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.

 

 

DULUTH Sleeping Car Update and “BUY A BERTH” Fund Drive

DULUTH Restoration – November 2019 Update

Mid-Continent Railway Museum has been working on restoring the oldest and most complete wooden sleeping car in the country to its original beauty and operating condition. Thanks to many supporters and generous donations the car was acquired and moved to the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in September 2016.  Upon arrival, the car was placed on a pair of 6-wheel trucks and within 12 months Mid-Continent volunteers had installed couplers and draft gear. This summer the air brake system including the air brake cylinder, reservoir and all of the air piping was completed. Inside the car, the missing berth partitions and lower berth seatbacks have been replicated and installed.

The next step in the program is to replicate the missing upper and lower berths that will be installed between each of the berth partitions. New berths are required as the past owners removed 8 of the 10 berths from the car over 80 years ago. The upper berths are challenging to reproduce due to their curved shape and the fine marquetry patterns set into mahogany veneer. Fortunately, we have located a master woodworker and marquetry expert in Michigan that have the needed skills and abilities to accurately reproduce the missing berths from the DULUTH.  In order to replicate the missing berths, we must raise $32,000 to get the DULUTH one step closer to being a restored masterpiece.

Introducing the “BUY A BERTH” Fund Drive [FUND DRIVE COMPLETED AS OF JAN. 29, 2020]

To fully restore the sleeping section of the DULUTH, your help is needed to raise $32,000 for replicating the upper and lower berth seat ends. With the “BUY A BERTH” Fund Drive donors can donate towards replicating the eight missing upper or lower berths. With a $1,500 donation (for a lower berth) or a $2,500 donation (for an upper berth) we will be able to get a berth replicated and you’ll have your name associated with one of the berths in the car. Donors that make a donation to the “BUY A BERTH” Fund Drive in the full amount of a berth ($1,500 or $2,500) will have their name placed on a plaque mounted inside the car. All donations less than $1,500 will be pooled together to go towards the cost of replicating a berth.

How You Can Help

UPDATE: The “Buy a Berth” Fund Drive was completed on Jan. 29, 2020. Donations are still needed for other areas of the DULUTH’s restoration. Consider helping us reach our $75,000 goal for the DULUTH’s other restoration needs

You can also donate by mail by sending a check to:

Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society
PO Box 358
North Freedom, WI 53951

Please be sure to write “DULUTH Sleeper” in your check memo line, in the online donation form, or in the special projects box of our printable donation form.

All donations are tax-deductible. Any donations received in excess of the Buy A Berth Fund Drive goal amount will be used to assist with other areas of the DULUTH’s restoration.

Coach Shed #2 to Open September 21st

The biggest expansion of indoor exhibit space at Mid-Continent Railway Museum in 43 years is set to officially open on September 21, 2019. The Laurence Dorcy Building, also known as Coach Shed #2, will add 10,500 sq. ft. of indoor display space to the museum and is planned to hold ten pieces of rolling stock.

Starting at 1:00 PM on September 21st, the new building will be opened up for all museum members and visitors to explore and enjoy. The building will be open each day thereafter when trains are operating (see Train Ride Info page for full schedule). Admission to the self-guided museum, including Coach Shed #2 is free – only train rides require a ticket purchase. Join us for opening day, or for a behind-the-scenes tour inside normally locked areas, visit us on October 5th and 6th for our Vintage Rail Car Tours event.

A walkway inside Coach Shed #2. Wisconsin Fish Commission #2, aka “Badger #2” on the left and Lake Superior & Ishpeming steam locomotive #22 is on the right. MCRM photo.

The rolling stock placed in the new building includes several items that were previously stored outdoors. Exposure to the rain, snow, and sun is the primary cause of degradation of historic railroad equipment. The ability to now keep a larger percentage of Mid-Continent’s collection indoors while still available for public viewing is a great advancement in helping preserve and protect Mid-Continent’s award-winning restorations for future generations.

Wisconsin Fish Commission #2, Mid-Continent’s “Fish Car” is rolled inside Coach Shed #2 in preparation for the building’s opening. MCRM photo.

The locomotive and cars on display in the new building include the following:

Item Type Year Built Status
Great Northern #A-22 Business car 1905 Unrestored
Duluth South Shore & Atlantic #701 Coach car 1902 Unrestored
Montana Western #31 Gas-electric self-powered railcar 1925 Original
Lake Superior & Ishpeming #22 Steam locomotive 1910 Restored, non-operational
Duluth South Shore & Atlantic #996 Gondola car 1899 Restored
Duluth Missabe & Iron Range #7122 Refrigerator car 1912 Restored
Chicago & North Western #10802 Drovers caboose 1909 Restored
Wisconsin Fish Commission #2 Fish car 1912 Restored
Copper Range #60 Coach car 1903 Restored
Copper Range #25 Baggage/Coach car 1903 Restored
Average Age 111 years

Want to learn more about the construction process? View previous construction updates.