Flood Notice – August 2018

Last Update: August 29, 11:20 AM

The museum remains open and all trains are departing as scheduled today (Wednesday, August 29).

AFTER 5 PM WEDNESDAY, MID-CONTINENT WILL BE CLOSED INDEFINITELY UNTIL FLOODWATERS RECEDE. NO TRAINS WILL BE OPERATING AND ALL BUILDINGS WILL BE CLOSED.

There are no known road closures in the immediate vicinity of the museum as of August 29. Some roads in the greater area are closed. These closures could impact some visitors arriving today. Known closures to primary highways include:

  • From the West & North
    • Hwy 33 between Union Center and Reedsburg
    • Hwy 58 between Mauston and Ironton
    • Hwy 16 between Mauston and Lyndon Station
    • I-90/I-94 eastbound between New Lisbon and Wisconsin Dells
  • From the East
    • I-90/I-94 westbound between Portage and New Lisbon
  • From the South
    • Hwy 14 between Mazomanie and Cross Plains

This post will be updated as any new and pertinent information becomes available.

DULUTH Project Gets Support from SLHTS

Mid-Continent Railway Museum is grateful for the continued support by the Soo Line Historical & Technical Society (SLHTS) to restore the museum’s DULUTH sleeping car. In mid-July 2018, Mid-Continent Railway Museum received a donation of $1,250 from SLHTS to assist with ongoing work on the car.

SLHTS has a history of supporting the acquisition and restoration of Soo Line heritage equipment at Mid-Continent Railway Museum. This new donation is in addition to $600 SLHTS donated for the DULUTH prior to the car’s arrival to aid in transporting the car from the shores of Lake Superior to its new home in North Freedom, Wis. In recent years, SLHTS has also supported projects such as Soo Line caboose #99085, the Soo Line steam locomotive #2645.

Mid-Continent Railway Museum is pleased to join SLHTS in sharing Soo Line’s rich history with present and future generations.

In 1988, Mid-Continent played host to the Soo Line Historical & Technical Society’s annual convention which included a special train ride featuring equipment of Soo Line heritage.

Our New Display Building

Mid-Continent Railway Museum has one of the largest restored wooden car fleets in North America and is continuing to obtain and restore additional wooden cars. Nowhere else is there anything like it, and its potential is tremendous. At the present time the restoration department is actively restoring two wooden passenger cars and has many more cars waiting to be restored. Of those cars waiting restoration, many are stored outside and subject to further deterioration by the elements. The Car Shop, where the restorations take place, has room for approximately 8 cars and is currently full. If you would see, or have seen, the wooden cars that have been restored by the member volunteers, you would agree that the restored cars are works of art.

Currently once a wooden car is restored, there is no place to display or store the car. Mid-Continent has only one building on the property that is currently used for the display of restored cars, the Coach Shed, and that building is filled to capacity (13 cars). Three of the cars currently stored in the Car Shop are fully restored and take up room where other wooden cars could be stored pending restoration. It would be totally impractical to place a restored car outside, subject to the elements, especially a Wisconsin Winter, as the car would have to be restored again in just a few years. The only reasonable solution is to build additional indoor railcar storage and display space.

Tarped train car

A shortage of indoor storage and display space leaves tarps and temporary coverings as the only means of providing a modicum of protection to many of Mid-Continent’s treasured collection items – obscuring them from public view in the process.

In 2016, Mid-Continent received the final payment from a bequest from the estate of Laurence H. Dorcy totaling $968,046. The funds received from the Dorcy estate were restricted, but could be used to build “a structure for the restoration and storage of railroad cars.” The Board of Directors of Mid-Continent approved the building of a new structure, Coach Shed #2. As of February 2018 great strides have been made toward the completion of Coach Shed #2 and it is expected to be completed in summer 2018.

Proposed site plan for new display building.

Site plan for new display building.

 


UPDATE: October 20, 2017

Site grading for the structure is complete and concrete subwalls are poured. Construction of the structure is now underway. The creation of the fire access road paralleling the building is underway as is installation of the subgrade for the interior railroad tracks. Over 1,100 new railroad ties for the project have been ordered and are expected to arrive in late October. The final phase – construction of the nearly 1/3-mile of new railroad tracks to access the building – is anticipated to occur in spring 2018, assuming adequate funding is available to complete the task. Your support toward completion of this final stage is appreciated!

Wall posts going up on the morning of October 20, 2017.

 


UPDATE: November 16, 2017

On Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, Cleary Builders wrapped up installation of the walls and roof and windows. The building looks fantastic, although there is still a lot of work before the building can be put to use. The walk doors, three overhead doors in the rear of the building, lighting and electrical are yet to be installed. There is also no floor in the building as of yet. The building will have concrete walkways running the length of the building (an improvement over the brick walkways found in Coach Shed #1). With colder temperatures setting in, the pouring of concrete has been pushed back to the spring.

Outside the structure itself there is still much work to be done. Many truckloads of rock need to be hauled in to form the roadbed of the new tracks and the ballest. Trackwork will be completed next spring by Knapp Rail Builders, a railroad construction firm used by Mid-Continent numerous times in the past few years for larger-scale track projects. Ditches need to be further shaped and seeded and culverts installed. Walkways must also be placed between the entrance of Coach Shed 1 and the new building.


UPDATE: January 22, 2018

Progress on the new display building has continued through December 2017 and January 2018. Walkdoors and the roll-up train doors have been installed. Inside the building, electricians have been busy installing wiring and lighting throughout the structure. Outside, as weather permits, the excavator has been adding finishing grading to the fire access lane that runs alongside the length of the structure.


 

UPDATE: March 28, 2018

Since the last update, electrical service has been installed throughout the building. In addition to the translucent panels along the top of the walls, primary lighting is provided by 31 energy-efficient LED overhead lights. As a result, Coach Shed #2 will be noticeably brighter inside than Coach Shed #1.

Abundant electrical outlets along the walls provide easy-to-access power sources for lighting and displays for the car interiors. Electrical outlets were also installed on some of the trusses for easy access to power for cars located on the middle track.

Automatically activated temperature control fans have been installed on the south end of the building. The fans, combined with the screened windows on the north end of the structure, will create an air flow through the building, maintaining more comfortable temperatures without relying on keeping doors open for air circulation – unlike Coach Shed #1.

Additional landscaping, track installation and pouring the concrete floor is still on hold pending proper ground conditions and temperatures. Because of the uncertainty of the weather, it is not known when the work will be completed, but it is anticipated the building will be open to the public within 3-months time.


UPDATE: June 11, 2018

The building sign has arrived. Coulee Signs of Holmen, Wis. has generously donated their time and materials for the creation of the sign pictured and a similar new sign to replace the faded and peeling Coach Shed #1 sign. The design of the new signs mimic the appearance of the Chicago & North Western depot signage style, present on the museum’s North Freedom depot.

The new building is named in honor of the late Laurence Dorcy for his generous contribution that made constructing the structure possible.

Sign that will be installed above Coach Shed #2’s main entry doors.


UPDATE: July 11, 2018

Rainy conditions persisting for much of early summer combined with the characteristically wet soil in the area slowed progress toward grading the new tracks servicing the building. However, dry ground inside the building did allow crews to install track within the structure. Crews also installed a new switch on the museum’s mainline that will connect the new structure to our existing track network.

With the wet conditions finally subsiding, work on installing culverts and grading the final few hundred feet has resumed, after which, the track construction contractor can return to complete installation of the remaining track and final landscaping work can begin.

crews installing track switch

Crews install a new switch in the Mid-Continent mainline which will connect the new display building. The new building is visible at far left.


UPDATE: July 17, 2018

Grading for the new track is now complete. The next major step will be installation of the track from the mainline switch to the new building. Once the track is in place, the top layer of ballast will be added.

railroad grade

New railroad grade leading to Coach Shed #2.

In the meantime, some additional grading is being done to install a walkway to the new building from the existing Coach Shed #1.

walkway grade

Grading work for walkway from Coach Shed #1 to Coach Shed #2.


UPDATE: August 21, 2018

Scheduling conflicts have prevented our rail construction contractor from being able to come and complete the installation of the rails connecting the building to the museum’s mainline in July as planned. With the end of our 2018 operating season now less than two months away and time running short to complete the building and still have a chance to plan and send out invites for a grand opening ceremony, it has been determined that the building will not officially open until spring 2019. While a party to celebrate the official opening of the building will have to wait, depending on construction progress, a “soft opening” may still be possible in 2018.


UPDATE: April 4, 2019

Flood damage ravaged Mid-Continent Railway on August 31, 2018, forcing the museum to close for nearly five weeks as repairs were carried out. The track construction contractor working building the tracks into Coach Shed #2 was diverted to instead focus on emergency washout repairs along Mid-Continent’s line and elsewhere in the region. This, combined with saturated ground conditions, introduced further delays to work on the tracks into Coach Shed #2. Despite all that, the contractor was able to subsequently complete most, but not all of the track into the new building during November 2018 before ground freeze and snow cover halted further work.

With spring now here, work will soon resume again. A great deal of snowmelt has generated very soft ground conditions which are currently preventing contractors from resuming work immediately, but they are expected to be able to resume work within the next few weeks.

In the meantime, volunteers have started work producing new display signs to be installed inside Coach Shed #2 in preparation for the grand opening which is not yet scheduled.


UPDATE: July 16, 2019

Track work in and around Coach Shed #2 is now complete and has been approved for use by Mid-Continent’s roadmaster, officially adding nearly 1/3 of a mile of tracks to Mid-Continent’s North Freedom yard.

Next up on the To-Do list is pouring the concrete walkways. This is tentatively scheduled to take place later this month. Bollards will also be added to protect the building corners from any errant vehicles.

After the concrete is poured, railcars will begin being moved inside. This is expected to take a significant number of hours by our volunteer switch crews and will likely occur over numerous days. What seems straightforward – putting rolling stock in a building – is going to actually be an intricate switching puzzle. In order to fully utilize the available space and maximize presentation value, the rolling stock needs to be positioned in the new display shed in a specific order. These cars (and one locomotive) will be drawn from all around the museum yard, including some items from the existing Coach Shed #1 and Car Shop buildings (which in turn will have other cars moved inside those areas to make sure as many items are stored indoors as possible). Because track space mostly all occupied, nearly every switch move involves making multiple additional moves in order to gain access to the desired item and then put the other cars back in place.

For those that enjoy puzzles and think this sounds like a fun challenge, try out some switching puzzles for yourself with these online Classic Shunting Puzzles.

Additional work ahead includes completing ditch shaping, final landscaping and seeding, adjusting the overhead doors (to account for the concrete floor height), installing fire extinguishers and egress signage, and installing interpretive signage.


UPDATE: August 15, 2019

The pouring of Coach Shed #2’s concrete walkways and entryways began earlier this week. In all, over 4,700 square feet of concrete walkways are being installed in and around the building. Concrete work is expected to wrap up around August 21st.

Watch for more updates in the next week or two as we start to firm up contractor completion dates and prepare a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open Coach Shed #2 to the public.


Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society, Inc., a not-for-profit Wisconsin Corporation, is an outdoor living history museum and operating railroad, and is accredited by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization. All contributions to Mid-Continent are tax deductible. To make a contribution, visit our Donation page.

This is an update to our original post: Your Help is Needed to Complete Our New Display Building.

Baraboo River Bridge Reopens After 10 Years

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.

New Wheels for Locomotive No. 1256

A Fundraiser to Keep Mid-Continent Rolling

Ever since being acquired by Mid-Continent Railway Museum in 2006, ex-Army locomotive #1256 has been the workhorse of Mid-Continent’s fleet. [See roster page for full history.] The 60-ton diesel locomotive has pulled nearly 99% of the museum’s passenger trains since 2007. With that much use, maintenance needs have finally caught up with the locomotive. To complete this urgent work and get #1256 back in service, we are initiating a fundraising campaign with a goal of $35,000 and hope you will join us in making this yet another success story.

MCRY #1256 pulls nearly all of Mid-Continent’s passenger trains. Seen here near Ulrich Road crossing in 2007. Tim Martin photo.

The Plan

In spring 2018, #1256 was sidelined and locomotive #7 began pulling trains in its absence. #1256 had to be removed from service due to its heavily worn wheels. Cranes were brought in to lift the locomotive and remove the wheels so they could be taken to L&S Electric, a railroad equipment rebuilding company in Wisconsin, for disassembly and inspection. Often wheels can be reprofiled using a lathe to extend the life of the wheel – a step akin to rotating tires on an automobile. However, just how tread on a tire eventually wears to the point of needing replacement, the wheels under #1256 can no longer be reprofiled and now must be replaced.

Two cranes lift the 60-ton MCRY #1256 to facilitate wheel removal. April 2018.

A side-effect of operating historic locomotives and railcars is that often the parts are no longer readily available. That holds true in this case as wheels of the necessary size for #1256 are no longer commercially available. Instead, eight custom-made wheels must be cast. This work is already underway at McKees Rock Foundry in Pennsylvania, the same company that forged custom wheels for Mid-Continent’s steam locomotive #1385 currently under restoration.

Created using the Donation Thermometer plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/donation-thermometer/.$35,000$26,32075%

When the new wheels are done, they will be sent to ORX Rail Services, a company specializing in assembling and rebuilding wheelsets. There the wheels will be machined to final specifications and pressed onto axles before being shipped back to L&S Electric for reassembly. The wheels will then be ready to return to Mid-Continent where two cranes will be used to lift #1256 to allow the new wheels to be rolled into place beneath the locomotive.

The cost to cast the new wheels is $26,000. Between previously donated funds and pledges, we have enough to cover this cost. The remaining cost from ORX, L&S Electric, and hiring cranes to install the new wheels under the locomotive is estimated to reach $35,000 and is beyond Mid-Continent’s ability to pay using just train ride ticket sale revenue. For this, we are turning to you for help.

Please consider supporting this crucial project. The public image of Mid-Continent revolves around our train rides, but for that to continue we must have a reliable stable of locomotives like #1256 ready to pull those passenger trains. Any gifts, large or small, are greatly appreciated.

Fundraiser started: July 5, 2018
Fundraising thermometer last updated: October 17, 2018


There are several ways to contribute to MCRY #1256 and help us reach our $35,000 goal:

By Mail

Mail a check made out to Mid-Continent Railway Museum with “Locomotive #1256” written in the memo line to:

Mid-Continent Railway Museum
PO Box 358
North Freedom, WI 53951-0358

Online

Donate online securely using Paypal. A Paypal account is not required – also accepts Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express.

By Phone

Credit/debit card donations can be made by phone by calling 608-522-4261 or 800-930-1385 during business hours Monday-Saturday.

 

Mid-Continent is a not-for-profit, educational entity, incorporated in the state of Wisconsin and accredited by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization. All donations are 100% tax-deductible. Consult your tax adviser.