donation from Burlington Northern accepted. Louis Hill’s car once featured a garage! Recommendation for car shop structure submitted by Acquisition Committee. Ground Storage of Coal ends with new under-car conveyor.

April 29, 1972: First trip of Montana Western #31.

May 1972: A.C. Kalmbach, publisher, and C.P. Smith, state treasurer, cut ribbon, open new season at North Freedom.

June 1972: Vol. 5, No. 5, issue of Railway Gazette features eight-page rotogravure section of historic North Freedom photographs.

June 1972: First Lackawanna coach, #563, enters service first weekend of June. Two serviceable hopper cars, WEPCO #143 (ex-C&O) and an ex-NYC/ex-KGB&W car arrive at North Freedom. Western Coal and Coke #1, the “Lethbridge Engine,” a.k.a. the “Montreal,” in service, suffers from slipped eccentric, hot journal. Second “Lack” coach enters service June 24th.

June 24-25, 1972: “Freedom Days” celebration held. Bicycle vs. Train race (League of American Wheelmen vs. Wovie) won by Bob Fenn. Water fight between Volunteer Fire Fighters of Rock Springs and North Freedom had a new challenger team: Firemen of Mid-Continent won heat against North Freedom, and went on to win against team of Rock Springs.

September 7-9, 1972: Montana Western #31 travels to LaGrange/McCook, Illinois for 50th Anniversary celebration of EMD.

MW #31 and C&NW 1518 going to EMD's 50th Anniversary celebration.  Jim Neubauer photo.

MW #31 and C&NW 1518 going to EMD’s 50th Anniversary celebration. Jim Neubauer photo.

October 1972: C&NW downtown North Freedom depot dismantled.

November 1972: Jim Neubauer convention manager as TRAIN holds first annual convention in Milwaukee. Dr. Philip R. Hastings elected Mid-Continent Vice-President.

December 16, 1972 Mid-Continent boasts 149 Life, 20 Honorary Life, 89 Regular, 121 Associate, and 15 Family members.

July 21-22, 1973: Fourth Annual Antique Transportation Meet features horses and carriages, antique aeroplanes, horseless carriages, and steam trains, as well as gas-electric motor car.

November 1973: Soo Line Diner/Lounge #2017 has authority of Board of Directors to come to North Freedom.

November 4, 1973: Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western coach #63 placed temporarily on CB&Q wood trucks and moved to caboose track.

December 1973: Museum’s library is better than 80 per cent cataloged.

May 1974: New train fare $2.50 (up from $2) starts season. New camp car track put to use.

June 1974: Seabees (Naval Construction Battalion) pitch in to help. The Madison Navy Reserve unit worked May 18th on the water tank with Mid-Continent’s B&B crew.

Water tank erected, 1974; Jim Neubauer photo.

Water tank erected, 1974; Jim Neubauer photo.

July 24, 1974: Famed triple-header of three 4-6-0’s operated for photographer Mike Eagleson of Railroad Magazine.

October 1974: Freight House erected.

April 1975: Soo Line #920, narrow-vestibule coach from 1890’s-era, arrives at North Freedom.

May 1975: Season Opening Day Ceremonies included ribbon-cutting speech by David P. Morgan, editor of Trains Magazine who later pulls out throttle on 4-6-0 W&OV #1 with Jim Neubauer firing, and Phil Hastings overseeing.

1975; Jim Neubauer photo

1975; Jim Neubauer photo

June 1975: 14 Single-Bedroom Pullman sleeper Night Trail sold to raise funds for construction of Coach Shed. Debate rages on original “Statement of Purpose” of Mid-Continent Museum.

September 1975: “Statement of Purpose” adopted and published.

November 1975: Water tank roof finally installed. Grading for site of new Coach Shed completed. Removed earth used for fill on the new east parking lot.

December 1975: Mid-Continent Railway Museum awarded Certificate of Commendation by American Association of State and Local History.

December 29, 1975: Mid-Continent benefactor Elliott Donnelley dies in Florida.

January 17, 1976: First winter operation postponed from mild and pleasantly cold weekend to February 21-22.

1976 MCRM brochure

1976 MCRM brochure

February 20, 1976: Snow starts falling at 9:00 pm, doesn’t let up until late the next day after 18 inches has fallen. Snow Train prayer committee is commended.

Seeley Creek; 2-22-76; Jim Neubauer photo

Seeley Creek; 2-22-76; Jim Neubauer photo

March 1976: Work begins on Coach Shed roof.

New coach shed, 1976; MCRM collection

New coach shed, 1976; MCRM collection

May 1976: Frank Wenban hired as summer manager. Kevin P. Keefe endorses Mid-Continent’s participation in TRAIN, the Tourist Railway Association, Inc.

July 1976: Special Issue of the Railway Gazette marks 15th summer of operation for MCRM. Iron Mining, quarrying, railroad, and museum photographs are featured.

15th Anniversary Gazette

Special 15th Anniversary Edition Mid-Continent Railway Gazette.

September 1976: Seabees swarm ashore at North Freedom as part of their training program, construct turnouts and track, pour concrete, and complete other chores.

November 1976: Ken Breher elected president of Mid-Continent. M&StL X709 arrives on TTX flat. 36-foot, 40-ton box #04492 rolls once again on Fox Pressed Steel trucks.

Iowa Central boxcar arrives at Mid-Continent; Sept. 1976; Jim Neubauer photo

Iowa Central boxcar (M&StL X709) arrives at Mid-Continent; Sept. 1976; Jim Neubauer photo

January 1977: Aged wooded Russell snowplow purchased from Boyne City Railway, crosses Lake Michigan on car ferry.

#1 at North Freedom, May 1979. Jim Neubauer photo

Russell snowplow at North Freedom, May 1979. Jim Neubauer photo

January 9, 1977: Thirty members turn out for Snow Train preparation in 35 degree below zero weather.

June 1977: Reconstruction of Baraboo River bridge pilings begun.

July 1977: Ground broken for new restrooms to be built in Pine Tree Park, donated by Vodak family. Three Baraboo men arrested and charged with stealing more than $10,000 worth of track parts.

August 9, 1977: Work halted on Baraboo bridge when it collapses. Two workers injured, but no Mid-Continent trains involved.

August 1977: Car 104 repainted from bright yellow and red “circus colors” to a more sedate Pullman green.

October 1977: DSS&A coach 213 nears complete restoration. Long-missing truss rods replaced on MLS&W coach 63, starting restoration project that lasts 25 years.


1978: CETA, Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, a federal program to start at Museum June 1. Thirteen employees hired. Douglas R. Smith employed full time as General Manager.

January 1978: Ex-UP Rotary Snowplow given to Mid-Continent with Vanderbilt tender.

February 1978: UTLX 12283, type II 1907-built tank car restored. Third Annual Snow Train big success.

May 1978: Opening Day features Balloon Ascension, 1903 Cadillac, and 1913 Ten-Wheeler to open 1978 season. Montana Western #31 in service.

September 30, 1978: First Autumn Color Weekend event held.

November 17, 1978: Rudy Fluegel ending 65 years of railroading, dies at 81.

December 1978: Board votes to lease Railway Inn restaurant in North Freedom. Picturesque old Walnut St. truss bridge over Baraboo River replaced by new concrete structure.

January 1979: 1970’s Statement of Worth shows total expenses of $157,514, but excess funds (over budget) of $47,303.

February 1979: Super Winter brings Snow Train hardships: Minus 20’s temperatures, 18-plus inches of snow, cylinder cocks froze open, freezing the R-1 to the tracks, coal frozen solid, cars frozen in place. Bad coal clinkers in firebox, and things went downhill from there.

November 1979: Mid-Continent sponsors TRAIN convention at Wisconsin Dells and at Museum site.

December 1979: Union Pacific rotary snowplow arrives at Mid-Continent. Parts were stolen off the plow while in transit; most are recovered.


February 1980: Snow Train gives another test of skill when a rail breaks under a train and derails two cars. Operations were realigned while new rail is spiked down.

January 1981: Plans for a new General Office Building are completed.

July 1981: Kewaunee Green Bay & Western locomotive #49 donated to Society. CB&Q #4960, owner by Museum, operates in Tennessee on the Bristol and Northwestern.

September 1981: John Johnson succeeds Harley Vodak as President of Mid-Continent.

November 1981: Mid-Continent offered Copper Range Railroad car 60, which is purchased. Dick Goddard becomes General Manager.

September 1982: C&NW 1385 completes summer of touring C&NW in Wisconsin on the Prosperity Special, heads for Boone, Iowa’s “Pufferbilly Days.” Mid-Continent Board approves in principle a plan for Chicago & North Western to rebuild the locomotive to FRA standards for use on its lines.

October 1982: Copper Range #60 arrives at Mid-Continent.

March 1983: C&NW, Mid-Continent agree to midwest tour for 1385 through Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois.

June 3, 1983: Train Order Board and mast, donation of Dr. Philip R. Hastings, put in place in front of North Freedom depot. Work is almost complete on the Section House, which was moved from Fond du Lac and originally used on The Milwaukee Road. The interior displays track tools, handcar.

December 1983: Marinette Tomahawk & Western donates a pair of Hart Convertible Center Dump ballast cars to Mid-Continent. They arrive March 8, 1984.

February 1984: MGM/UA films movie “Mrs. Soffel” on location at MCRY, transforming railroad to represent Delaware Lackawanna & Western.

June 14, 1984: C&NW inspection train stops at North Freedom; officials and guests ride behind 1385 on Mid-Continent Railway. C&NW donates business car 440 in green and yellow; then returns car to Chicago for painting in Pullman green with gold lettering.

July 1984: Three engines under steam for Antique Transportation Meet.

October 1984: Institute of Museum Services awards a 1985 conservation project support matching grant of $15,750 to Mid-Continent to develop state-of-the-art roofing procedures to preserve/conserve six wooden coaches.

October 1984: C&NW 1898 Flagman’s House from Lodi, Wis. Is donated and becomes crossing shanty at Walnut St. after restoration.

October 1984: Lightweight baggage car, once on City of Los Angeles streamliner, donated by C&NW to accompany 1385 on her travels. On the inside, one third is a toolroom for the engine, a third is used as a gift shop, and a third is set up for Museum displays.

November 1984: Ex-UP Oregon Short Line rotary snowplow makes first trip over line to Quartzite Lake to check clearances.

February 1985: OSL Rotary Snowplow makes debut in operation at Snow Train.

April 1985: Hillsboro & Northeastern, original operating home of MCRY in 1962 at Union, Wis., closes about April 1.

July 1985: Ten-Wheeler #1385 pulls Wisconsin Governor Earl aboard Circus Train from Baraboo

July 9 on two-day trip of 220 miles. Previously on June 15, C&NW #1385 rode on tracks of Milwaukee Road, Tunnel City to LaCrosse.

September 1985: Full color copies of Gil Reid’s painting of UP 2-8-0 #440 go on sale at Museum as part of steam program fundraiser.

January 3, 1986: Former Milwaukee Road RSC-2 diesel #988 arrives at Museum.

May 1986: Museum receives donation of Whitcomb diesel from W.F. Hall Printing Co. in Chicago and our corral of “critters” grows.

July 1987: On the Great Circus Train at Baraboo, 1385 blows a superheater unit; returned to North Freedom engine house for emergency repairs overnight. The engine rejoined the Circus World Museum special to the Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee at Janesville.

October 1987: Passenger excursions out of Brodhead, Wis. were operated Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 on a 30-mile roundtrip to Monroe over the Wisconsin & Calumet (later WSOR) railroad under local sponsorship.

March 1988: Mid-Continent enters rail heritage publishing with book “Foster’s & Nobody Else’s,” about the Fairchild & Northeastern Railway. Thirty-ton Plymouth locomotive donated by Wisconsin Power & Light in Aug. 1987 arrives to join MCRM’s critter corral of small industrial locomotives.

July 1988: Goodman Lumber #9, a Shay built by Lima in 1909, joins exhibits, awaits restoration. In the Railway Gazette, Part 4 of a 5-part series, “A Review of Railfan Photography,” features pictures by Phil Hastings and caption commentary by David P. Morgan.

September 1988: Soo Line Historical & Technical Society holds annual convention at Mid-Continent, views MCRM’s impressive collection of Soo family freight and passenger equipment, rides special wine-red wooden passenger train.

February 1989: Night photography sessions are a regular feature of Snow Train weekends. Sweet Soo, Waukesha’s Ten-Wheeler No. 2645, moves to North Freedom. Lap-seam boiler prevents restoration to service. Soo Line dining-lounge car 2017 gets a new roof; Mt. Harvard, ten-section buffet solarium car, is donated to the Museum.

March 1989: TV commercial is made near Harvard, Ill., using #1385 and cars from the Museum for Illinois Tourism Office to recreate the Lincoln Funeral Train.

July 1989: “Mid-Continent Steam Story,” a half-hour video about the Museum and Historical Society, is released to favorable reviews, goes on sale. Mid-Continent’s new book, “Focus on Rails,” completed in April 1989, is introduced in our gift shop.

October 1989: Ex-Milwaukee Road #988 headed passenger trains at Autumn Color Weekends. General Manager Dick Goddard retires after 10 seasons. Wisconsin Central donates Crossing Tower to Soo Line Historical & Technical Society, who delivers it to MCRM. The Queen Anne style architecture of the watchman’s tower graces the Walnut St. grade crossing. Mazomanie Wisconsin Railroad Celebration, a fund-raiser for local historical society restoration work, features special trains pulled by engine 1385.


February 1990: Snow Train carried 3,834 passengers over three days. Contractor completes construction of 12,500 square foot Car Shop to provide space for car repair and car restoration. David P. Morgan, Trains editor for more than 34 years, wrote an obituary of Dr. Philip R. Hastings; Railway Gazette uses it posthumously. Board approves purchase of Chicago & North Western combination baggage-coach #7409 and sale of Chicago, Burlington & Quincy #4960.

Summer 1990: David L. Henke becomes MCRM executive director, replacing interim General Manager Ed Minihan. Quartzite Lake viewing platform for train riders goes into service. Circus, Cranes, and Trains tourism promotion enters third successful season. Barnstorming #1385 pulls excursions between McFarland and Stoughton, Wis., over Wisconsin & Calumet Railroad on Sept. 14. Museum’s front door is cleaned up with removal of bulk tank farm.

June 1991: Western Coal & Coke 4-6-0 has a new wooden cab. “Mid-Continent Steam Story,” a video of the railway museum, goes on sale in the gift shop. Crossing watchman’s tower is hoisted into place near the Walnut St. crossing.

April 1992: Chuck Kratz starts work as Executive Director.
Summer 1992: Great Northern power car arrives; has long history. Wausau was visited by #1385 for special train operations.

October 1992: Mid-Continent carries 50,000 passengers in the season. Ex-Canadian National 24-duplex roomette car is donated to MCRM by WSOR.

March 1993: Artist Russ Porter’s painting of KGB&W #49 switching Ann Arbor car ferry No. 3 at Kewaunee circa 1930, is reproduced by Mid-Continent as a fund-raiser.

May 1993: Mid-Continent observes 30th Anniversary of operations at North Freedom. CN coach #5375 is purchased from Lake Superior Museum of Transportation.

July 1993: Deluge of 13 inches of rain in 3 hours washes out MCRM’s mainline in seven places; 13 days later trains resume. Alco C-415 diesel was loaned to C&NW for four days to repair their line in Baraboo.

November 1993: Santa Claus Express is instant hit when Santa rides special trains on Thanksgiving weekend. They rapidly become the Museum’s Happiest Trains. New camp car lease is promulgated.

1994: Mid-Continent’s North Freedom depot marks 100th year. Lackawanna #425, baggage-coach combination car, restored, reenters service at Autumn Color weekends. Museum becomes film set for National Park Service shoot. Major project from roof-down and truck-up restores C&NW combine #7409 to service in yellow/green livery.

1995: Volunteer/Employee Guide Book, becomes effective January 1, 1995; book features regulations, rules, to help workers in their tasks.

May 1995: Investment in new, longer run-around track at Quartzite Lake improves operations, permits operation of longer trains. M&StL box car with Fox trucks stars at C&NW Historical Society meeting on Museum grounds.

June 1996: MCRM launches “Help Steam Live” fund-raiser program.

January 1997: Research discovers MCRM’s oldest standard gauge car to have been built in November 1864. The East Jordan & Southern #2 was originally Chicago & Grand Trunk #112 and came to North Freedom via car ferry across Lake Michigan in 1963.

Summer 1997: Hobos and Civil War re-enactors populate the Museum grounds during the summer season.

June 1997: Wisconsin Central donates wheel lathe as part of “Help Steam Live” campaign. C&NW #1385 has 90th birthday party. MCRM’s revised booklet, “Whistle on the Wind,” returns to circulation.

May 1998: Gift Shop begins line of MCRM-oriented model railroad cars. Fifteen-year restoration of C&NW drover’s caboose sees completion.

May 1, 1999: “Jeffris Special” operates in honor of Tom Jeffris, president of the Jeffris Family Foundation, donor of the $175,000 challenge grant for the restoration of the Milwaukee Lake Shore & Western coach #63.

December 1999: Tom O’Brien, Jr., Mid-Continent past president, TRAIN officer, dies at age of 49.


May 2000: Pullman china “Indian Tree” pattern, graces tables in the business car #440, and color cover on the Railway Gazette.

November 2000: Museum signs $350,000 contract with professional car restorer Glenn Guerra for restoration of MLS&W car 63.

February 2001: Steam Heat is supplied to train by Great Northern steam generator car #593 for first time.

April 2001: Forrest Van Schwartz succeeds Don Meyer as Executive Director.

May 2001: Open House held in Car Shop to show progress on car restoration projects such as Copper Range Rail Road 60 and Milwaukee Lake Shore & Western 63. Tourist Railway Association gives Crook/Freeman award posthumously to Tom O’Brien, Jr., and adds his name to the award, because of his significant impact on the TRAIN organization and the tourist railway industry.

June 2001: Wisconsin State Historical Society marker unveiled at museum, recognizing it as a historic site.

June 2001: Floods wash out line in several places. Volunteers get service restored in a hurry. Engine #1385 enters National Register of Historic Places.

July 2001: Series of Railway Gazette begins on MLS&W restoration covering paint research, car architecture, Art Nouveau design, Miller Hook couplers, construction, to document the project.

November 2001: Track work completed to correct damage from June 2000 flooding. New ballast makes for sharp looking railroad. Lake Superior & Ishpeming 2-8-0 #22’s cosmetic restoration takes giant leap forward with new cab, tender body.

October 1, 2002: C&NW #1385’s original tender, for many years stored at the end of the museum’s line at Quartzite Lake, is rescued from the now isolated track and moved to safe storage for eventual restoration.

October 1, 2002: Milwaukee Lake Shore & Western coach #63 unveiled to the media to show off its restored splendor.

October 26, 2002: Museum operates excursions over WSOR to Devils Lake State Park for two days, raising $12,000 to restore steam locomotives to service.

(to be continued)



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Updated: Help Mid-Continent Obtain Critical Parts for the Cazenovia Southern No. 2 and other Museum Restoration Projects

Mid-Continent has an important opportunity to salvage items from derelict railcars in Minnesota that can be used to improve Mid-Continent’s collection

Mineral Point & Northern #202 at North Freedom, 1999; Jeff Haertlein photo

Cazenovia Southern #2 (Mineral Point & Northern #202) at North Freedom, 1999; Jeff Haertlein photo


Raise $10,000 to cover the costs of buying and shipping railcar parts for use in future Mid-Continent restorations, thereby saving the costly need to reproduce them from scratch

Succeed in raising the funds by September 30, 2014

Apply any excess funds raised toward restoration of Cazenovia Southern No. 2, a locally significant passenger car

Why Your Help is Needed

Within the Mid-Continent Railway Museum collection of equipment we arguably have one of the better collections in the country for wooden passenger cars. Each wooden passenger car has its own significance and importance to the collection. One particular car stands out as being the most historically significant car to Mid-Continent due to it meeting all of the criteria for our collection pieces AND it operated on a railroad in Sauk County, less than 25 miles away from North Freedom. This car is the Cazenovia Southern combine (ex-Mineral Point & Northern).

Read more about Cazenovia Southern No. 2 (ex-Mineral Point & Northern) by visiting it’s listing on our Equipment Roster page.

The car arrived at North Freedom as a car body only (no trucks, draft gear, platforms, etc.) on July 14, 1999. The car is largely unknown due to the fact that it is sitting under a tarp next to the freight house and northeast of the MCRM office. Due to the importance and significance of this car it is surely deserving to be restored to operating condition. In order to do this the car will have to wait its turn to be routed through the MCRM Car Shop, not to mention raise the necessary funds for restoring the car. While it will be a number of years before the Restoration Department can tackle this restoration project there is a call for help RIGHT NOW that will position the car to be completely restored in the future.

Due to the fact that the car is a body only we are desperately in need of the appropriate passenger car trucks, draft gear, brake equipment and related iron parts to restore this car. If Mid-Continent had to reproduce these items it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. We’d certainly prefer to not do this so we have been constantly been looking for opportunities to acquire the necessary parts from another car.

With the recent passing of Don Lind (owner of the Minnesota & Western RR, Annandale, Minnesota) it came to our attention that his collection of rolling stock was up for sale. Within the collection there were three heavily deteriorated passenger cars that could be sources for the parts we are in need of. In late April Mid-Continent members toured the site and confirmed that the necessary and appropriate parts for the Cazenovia Southern combine are available. Since then a price has been agreed to with the seller and a plan to remove, load and transport the parts from Annandale, Minn. to North Freedom has been initiated.

 Update 10/21/2014: Mission Accomplished!

Our mission has been accomplished with the generosity of donors and the hard work of Mid-Continent Railway Museum volunteers. The campaign to salvage items for use on the Cazenovia Southern coach-baggage car and other equipment has been a great success! The goal of $10,000 was reached and exceeded, totaling $10,250 with the help of 18 contributors.


  • Becker, Peter
  • Bloohm, Jeff
  • Buhrmaster, William
  • Busse, Jim
  • Dipping, Richard
  • Dorner, Tom
  • Drifke, Lawrence
  • Harrington, Mike
  • Jax, John
  • Kloss, Ronald
  • Maginniss, Leigh
  • Mathias, Stuart
  • Mennenga, Jerry
  • Moore, Michael
  • Polaske, Robert
  • Theroux, Matthew
  • Wartinbee, Ron
  • Wolfmeyer, Pamela


  • Buhrmaster, William
  • Busse, Jim
  • Dipping, Richard
  • Ham, Chuck
  • Lichter, Skip
  • Merzdorf, Randy
  • Miller, B G
  • Potthast, Richard
  • Saulvola, Dean
  • Schmidt, Floyd
  • Theroux, Matt
  • Wantz, Dave

In terms of volunteers, Dave Wantz’s help was very significant as he made some 14 trips to the Annandale, MN site to assist with site preparations and parts removal. Dave was assisted many times by Minnesota resident and Mid-Continent member Chuck Ham. Racking up the most miles driven to help on the effort was Richard Potthast who made five trips to the Annandale site. Driving over 3,000 miles (total) as he hauled parts back to Mid-Continent.

The trucks and car parts purchased from the Minnesota & Western site are now safely and neatly stored away on the MCRM property. From all aspects, this effort has been a success and a tremendous boost to the eventual restoration of the Cazenovia Southern car.

The car must still wait in line for a turn in the Car Shop and further fundraising will be needed to pay for additional materials to complete the project but this is crucial first step. The quick actions of museum leaders, the generosity of donors, and the dedication of volunteers all allowed Mid-Continent Railway Museum to seize this opportunity and will pay dividends many times over when restoration of Cazenovia Southern No. 2 begins in earnest.

If you wish to contribute toward the future restoration of Cazenovia Southern No. 2, please visit the donation page and write “Cazenovia Southern #2” on your check’s memo line or on the printable donation form. Alternatively, consider donating to the broader “Wood Car Restoration Fund” to help speed along current restoration projects in the most efficient manner possible.

collapsed passenger railcar with excavator

Collapsed railcar at former Minnesota & Western site being dismantled for parts.

volunteer applying linseed oil to car trucks

Volunteer Richard Dipping applies linseed oil to protect the 7-ft (wheelbase) truck salvaged from Wisconsin Central No. 331, a car formerly in the Minnesota & Western collection. These trucks will ultimately end up underneath Milwaukee Lake Shore & Western No. 63, replacing the inaccurately sized trucks currently used.

car trucks being carried by forklift

One of the two newly acquired 8-ft trucks from the Minnesota & Western site is carried into storage at Mid-Continent Railway Museum. This item will be repaired and put to use under Cazenovia Southern No. 2 when restoration of that car is completed. No. 2 did not have it’s own trucks when it was donated to Mid-Continent Railway Museum in 1999.

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‘Steam & Steel’ Album Benefits Steam Restorations

Fundraising at Mid-Continent Railway Museum has taken on a more harmonious tone with the release of an original music CD entitled Steam & Steel: Songs of Railroad’s Golden Age. A collection of ten railroad themed songs, including nine original compositions by Mid-Continent member Ken Hojnacki, performed by Grammy Award-winning bluegrass artist Laurie Lewis and her band, they range in style from bluegrass to country to folk.

Order yours by calling our office at 800-930-1385 or pick up a copy at the depot ticket window.

Price: $20.00 + tax and S&H if applicable. CD valued at $15.00 with $5.00 of each purchase considered a tax-deductible donation. All proceeds directly help Mid-Continent’s steam program.

The Stories Behind the Songs of Railroading’s Golden Age

album cover

Steam & Steel CD cover art by Genevieve Davis

My love of trains began at an early age, growing up in my hometown of Auburn, NY. My sister had an American Flyer train set which was only brought out at Christmas. And I marveled at the stories told by an uncle, who worked as a conductor on the New York Central. I indulged my interests in trains by collecting models until I was old enough to become involved with full-sized trains at the Rail City Museum in Sandy Pond, NY. Cinders and coal smoke have been in my veins ever since.

All the sights and sounds of train operations have fired my imagination to the point that as the years went by, I merged my love of music with my love of trains and wrote the songs you hear on the Steam and Steel CD. While many popular songs use trains as part of their theme, my goal was to write about the people and their lives working the rails, while also celebrating the memory of some of the great railroads that are now gone from the scene. When inspiration hit, my wife Shirley would get a pad of paper and feverishly write down the words as they came.

Shirley’s comment, after hearing the unmastered version of the CD, was that “You can see the whole story unfolding in your mind.” And even though she has heard me sing these songs for years, she noted that Laurie’s arrangements and the heart put into them by each performer brought them to life at a higher level.

Ken Hojnacki and crew with CNW 1385

Ken Hojnacki’s first day as engineer at Mid-Continent, September 1, 1996. Left to right; Ken, fireman Al Joyce, trainman Wayne Lager and conductor Fred Vergenz.

When I moved to Madison, Wis. in the late 1980s, one of the first things I did was to visit the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom. After hearing for years through the hobby press about the members’ commitment to preserving the elements of railroad’s Golden Age, I just had to see it in person. I became a member and a volunteer, working my way up through the ranks of the train crew until I qualified as an engineer on July 21, 1996 on board the fabled ten-wheeler, the Chicago & North Western No. 1385.

And now, to underscore my devotion to the museum and our shared passion for railroad history, I have donated these songs to Mid-Continent for the sole purpose of creating a CD whose sales proceeds will benefit the museum’s steam restoration efforts. One hundred percent of the price, when purchased through the museum, will go into its Steam Fund to assure everyone who revels in the glory that is steam power that the trains will run for generations to come at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum. And I trust you will enjoy reading on to learn more about the stories behind each of my songs that comprise what has truly been a labor of love.

—Ken Hojnacki 

 Album Tracks

Old Saginaw

(Scott Huffman: guitar, lead vocal; Tom Rozum: mandolin, harmony vocal; Chad Manning: fiddle; Patrick Sauber: banjo; Laurie Lewis: string bass, harmony vocal)

Saginaw Timber Company number 2 at La Rue

Saginaw Timber #2, inspiration for the Steam & Steel album cover, at La Rue.

The Saginaw Timber Company No. 2 is a steam locomotive built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1912. She was used on logging railroads in the Pacific Northwest and later on tourist trains in Michigan before arriving at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in 1982. An oil burner, she has been my favorite locomotive to operate at the museum. Her simplicity of Stephenson valve motion, sparse boiler backhead, Johnson bar and sleek boiler lines belie the power of those eight squat driving wheels. I like to tell visitors that after the Titanic sank in April 1912, they built the No. 2 in December of that same year as an equally impressive replacement. As the opening selection, the performance of this song sets the stage for the entire CD. This is exactly as I would have wanted this song to sound; lively, great accompaniment, and wonderful harmony. I couldn’t ask for a better rendition.


Have you heard about the Number Two, she’s called the Saginaw?
She worked out in the Northwoods and up in Mackinaw.
She hauled a lot of timber and man she done it good.
Old Saginaw, the workhorse of the woods.

Old Saginaw, she’s rollin’ down the rail.
Old Saginaw, just keep out of her trail.
Can’t you hear her whistle blowin’? She’s soundin’ mighty good.
Old Saginaw, the workhorse of the woods.

Mister Fireman watch your water and keep it nice and high.
Keep a close watch on your fire or she’ll spit that oil in your eye.
Hear the poundin’ of the drivers, she’s workin’ like she should.
Old Saginaw, the workhorse of the woods.

Old Saginaw, she’s rollin’ down the rail.
Old Saginaw, just keep out of her trail.
Can’t you hear her whistle blowin’? She’s soundin’ mighty good.
Old Saginaw, the workhorse of the woods.

The lumber mills are quiet now, Mother Nature’s claimed her trail.
But the Saginaw’s still running on the old North Freedom rail.
She’s haulin’ folks, not logs today, but she still does it good.
Old Saginaw, the workhorse of the woods.

Old Saginaw, she’s rollin’ down the rail.
Old Saginaw, just keep out of her trail.
For ninety years she’s done her job like Baldwin knew she could.
Old Saginaw, the workhorse of the woods.

Old Saginaw, the workhorse of the woods.

 Denver & Rio Grande

(Tom Rozum: mandolin, arch-top guitar, lead vocal; Laurie Lewis: guitar, vocal; Bobby Black: steel guitar; Andrew Conklin: string bass)

Denver and Rio Grande train

Denver & Rio Grande. Photo by Ken Hojnacki.

After a ride on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, which is a remnant of the once vast Denver & Rio Grande narrow gauge network, thoughts of railroaders working in the rugged Colorado mountains to open up the West led to writing this song. It is meant to be an homage to late 19th Century railroading on this most celebrated narrow gauge line in the country. Steam trains still climb to Windy Point and Cumbres Pass on the Cumbres & Toltec line, while Durango & Silverton trains cling to narrow ledges above the Animas River on the way to Silverton so we can still experience the adventure depicted in this song. I like Laurie’s arrangement, even the change from my ending on a minor note on every verse except the last, which makes for a nicer sound.


High in the Rocky Mountains in the Uncompaghre Range
I was just a boy when I first recall those trains.
‘Twas then I knew what I had to do when I became a man,
Working on the narrow gauge, the Denver & Rio Grande.

The work was hard, the winters cold, the summer harsh with heat.
Gold came down from Silverton, from Gunnison came sheep.
And down the way to Santa Fe through great, green timber stands,
Working on the narrow gauge, the Denver & Rio Grande.

Looking down from Windy Point to the valley far below
I could see the little trains a battlin’ the snow.
Engines numbered 3 or more with smoke plumes tall and grand,
Working on the narrow gauge, the Denver & Rio Grande.

Climbing over Monarch Pass on switchbacks, to and fro,
Oil trains to Farmington and Cumbres in the snow,
Silver, cattle, coal and more were carried from this land,
Carried on the narrow gauge, the Denver & Rio Grande.

Over Cerro Summit and up through Marshall Pass,
Crested Butte, Monero, Chama, Wagon Wheel Gap,
Pagosa Springs and Ridgway in a circle cross this land,
Working on the narrow gauge, the Denver & Rio Grande.

Here’s to the railroad men who toiled through rain and snow,
Mountain tops to valley floors, wherever rails did go,
The best of railroad men were found working hand in hand,
Working on the narrow gauge, the Denver & Rio Grande,
Working on the narrow gauge, the Denver & Rio Grande.

 Memories, Childhood Days

(Laurie Lewis: string bass, vocal; Scott Huffman: guitar; Tom Rozum: mandolin; Chad Manning: fiddle)

This song sprang from my Saturday mornings playing engineer in a certain living room chair that eventually evolved into actually running steam locomotives in both the US and China. The song includes all the things I think a youngster before my time might have experienced and that I longed to experience had I grown up in the steam era. Steam locomotives, crisp winter days with steam wafting from between the cars, the excitement of the local depot at train time – and all that has passed and gone. Driving past the New York Central’s Erie Boulevard station in Syracuse, NY and the Ontario & Western depot in Oriskany Falls, NY, both with highways running next to them, inspired the imagery of the “depot with its sad and lonely face” as the ultimate fate of so much of railroading’s past.

When I first heard Laurie’s rendition I almost didn’t recognize the song. My musical interest is more mainstream country than bluegrass, but listening to her version a couple of times made me appreciate the nostalgic tone set by her arrangement. It makes me think of a child’s fascination with the experience as it would have been in the here and now, then tempers the sadness of the last two verses with what my wife says is the violin crying in the background with the lyrics still evoking the child’s memory of a happier time. It presents this material in a whole new light and I’m loving it.


Through my frosty bedroom window I look out upon the world
And away off in the valley I can see the white smoke curl
And the yellow sun a-risin’ brings its warmth to greet the day.
Memories, childhood days.

As I rush to put my clothes on, hookin’ up my overalls
Still buttoning my jacket as I race out through the hall,
And I run down to the depot as I hear the whistle scream
Memories, childhood dreams.

As she pulls into the station hear the squealing of the brakes
And the panting of the engine, what a lovely sound it makes.
And the shining cars are gleaming in the early morning sun.
Memories, childhood fun.

The waiting folks all hurry from the warm potbellied stove
And they rush out to the platform in the freshly fallen snow.
And they board the cars with bustle and they’ll soon be on their way.
Memories, childhood days.

Then the big bell starts a-ringin’ and the whistle gives a shout
And the smoke and steam are spewing as the old train eases out.
And she slowly starts a-creakin’ down the tracks and far away.
Memories, childhood dreams.

Now I lie awake at night and hear the rumble of a train
And the glowing yellow headlight streaks across my windowpane.
And my mind goes on a journey to a place that’s far away.
Memories, childhood days.

So I go out to the depot with its sad and lonely face.
But a highway runs beside it, of the tracks there is no trace.
And I hang my head in silence as I slowly walk away.
Memories, childhood dreams, childhood days.

Wreck of No. 9

Written by Carson Robison

(Scott Huffman: guitar, vocal; Tom Rozum: mandolin, harmony vocal; Patrick Sauber: banjo; Chad Manning: fiddle; Laurie Lewis: string bass)

While not one of my songs, when I heard that Laurie suggested adding this classic ballad to the CD, I was surprised and somewhat taken aback. The first Hank Snow album I bought in the early 1960s was titled “Railroad Man” and contained this song. After learning to play guitar, it was one of the first railroad songs I learned and has always been a favorite. I am pleased to have my work in such good company.


On a cold winter’s night not a star was in sight
And the north wind came howling down the line.
With his sweetheart so dear stood a brave engineer
With his orders to pull old No 9.

She kissed him goodbye with a tear in her eye
But the joy in his heart he could not hide.
For the whole world seemed bright when she told him that night
That tomorrow she’d be his blushing bride.

Well the wheels hummed a song as the train rolled along
And the black smoke came rollin’ from the stack.
And his headlight agleam seemed to brighten his dream
Of tomorrow when he’d be goin’ back.

He sped around the hill and his brave heart stood still
A headlight was shining in his face.
So he whispered a prayer as he drew on the air
For he knew this would be his final race.

In a wreck he was found lying there on the ground
And he asked them to raise his weary head.
And this the message he sent as his breath slowly went
To a maiden who thought she would be wed.

”There’s a little white home that I bought for our own
Where I dreamed we’d be happy by and by
And I leave it to you for I know you’ll be true
’Til we meet at the golden gate, goodbye.”

Passenger Train

(Scott Huffman: guitars, vocal; Tom Rozum: arch-top guitar; Chad Manning: fiddle; Bobby Black: steel guitar; Laurie Lewis: string bass)

If you have ever ridden a passenger train, then you know how exciting it can be. Whether it is an old coach creaking along a branch line or a stainless steel streamliner gliding across the desert, the “glory and the grandeur of the passenger train” is a unique experience. Trips to New York City and Chicago on the New York Central and Erie Lackawanna railroads and to California on the Santa Fe and the Union Pacific lines introduced me to crisp linens and heavy silver in the diners (which led me to working first class service on trains at Mid-Continent), and the friendly and sometimes not so friendly, train crews and Pullman porters. This song recalls these experiences and highlights the anticipation of waiting for a train, the adventure of meeting new people and experiencing new things. Then it segues into a nostalgic recollection of famous passenger trains of years gone by. Scott has a great voice with a nice inflection for these lyrics. And a lyric change to reference “the Golden Age” in the first verse was Laurie’s suggestion to give it a nice tie-in with the CD’s title.


Listen folks and I’ll tell you my tale of the Golden Age of the big iron rail.
Life was different in days gone by. Didn’t have cars and no one could fly.
If you needed to travel from here to there free from worry and free from care
The way to travel and ease your brain was on a railroad passenger train.

The railroad depot was the center of town. That’s where all the young boys hung ‘round,
Waitin’ to wave to the engineer or watch the conductor with his stately air.
The big bell rang and the whistle screamed, to run an engine was every boy’s dream;
A promise of adventure that always came with the haunting sound of a railroad train.

You paid your fare and you boarded the car, your neighbor asked you are you traveling far.
Train started up with nary a jar, relaxed in your chair in the parlor car.
Dinner in the diner in high class style, rolling at 70 all the while.
The food was great and the service the same, on a railroad passenger train.

The conductor called “Tickets!” walkin’ down the aisle, collected his fares with hardly a smile.
The Pullman porter with his manner so fine, pickin’ up shoes just to give ‘em a shine.
Watching the scenery rolling on from an open obs or a Vista Dome,
You traveled relaxed and arrived the same, on a railroad passenger train.

Gone are the trains that we knew so well like the Golden Rocket and the Southern Belle,
The Texas Eagle and the Wolverine and the Panama Limited to New Orleans,
Pocahontas and the Banner Blue, Pioneer Zephyr and the Cannonball too.
Deep in memory we’ll cherish the fame and the glory and the grandeur of the passenger train.

Rutland Road

(Laurie Lewis: fiddle, vocal; Patrick Sauber: banjo; Tom Rozum: mandola)

A road with a checkered history and sad ending was the Rutland Railway, a line that ran from Bellows Falls and Bennington, VT to Ogdensburg, NY on Lake Ontario. The Green Mountain Flyer was its crack passenger train connecting Montreal with Boston. Surviving several owners, a failed attempt at developing a fast freight service with its Whippet trains and enduring harsh Vermont and Adirondack winters, came to naught as a strike by rail workers shuttered the railroad in 1961 before it was ultimately abandoned in 1963. This song chronicles the railway’s birth and struggle to survive, and mourns the death throes leading to its abandonment; an unbecoming fate for such an intriguing railroad.

What can I say about Laurie’s interpretation of the song? My wife and I both sat up and leaned into the speakers the first time we heard it. I love the feeling of Patty Loveless’ version of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” Laurie’s soulful rendition of Rutland Road captures that same feeling of loneliness, impending doom, and sorrow at the loss of something dear. I never would have thought of this type of adaptation for this song but she’s hit the mark here. I can’t see this being sung any other way now. I’m going to have to learn how to do it this way myself.


The clouds are dark and gray. It is such a gloomy day.
And in the valley all is still. No trains will run today.

Back in eighty-three across the north country
There came a mighty engine’s roar headed for Ontario’s shore.

Across the mountains high and through the valleys wide
There runs a rough and rugged trail they call the Rutland Rail.

A gallant attempt but late, the Whippet was doomed to fate.
And the Green Mountain Flyer no more rolls on into Boston town.

September of sixty-one the Rutland’s life near done.
The strike call was a louder cry. The Rutland began to die.

All across Lake Champlain to Vermont and back again
The keys lay silent, the sounders still along the Rutland Rail.

The doors were closed and locked, the engines lay dead in the shop.
Mother Nature began to claim her trail known as the Rutland Rail.

The rails let out a cry as the torch cut through their side.
And the stations’ windows gazed with hollow stare
At the sights that they saw there.

Now the rumbling trains are gone. The stations stand forlorn.
Only memories remain of the bygone days along the Rutland Rail.

The clouds are dark and gray. It is such a gloomy day.
And in the valley all is still. No trains will run today.
No trains on the Rutland Rail. Gone is the Rutland Rail.

East Broad Top

(Scott Huffman: guitar, lead vocal; Tom Rozum: mandolin, vocal; Laurie Lewis: string bass, vocal; Bobby Black: resophonic guitar; Patrick Sauber: banjo)

East Broad Top #15

East Broad Top #15 at the Orbisonia roundhouse, ready for its day’s work.

Narrow gauge railroading was not limited to the west and a visit to the East Broad Top Railroad in central Pennsylvania took me back to the 1930s. Wandering around the original facilities in Orbisonia, I thought of what it might have been like to work on the railroad during one of the darkest economic times in our history.

The life of a worker in a coal mining operation is hard, to say the least, but during the Great Depression that hardship must have reached unheard of limits. This song speaks of that hardship but also the resilience and camaraderie of those who worked the railroads of this country during that difficult time. To emphasize that point, I enlivened the story by using the names of people who have played a significant part in my railroad life: Nelson Husted, the man who first taught me to run a steam locomotive at the Rail City Museum; Warren Tisler, who was a great Mid-Continent engineer to learn from, as were Tom O’Brien, Van McCullough and Jim Bertrand, who became good friends; and Mike Palmer, a NYO&W agent at Accord, NY, who shared memories and gifts from his life.

I cannot think of a more fitting tribute for these men.

I can only describe this song as a sleeper. I lost the written lyrics and was only able to contribute it to this collection by tracking down a version I recorded on a cassette tape recorder back in the 1980s. It was a song I never enjoyed playing because it seemed clunky and dragged. I intended it to be a slow, sad song about a hard time in our history. But the CD’s more upbeat rendition has turned this orphan into one of my favorites on the album. I always had a hard time with the chorus, having difficulty getting the best inflection for these lines, but Scott has done it perfectly. I guess Carolyn Hegeler’s initial reaction to it, as well as Laurie’s, was based on a better vision than mine. Thanks for turning this one around.


When I hear somebody say this world is crazy
It sets my mind to wanderin’ to a time so long ago.
It was in the Great Depression back in ‘37
When the thing that kept me goin’ was a railroad hauling coal.

In the Allegheny Mountains in the state of Pennsylvania
I lived in a rundown shack in the shadow of the mines,
Where I woke up in the mornin’ with the fire not far from dyin’
And the cold wind blowin’ through the cracks chilled the body and the mind.

Train at Shade Creek on East Broad Top

Northbound train crossing Shade Creek in Orbisonia on East Broad Top.

East Broad Top, my family and friend.
East Broad Top, wish I could ride again.
East Broad Top, your lonesome whistle’s whine.
I rode your rails down the narrow trail into a better time.

There wasn’t much in wages, the hours were outrageous.
Sometimes it was many days ‘for we would turn a wheel.
But over in the roundhouse you could always thaw out
With a good hot cup of coffee ‘round the old potbellied stove.

Nelson ran the engine, Warren did the firing.
Tom and Van and Jim and Mike, they were all part of the crew.
We all helped one another with beans or bread or butter
And we all stuck together and somehow made it through.

East Broad Top, my family and friend.
East Broad Top, wish I could ride again.
East Broad Top, your lonesome whistle’s whine.
I rode your rails down the narrow trail into a better time.

Train at Orbisonia on East Broad Top

Workin’ in the morning, making up the trains in Orbisonia.

We worked in the morning before the sun was dawning
Firin’ up the engines and makin’ up the trains.
Southbound we hauled empties. Northbound was coal for Pennsy.
The engine barkin’ loud, the drivers slippin’ in the rain.

I rode the rails in hard times, rode the rails in war time,
Rode the rails to victory and to the final peace.
But now the tracks are rusty, the engines cold and silent.
All that’s left are memories and ghosts that never speak.

East Broad Top, my family and friend.
East Broad Top, wish I could ride again.
East Broad Top, you made me what I am
You taught me love of simple things and you made me a man.
You taught me love of simple things and you made me a man.

 The O&W Line

(Scott Huffman: guitar, vocal; Tom Rozum: mandolin, vocal; Patrick Sauber: banjo; Bobby Black: resophonic guitar; Laurie Lewis: string bass)

Ontario & Western train wreck

Ontario & Western wreck near Northfield, NY. Note the “Mother Hubbard” locomotive #275 on the right.

In a field near the hamlet of Northfield, north of Sidney, NY on the New York, Ontario & Western Railway, a Mother Hubbard locomotive, also called a Camelback because the locomotive cab was located halfway down the boiler, collided head-on with another train. These “cornfield meets” have been the subject of many stories and songs and so did this wreck inspire The O&W Line. The fireman on these locomotives would be at the back end shoveling coal so the engineer was alone in the cab, unable to see an approaching train around the curve. With a full load of passengers, the engineer in this song stood by his post, trying to slow the train to reduce the casualties on both sides. Alas, at the end, he knows his lot is to “stay and die here” on the O&W Line.

My head snapped when I first heard this track. These songs were written in a more traditional country style and a bluegrass rendition was never considered. But hearing this track, it is amazing to think this song was probably always meant to be done this way. The lyrical adaptations to fit the tempo work perfectly. I am a big banjo fan, having tried to teach myself the five-string banjo back in the 1960s in upstate New York (where no one played the banjo back then), and I love the banjo work on this and the other cuts. I also love the harmony, as I sing almost the identical harmony to myself when listening to the CD. Another favorite – wait, they’re all favorites.


I left old Sidney late one night four hours behind time
Headin’ down old Walton way on the O&W Line.
2-7-5 was doin’ fine, smoke was rollin’ free,
Then like a ghost a light appeared down the track in front of me.

I sat there for a moment, paralyzed by the sight.
I wished I’d seen it sooner, but the track curved to the right.
I turned ‘round to my fireman, but he was not in sight,
Firing the Mother Hubbard that we rode into the night.

I pulled the whistle cord and then hit the air
And midst all the noise I said a little prayer.
The lights kept coming towards us. I said that’s all this time.
This will be my last trip on the O&W Line.

I could hit the cinders. I might be safe that way,
But I’ve got to try and save all the people on that train.
So I’ll stay and die here, if that lot is mine.
I will give my all for the O&W Line.

I see her markers now and I hear the engine’s roar.
These will be the sights and sounds I’ll never see no more.
The steam shoots out around me. The steel, it bends and whines.
Yes, this is my last trip on the O&W Line.

The Ballad of Bill Strauss

(Scott Huffman: guitar, vocal; Tom Rozum: mandolin; Patrick Sauber: banjo; Chad Manning: fiddle; Laurie Lewis: string bass)

This song was inspired by one of my best friends, Paul Strauss, who believed his great-grandfather, Bill Strauss, was an engineer on the Illinois Central Railroad and was killed in a wreck. While it turned out that he was killed in a train wreck near Milstadt, IL on April 2, 1912, he actually worked on the Mobile & Ohio. We learned of this correction too late since the lyrics were already complete. And besides, M&O just doesn’t fit the rhyme. Written in the style of the “Wreck of the Old 97” in glorifying the brave engineer who was the victim of circumstance, the Ballad of Bill Strauss was my first attempt at writing a railroad song.

When the intro to this song came on, I thought “Why are they playing ‘The Wreck of the Old 97?’” I loved Flatt & Scruggs’ version of that song and this version of Bill Strauss fills me with the same excitement. I put a lot of high notes in the melody but the absence of some doesn’t detract at all. In fact it seems like a lot of thought went into this arrangement and it came out great.


It was in the afternoon on a sunny day in June
Down at the old roundhouse.
Oiling up 123 of the old IC
Was that brave engineer, Bill Strauss.

He pulled out a string of freight about 4:08.
One twenty-three was really doin’ fine.
He highballed it through because he knew
That the track crew had just fixed the line.

He was goin’ round a curve when he felt the engine swerve
And what he saw filled his heart with dread.
And he whispered a prayer as he drew on the air
And soon old Bill was dead.

Everyone at the scene saw the battered machine
And wondered what Bill saw ahead.
When the gang crew came back they looked at the track
And saw that the rails had spread.

Now you all listen well to the story I tell
Of a life that’s gay and free.
Just be sure of your load, keep your eye on the road
When you’re hoggin’ on the old IC.

Four Ribbons of Light

(Scott Huffman: guitar, vocal; Bobby Black: resophonic guitar; Chad Manning: fiddle; Tom Rozum: mandolin; Andrew Conklin: string bass)

During my high school years, my best friends John Tomandl and Paul Strauss and I would spend evenings on the New York Central double track main line around Weedsport, NY. Lots of freight and passenger trains would roll by and we would stay until late at night, watching the headlights and marker lights cut through the dark. John noted how the moonlight on the rails looked like four ribbons of light. Combining that imagery with a traditional railroad theme of a railroader reaching the end of life, the thought of taking that one last ride was the inspiration for this song. It is an attempt to convey an old railroader’s consolation that he would one day soon be reunited with friends long gone to that great railroad in the sky. It was therefore important to me that this song be the final selection on the CD.


As I went out a walkin’ one late night in the fall
I went down by the station, Lord, and heard a mournful call.

The moonlight shown on the railhead, four ribbons of light in the night.
I looked up to the north and saw a strange ghostly light.

I heard the bell a-ringing. I heard the whistle whine.
And the sight of smoke a-blowin’, Lord, sent chills right down my spine.

The pounding of the drivers was like the thunder from the skies.
And the bright glow of the headlight was blinding to my eyes.

The whistle screamed its warning as toward me it did fly,
The rockin’, rollin’ ghost train on its midnight ride.

The engineer at the throttle was in the wreck of ‘93
And I swear that fireman shoveling coal looked like my daddy to me.

As the train roared by me in the coaches’ dim, yellow light
I saw the faces of many a friend I had in days gone by.

When the train rolled by me and faded out of sight
A voice cried, “You’ll be ridin’ soon like we have on this night.”

Standing there at trackside I watched the markers’ glow.
I knew that I would be at peace when on that train I go.

Four ribbons of light in the moonlight. Four ribbons of light in the night.
And that ghost train takin’ this railroad man, takin’ me home tonight.
And that ghost train takin’ this railroad man, takin’ me home tonight.

About the Album

Dear Laurie:

I am ecstatic with what you and your fellow artists have done with this project. I am humbled to think you thought enough of my work to devote so much time and creative effort to this project. My wife and I were mesmerized listening to it – the first time, second time, third time – it sounds better with every listening. You have more than done justice to the messages I intended to evoke with the music. You have taken my meager efforts and propelled them beyond my imagination.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Laurie Lewis

Laurie Lewis

Steam and Steel: Songs of Railroad’s Golden Age

All songs written by Ken Hojnacki except “The Wreck of No. 9” by Carson Robison.

Produced and arranged by Laurie Lewis

Recorded at LewieToons, Berkeley, CA by Laurie Lewis

Mixed at the Rec Room, Nashville, TN by Ben Surratt and Laurie Lewis

Mixing Engineer: Ben Surratt

Mastered by Ken Lee at Ken Lee Mastering, Oakland, CA

Project Coordinator: Carolyn Hegeler

Executive Producer: Don Meyer

Album art: Genevieve Davis

Album design: David Miller

Railroad Glossary

Railroaders have a language all their own and a lot doesn’t make sense to those outside the brotherhood. Herewith, a glossary to help explain some of the more obscure references in the songs.

Baldwin — The Baldwin Locomotive Works was located outside of Philadelphia, PA and was one of the largest locomotive builders in the world. Alas, when steam locomotives gave way to diesels, Baldwin was not able to make a successful transition.

Narrow gauge — Nearly all railroads in operation in the United States are standard gauge — 4’ 8 1⁄2 inches between the inside of the railhead. In the last half of the 1800s, narrower gauges were used to reduce the cost of construction and equipment. Three foot gauge was the most popular and the Denver & Rio Grande in Colorado had the most extensive system. However, the East Broad Top in Pennsylvania was also built to three foot gauge.

Parlor Car — To attract wealthier patrons, in the late 1800s, railroads began purchasing specialty passenger cars designed to provide more amenities for an additional cost, much like first class airline seats today. Instead of rows of bench seats as in the typical coach, a parlor car had individual wicker or leather chairs, often swiveling or free to be moved about the car so passengers could feel like they were in their living room. Because of the greatly reduced number of seats in parlor cars, the additional cost of riding in these cars meant most never experienced this luxury.

Pullman porter — The largest manufacturer and operator of railroad sleeping cars was the Pullman Company. Each car had an African American porter to assist passengers with their luggage and other needs. Passengers in private rooms could open a small compartment where they could deposit their shoes. The porter would pick up the shoes after everyone was asleep and return them with a high polished shine.

Obs — This is slang for “observation car,” another specialty type of car that might be a sleeping, lounge or parlor car but with a larger, open platform on the back where passengers could sit in folding chairs and enjoy the open air and scenery falling away from the train as it rolled along. This was also an extra fare car in nearly all cases.

Vista Dome — The Budd Company, a pioneer in building stainless steel streamlined cars, built the first car with a glass dome on the center of the roof where passengers could get a panoramic view of the scenery.

The Whippet — In 1939, the Rutland Railroad was in deep financial difficulty, as were many railroads during the Great Depression. A plan was devised for a fast freight service from Boston to numerous destinations across the US in conjunction with other railroads. Unfortunately, competing routes provided faster service and the Whippet failed to erase the red ink from the Rutland’s ledgers.

Keys and sounders — Before telephonic communication, the telegraph was the means of transmitting messages between towns. The railroad depot usually had a railroad company line and the Western Union line for news and business messages. The key was the device used by the sending operator to create the dots and dashes of the Morse Code message. The sounder was the listening device where a brass bar was magnetically moved to “click” against another metal bar so the receiving operator could decipher the message. Railroads made extensive use of telegraph to regulate train movements over their routes.

Drivers — On a steam locomotive, steam pressure moved large pistons which were connected to siderods that turned large drive wheels to put the locomotive and train into motion.

Mother Hubbard, Camelback — As noted in O&W Line, many Eastern railroads used locomotives with the engine cab astride the boiler instead of at the end in order to burn anthracite coal, which required a bigger firebed. These engines had many nicknames such as Camelbacks, from Baltimore & Ohio’s original 1853 Ross Winan’s Camel locomotive and Mother Hubbard for the cab’s resemblance to that lady’s cupboard in the children’s rhyme. On the Ontario & Western, the “double cabs” outnumber conventional cab locomotives over the history of the railroad. Because the fireman could not ride in the cab and fire the locomotive at the same time, the engineer was often alone. The long boiler ahead of the cab obstructed the limited view of the engineer and even if a brakeman was riding on the other side, the boiler itself impaired any communication across the top of the boiler. New construction of this type of locomotive was banned by the government in 1927 but older models were used until the 1950s.

Hit the air — Trains are stopped by use of airbrakes on the cars and locomotive. To hit the air means apply the brakes, usually in an emergency application.

Hit the cinders — Many railroads used cinders from the locomotives for ballasting their track instead of rock. When the crew had to get off equipment quickly in an emergency, they would jump to the track bed, literally hitting the cinders.

Markers — Special lamps with three or four lenses. In proper definition, marker lights are used on the end of the train, with red showing to the rear and green or amber showing to the sides. As used in the song, the “markers” are more properly classification lamps to indicate the train is an extra train not on the timetable or is one section of a regularly scheduled train.

Highball — A signal from the brakeman or conductor to the engine crew that they had permission to proceed. The term comes from an early wayside signal consisting of a large ball with a rope through the center which was hoisted to the top of a pole to indicate the train could proceed; literally, a high ball.

Gang — Track gangs were crews assigned to maintain the tracks on a certain section of the railroad. They would change rails, replace ties and perform any regular maintenance needed.

Rail spread — Rails are kept in gauge by spikes driven into the ties on each side of the rail base. Rotted ties, missing or loose spikes or drastic changes in temperature can cause the rails to loosen and when a locomotive or car rolls over the spot, the weight and moving forces can push the rail outward, spreading out the distance between the rails and derailing the train.

Hoggin’ — A locomotive was sometimes referred to as a “hog” and an engineer as a “hogger.” Hence, hogging would be running a locomotive.

IC — The Illinois Central Railroad which ran south from Chicago to New Orleans.

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