Flood Update – September 2, 2018

Waters are steadily receding, although rains during the weekend and coming days will likely slow the rate at which it moves out.

The public is reminded to stay away for the time being. The area is currently unsafe for visitors. Everything is coated in a slick layer of mud and there may be hidden damage to steps, walkways and electrical systems.

Volunteers are reminded to leave everything as-is until FEMA and insurance inspectors arrive on scene.

All trains in the month of September have been cancelled. We’re still assessing whether or not the September 29-30th Vintage Rail Car Tours event will be able to be offered. We’re hoping to fully reopen in time for our October events, but it won’t be determined until we see how quickly the cleanup and repair process goes. After the 2008 flood of a similar magnitude, we were closed for 8 months, so reopening in just 1 month is an ambitious goal to be sure, but one we will try our best to meet.

Rolling stock damage assessment photos from August 31 around 4 PM are shown below. Water was near maximum height.

Based on these photos, it appears 1 or 2 cars had water reach their body and will require more extensive repairs (both are privately owned cabooses). Approximately 56 pieces of equipment had water enter their journal boxes (on their axles) and will require cleaning. That will be a time-consuming but relatively inexpensive process that can be done by volunteers. A total of 55 pieces of equipment, including all cars used for train rides, were either evacuated to the south or positioned on high enough ground to avoid any damage.

2018 Flood - August 31

Photos from the morning of September 2, 2018.

2018 Flood - September 2

Flood Update August 31, 2018

Train Cancellations and Refunds

Mid-Continent Railway Museum is closed until further notice due to flooding.

All trains through at least September 3rd will definitely not run. Also, the September 15th Pizza Train and Wine on the Rails train are cancelled. Further cancellations may be necessary as the water recedes and damage assessments are made to determine the scope of repairs necessary.

If you have a reservation on one of our cancelled trains, you will be contacted by Mid-Continent staff in the coming days and are eligible for a full refund. Please allow a few days for us to contact you. As of Friday morning, there is no power at the museum so refunds cannot be issued and phones may go unanswered as office staff is busy directing recovery efforts.


Below are photos taken during the day August 30, 2018 as the waters continued to rise. Waters continued to rise during the night. More photos will be posted as they become available. Lack of power at the museum is inhibiting frequent updates.

2018 Flood - August 30

Last updated: 11:52 PM, 8/30/2018

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).


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.