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 Emmigrants,” 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.

#12283 restored, c.1975
#12283 restored

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

1978; Jim Neubauer photo
1978; Jim Neubauer photo

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.

OSL #762, location unknown.
OSL #762, location unknown.


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.

3-4-82, office building under construction; photographer unknown, MCRM collection
3-4-82, office building under construction; photographer unknown, MCRM collection

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

CB&Q #4960 on the transfer track in North Freedom on March 1981 getting ready to depart MCRM, never to return; Jim Neubauer photo
CB&Q #4960 on the transfer track in North Freedom in March 1981, getting ready to depart MCRM for Tennessee. It would later be sold without ever returning to North Freedom; Jim Neubauer photo.

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.

CRR #60 as it arrived at North Freedom.

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.

Roofing work on coach car in 1984.
Roofing work on coach car in 1984

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.

Feb. 1985; Philip R. Hastings photo
Feb. 1985; Philip R. Hastings photo

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 La Crosse.

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.

Gil Reid painting of Union Pacific #440.
Gil Reid portrayal of a Union Pacific #440 at Mid-Continent.

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.

W.F. Hall Printing Co. Whitcomb diesel at Mid-Continent. Paul Swanson photo, June 1986.
W.F. Hall Printing Co. Whitcomb diesel at Mid-Continent. Paul Swanson photo, June 1986.

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.

New car shop building; c.1989; Bill Buhrmaster photo
New car shop building; c.1989; Bill Buhrmaster photo

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.

Crossing tower. Paul Swanson photo
Crossing tower. Paul Swanson photo

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.

C&NW 1385 at Wausau. 1992
C&NW 1385 at Wausau. 1992

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.

Russ Porter's painting of KGB&W #49 switching Ann Arbor car ferry No. 3 at Kewaunee circa 1930
Russ Porter’s painting of KGB&W #49 switching Ann Arbor car ferry No. 3 at Kewaunee circa 1930

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.

National Park Service shoot, 1994
National Park Service shoot, 1994

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.

July 1996: Mid-Continent joins “information superhighway,” creating its first website, www.mcrwy.com. The site gets 329 visits in July and improves to 767 the following month. The museum transitions to using www.midcontinent.org as its primary website in 2000. 

Screen-shot of the home page of MCRM’s first website, www.mcrwy.com. July, 1996.

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.

Jeffris Special, 1999
Jeffris Special, 1999

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.

"Indian Tree" Pullman china featured on cover of Mid-Continent Railway Gazette.
“Indian Tree” Pullman china featured on cover of Mid-Continent Railway Gazette.

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

Mid-Continent president Jeff Bloohm signs the contract with Glenn Guerra to lead the restoration of MLS&W #63.
Mid-Continent president Jeff Bloohm signs the contract with Glenn Guerra to lead the restoration of MLS&W #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.

5-20-01, Lake Shore #63 open house crew; Matt Theroux photo
5-20-01, Lake Shore #63 open house crew; Matt Theroux photo

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

New historical marker at the museum. Left-to-right Roth Schleck, President of the Mid-Continent Railway Museum Foundation; Forrest VanSchwartz, MCRM Executive Directory; and John Gruber VP of the Foundation.
New historical marker at the museum. Left-to-right Roth Schleck, President of the Mid-Continent Railway Museum Foundation; Forrest VanSchwartz, MCRM Executive Directory; and John Gruber VP of the Foundation. Henry Koshollek photo.

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

Washout at LaRue; 6-3-2001; Jeff Haertlein photo
Washout at LaRue; 6-3-2001; Jeff Haertlein photo

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.

Track work completed to correct damage from June 2000 flooding.
Track work completed to correct damage from June 2000 flooding brought line into great shape.

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.

C&NW tender recovery at Quartite Lake quarry in 2002.
C&NW tender recovery at Quartite Lake quarry in 2002.

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.

Devil's Lake Excursions, October 2002.
Devil’s Lake Excursions, October 2002.

November 9, 2002: Mid-Continent receives TRAIN’s “Passenger Car Restoration Award” for MLS&W #63.

December 28, 2002: John Ford, Mid-Continent’s founder and first life member passes away.

May 24, 2003: Victorian Society in America bestows their “Preservation Award” to the MLS&W #63.

July 2, 2003: Civil War reenactment held in La Rue. The 33rd Wisconsin replicated a real battle that took place near Cass Station in Georgia circa 1864. Mid-Continent makes stops throughout the day to allow passengers to observe the “war zone.”

September 20, 2003: Open House held to commemorate the completion of Copper Range coach #60’s 8-year restoration. The day concluded with a ride to Quartzite Lake for volunteers and donors.

April, 2004: Mid-Continent adds webcams, permitting users at home to observe arrivals and departures.

May 27, 2004: Copper Range #29 arrives at Mid-Continent.

May, 2005: Gallery featuring work of a local artist, Paul Schmidt, held in the depot waiting room.

August 11, 2006: Mid-Continent holds a news conference at the Nevin Fish Hatchery in Fitchburg to announce the receipt of a $475,000 challenge grant from the Jeffris Family Foundation to restore the Badger #2 car.

March, 2007: 1385 turns 100 years old.

April 28, 2007: MCRY #1256, an ex-ARMY locomotive pulls its first train at North Freedom at a members run during Spring Fling weekend. #1256 reliability, light weight, and efficiency makes it well suited for use on the museum’s passenger trains and it becomes Mid-Continent’s primary motive power.

June 9, 2008: Record floods on the Baraboo River causes extensive damage to the museum buildings, passenger platform, and locomotives. Other than a brief and quickly aborted attempt to reopen and pull trains using MCRY #4 summer, all trains are cancelled for the remainder of 2008. The Baraboo River bridge shifts on its piers and no longer passable, stranding some equipment across the river for the next 10 years. 

View of MCRM’s Ticket Depot during the 2008 Flood.

November 20, 2008: Badger #2 Fish Car sent off to be restored after 3 years of planning, two years of fundraising, and a flood!

March 2009: Goodman Shay #9 turned 100 years old.

April 2009: The filming of “On the Trail of a Black Sheep” by Genevieve Davis took place at Mid-Continent.

August 6, 2011: Flagg Coal Co. #75 visits Mid-Continent and arrives via truck. It is Mid-Continent’s first use of a steam locomotive in over a decade. Funds were raised to cover the cost of the 9-day rental.

The Flagg Coal Co. #75 pulls the Copper Range Cars along the track.

August 24-25, 2013: Copper Range No. 25 completed after 6-year restoration. Rides were given to commemorate the occasion.

May 30-31, 2015: Soldiers stand guard around the North Freedom depot and aboard the train during World War 1 Reenactment from Company E, 2nd Wisconsin National Guard.

September-October 2015: Great Northern No. 6 and Chicago & North Western No. 440 repainted. The change from No. 6’s faded red primer to GN green and orange, and #440’s color change from Pullman Green to C&NW’s green and yellow add bright splashes of color to Mid-Continent’s special event trains.

September 7, 2016: DSS&A Sleeper DULUTH, long used as a cottage on the shorts of Lake Superior, is donated and arrives at Mid-Continent.

September 15, 2016: Coach Shed #2 Breaks ground and is divided into 2 phases for completion. The project is largely funded from the estate of Laurence “Baron” Dorcy, great grandson of famed gilded age rail baron, James J. Hill.

December 2016: Mid-Continent teams up with Sauk Country Historical Society for Family Events. Including a Mid-Continent themed room and a “Night at the Museum” Event.

November 21, 2018: Domtar #1001, an EMD NW2 acquired by an MCRM member and donated to the museum, departs Nekoosa on its own wheels for an 8-day journey to at Mid-Continent. Its travels take it via the Canadian National to Slinger, then via Wisconsin & Southern to North Freedom where a MCRY crew is waiting to receive it from the interchange track. 

Profile shot of the Domtar #1001 at Md-Continent. November 21, 2018.

September 21, 2019: A ribbon cutting ceremony marks the opening of the Laurence Dorcy Building, a.k.a. Coach Shed #2, after a 3-year construction. The completion results in 10,500 square feet of additional indoor display space and nearly 1/3 mile of new track.

March 25, 2020: Wisconsin issues a “Safer at Home” order, closing non-essential businesses to try to contain the COVID-19 virus. The order is lifted in late May, but uncertainty about safety, labor availability, and expectations of low ridership even if open causes Mid-Continent to ultimately cancel the entire 2020 season. When combined with the normal seasonal closures bookending the canceled summer season, it is the longest closure in Mid-Continent’s history – surpassing the 2008 flood closure.  

May 5, 2020: Excavation work begins for the construction of Storage Building #1, a 48 x 60 ft storage building at the western edge of the museum property. The building is completed in October of that year and is paid for entirely by donated funds.

December 2020: Cosmetic restoration to D&R #9 taken up by father-son team Jason and Fletcher Reiman.

May 8, 2021: Mid-Continent reopens following pandemic closure. Due to continued uncertainty abou the pandemic trajectory, the 2021 season departs from the traditional 7-day-a-week operation during the peak summer months and remains a weekends-only schedule throughout the operating season. Visitors and volunteers alike have strongly divided opinions about the Transportation Security Administration regulation requiring wearing of facemasks aboard all trains and inside train stations.

May 16, 2022: The museum acquires the former Vertein Oil property, adding 1.33 acres directly west of the museum office. The 90-year-old bulk plant office and service station building becomes designated as Storage Building #2.

(to be continued)