Mid-Continent celebrates the reopening of an old bridge and opportunities it presents
NORTH FREEDOM – Mid-Continent Railway Museum celebrated the reopening of a museum-owned railroad bridge over the Baraboo River on Saturday, July 7th with a “ribbon busting” ceremony. Cheers and applause broke out from the crowd of around 40 dignitaries and guests as the first train to cross the bridge in over a decade burst through the ceremonial ribbon and proceeded into the North Freedom station.
The bridge, like most of the Mid-Continent property, was hard-hit by the record flooding of the Baraboo River in June 2008. The bridge was almost entirely submerged before the floodwaters subsided. The already 79-year-old bridge remained standing but had become structurally compromised and was no longer safe for trains to cross. It remained that way for the last decade as museum leaders sought ways to fund its repair.
In late 2017 all the pieces finally came together. A $600,000 grant was received by the Wagner Foundation, a major supporter of the museum’s ongoing effort to return steam locomotive #1385 to working condition by 2019. The Sauk County Economic Development Committee also approved a grant for $77,000 in economic development funds to cover the rest needed to begin repairs. By January 2018, work crews had arrived and began driving new pilings into the bedrock to give the now 89-year-old bridge a new, sturdy foundation. Contractors completed work on the bridge in late June.
The ability to cross the bridge, located adjacent to the museum’s North Freedom depot, provides Mid-Continent greater flexibility for staging its trains. It also restores the museum’s connection to the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad line between Reedsburg and Madison. The potential of being able to take the museum’s historic trains beyond the museum’s 3.7-mile North Freedom branchline to other Sauk County communities and Devil’s Lake State Park is an exciting prospect for train lovers and fans of the museum.