Restoration Work Sessions and Operating Department Training Canceled

Due to the continuing risk posed by the Coronavirus pandemic, the following changes have been made to scheduled volunteer opportunities.

  • All Restoration Department work sessions are canceled until further notice.
  • The new Trainman training course has been canceled. This course may be rescheduled for a later date in 2020.
  • The new Conductor training course for 2020 has been canceled and is not expected to be offered this year.

For specific questions relating to these program cancelations, contact the department superintendent or department manager.

Coronavirus Update: MCRM to Remain Closed through June 5th

For the safety of our visitors, volunteers and employees during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, Mid-Continent Railway Museum has taken the proactive step of delaying the start of its 2020 operating season. Previously, Mid-Continent was to open to the public on weekends starting May 9th. This change means the museum will now remain closed to the public through Friday, June 5th. The new season opening date is Saturday, June 6th. This too may be subject to change as the situation develops.

What this Means for Museum Guests

  • All scheduled trains during the month of May are canceled, including Coach/Caboose trains, the May 9th Pizza Train and Elegant Dinner Train, and the May 10th Mother’s Day Brunch Trains.
  • Any persons with reservations for trains in May will be contacted within the next few days. Affected individuals will be offered a refund, the option to reschedule to a future departure, or the ability to apply the balance to a gift card good toward future visits.
  • The museum property, including all displays and gift shop will be closed to the public through June 5th. Please note the museum property is not public land. It is trespassing to enter museum property while closed.

If You Need to Contact Mid-Continent Staff

  • As long as the State of Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” order is in effect [currently May through 26th] and possibly longer, the museum’s administrative office will remain closed for the safety of our employees. Phones will not be staffed; however, voicemail messages will be checked regularly and responded to within 2 business days. To leave a voice message for museum staff, call 608-522-4261.
  • Museum email addresses will continue to be monitored and responded to, including the museum’s general email address: inquiries@midcontinent.org. Email is the best method of communication during this time.
  • All U.S. Postal Service mail sent to Mid-Continent continues to be checked and processed like normal.

Additional Impacts on 2020 Schedule

Further changes to the 2020 schedule including additional cancellations may be required as the timeline of the pandemic and its impact on tourism becomes clearer. Please check back on our website for the latest schedule information before your visit. Persons with reservations will be contacted if their departure is impacted.

What this Means for Museum Volunteers

The State of Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” order is currently set to expire at 8:00 AM on April 24th but may be extended. [UPDATE 4/16/2020: The “Safer at Home” order has been extended through 8:00 AM on May 26th]. During the time the order is in effect no departments will be allowed to work on projects on Mid-Continent property. This order includes staying in private rail cars.

 

Thank you for your understanding and stay healthy.

Sincerely,

The Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society President & Office Staff

Coronavirus Update: MCRM to Close Starting March 24, 2020

Effective March 24, 2020, in compliance with orders from Governor Tony Evers, Mid-Continent Railway Museum will be closed until further notice to help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. The order applies to all non-essential businesses in Wisconsin.

What this Means

  • Although Mid-Continent was already closed to the public for the winter season, the property is now fully closed to all volunteers and members, including owners of private railcars kept on the property.
  • No volunteer work sessions will be held.
  • The MCRM administrative office will be closed.
  • The April 4th Mid-Continent member meeting and banquet has been canceled. The guest speaker has been rescheduled for our Fall 2020 banquet. If you already sent a check in the mail for the banquet meal, the check will be returned to you.

If You Need to Contact Mid-Continent Staff

  • Museum email addresses will continue to be monitored and responded to, including the museum’s general email address: inquiries@midcontinent.org. This is the best method of communication during this time.
  • The phones will no longer be staffed during business hours, but voicemail messages will be checked regularly and responded to within 2 business days. To leave a message for staff, call 608-522-4261.
  • U.S. Postal Service mail sent to Mid-Continent will continue to be checked.

Impact on 2020 Train Ride Schedule

Our operating season is scheduled to begin on May 9th. Due to the rapidly evolving situation, it is unknown at this time if Mid-Continent will be able to begin normal operations as scheduled. At this time, no new reservations are being accepted for any trains through May 31st. Further announcements will be made in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your understanding and stay healthy.

Sincerely,

The Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society President & Office Staff

DULUTH Sleeping Car “Buy a Berth” Fund Drive Reaches Goal

Mid-Continent’s efforts to fully restore one of the nation’s oldest and most intact railroad sleeping cars just got one step closer to reality. In late January 2020, Mid-Continent Railway Museum achieved the goal set forth four months earlier when the “Buy a Berth” fund drive was announced. The goal was to raise $32,000 to cover the cost of replicating the car’s berths as part of the car’s restoration back to its original appearance and making it mechanically operational. Mid-Continent is extremely pleased and thankful for the generous support that donors have provided for this fund drive.

When the sleeping car, named DULUTH, is complete it will be a rare time capsule demonstrating what long-distance overnight rail travel was like over a century ago. The car is what is known as a 10-section sleeper. In addition to a private stateroom, a smoking room, and washrooms, the car’s main feature was a central room with 10 compartments. The compartments contained seats by day and were converted to beds at night. Each compartment had an upper and lower berth where passengers would sleep as their train traveled the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic Railway between Duluth, Minnesota, through northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Two sets of the original berths survived, but the eight other sets of berths were removed over 80 years ago when the car was retired from railroad service and moved to the shores of Lake Superior where it was used as a family’s summer cottage.

people listening to tour guide

A tour group views the DULUTH in Sept. 2019. New berth partitions between sleeping compartment sections were fitted in 2019 in preparation for the reproduction of the car’s missing berths. MCRM photo.

In 2015 the car was donated by its owners and moved to North Freedom, Wisconsin. The small town of just 701 people is home to Mid-Continent Railway Museum which boasts a nationally-renowned wooden railcar collection and restoration program. Railroads used railcars primarily built out of wood until the early 1900s when manufacturers transitioned to primarily steel construction. Mid-Continent is home to one of the largest collection of wooden railroad passenger cars in the country.

The original berths featured expertly crafted woodwork including curved shapes and marquetry patterns set within the mahogany veneer. To replace the intricate woodwork and patterns, Mid-Continent Railway Museum turned to help from a master woodworker and a marquetry expert. The craftsmen began working on the project soon after donations from the fund drive began coming in. As the fund drive wraps up, work on the berths is already well underway. The upper berths are completed but awaiting finishing (stain and varnish). The lower seat ends are still in the process of being fabricated. The following photos by William Buhrmaster taken on January 28, 2020, illustrate the current status of the berths and lower berth seat ends.

man next to patterned berth

Bob Berghorst shows the fine marquetry on one of the completed upper berths for the DULUTH during a visit to his shop on January 28, 2020.

Thank you to everyone who bought a berth!

The DULUTH has already seen a great deal of progress since it arrived at Mid-Continent Railway Museum. The wheels and trucks – the assembly that holds the wheels – were removed from the car along with the berths when it became a cottage. Replacements wheels and trucks from a similar car were procured and installed upon the DULUTH’s arrival at the museum. Similarly, replacement draft gear – the parts that allow connecting railcars together – and the air brake equipment have also been salvaged from other cars and installed on the DULUTH.

Many hours of work still lay ahead for the Mid-Continent volunteers leading the restoration effort. The men’s washroom and smoking room were removed to make way for a kitchen when the car was used as a cottage and still requires restoration, along with things like light fixtures, upholstery, flooring, and many other details.

Mid-Continent Railway Museum is seeking donations to help with the restoration of these other areas of the DULUTH. To make a donation or see the current overall DULUTH fundraising status, check out our earlier post titled DULUTH Fundraising Status.

Members of the Soo Line Historical & Technical Society tour through the Mid-Continent Car Shop, including through the DSS&A DULUTH sleeping car (at left) on Sept. 13, 2019. MCRM photo.