About Mid-Continent’s Rail Relay Phase 2
Mid-Continent Railway Museum’s trains have traveled the rails at North Freedom for 60 years… rails which are themselves often over 100 years old. Mid-Continent’s railroad track is a critical piece of infrastructure that makes possible our museum’s signature experience – the train rides! Now we are asking for your help to make sure Mid-Continent’s rail line remains safe to operate for another 60 years and beyond.
MCRY Rail Relay Phase 2 is the next crucial step in addressing old, worn, and fatigued rail along Mid-Continent’s rail line on which its demonstration passenger trains are operated. Phase 2 involves replacing 11,431 track feet (2.16 miles) of rails, joint bars, tie plates, rail anchors, track bolts, and spikes. That is over half of our entire railroad.
Your help is needed to help keep the Phase 2 project on target. Since our initial appeal letter was sent out to museum members in September 2023, we have raised over $16,000 toward our original goal of $35,000. Although that fundraising goal has not yet been met, the situation has been evolving rapidly, including some exciting developments. Our new objective is to raise $53,000 for the next step of the Phase 2 project.
A Major Project Advancement: Rail Supply Acquired!
Thanks in large part to the generosity of donors who have given to date, Mid-Continent was able to place a winning bid of $198,118 on 625 tons of rail and On-Track-Materials (OTM). The rail was recently removed from the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad’s Prairie Subdivision as they upgrade that line. This is enough rail and OTM to allow Mid-Continent to complete all of Phase 2! Although the rail being purchased is used, it is newer and heavier-duty rail than what exists on Mid-Continent line now and will be good for many decades in service for the museum.
Mid-Continent’s Engineering Department and Board of Directors were specifically interested in obtaining this batch of rail because the rail has recently been ultrasonically tested and is known to be free of defects invisible to the human eye. The proximity of this rail supply to Mid-Continent will also greatly reduce freight costs compared to the alternative. Taking advantage of this unique opportunity would not have been possible without the help of donors like you.
Next Step: Bringing the Rail to Mid-Continent
With this important first step of purchasing the rail now complete, we are asking for your continued support to keep this positive momentum going. The next step is to bring the rail to Mid-Continent. This is no small task. Due to the quantity of rail and weight involved, it will require 30 semi-truck loads to bring it all! Your donation today is essential to help defray the cost of trucking and allow it to arrive at Mid-Continent promptly. We are now seeking to raise $53,000 to cover these transportation costs.
Any donations received over and above that amount will be used toward the next step of the project – installing the rail onto Mid-Continent’s line. Mid-Continent will be seeking bids from railroad construction contractors in the coming months to perform this work, which could begin in late 2024.
Your Donation is Important
It may feel that with a project of this scale, a single person’s donation may not make a difference. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Each donation is important and makes a huge impact. Even modest donations help build a foundation of success which can then aid Mid-Continent in attracting funding from other donors and grant-giving organizations. Success breeds success, and your gift today, no matter the size, is greatly appreciated.
Your donation to this project directly supports Mid-Continent’s central mission of allowing for an immersive museum experience of riding aboard historic railcars on an authentic, rural branchline route. Please don’t let this opportunity to support Mid-Continent’s mission pass you by. Join us today in preserving America’s railroading legacy for tomorrow.
How to Make Your Donation
Mid-Continent Railway Museum is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, educational entity. All donations are tax-deductible.
You can make your donation in one of several ways:
- Click the Donate Now button to be taken to the project’s PayPal donation page. This method accepts credit and debit cards, as well as PayPal payments.
- Send a check to with “Rail Relay Project” written in the memo line to
Mid-Continent Railway Museum
PO Box 358
North Freedom, WI 53951-0358
- Speak to one of our office staff by phone at 608-522-4261 or 800-930-1385 to make a payment by phone or if you have any questions.
Tips for Maximizing Your Impact
Consider asking your employer if they match donations to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. If you’re retired, ask your financial advisor if donating a portion of your retirement account’s required minimum distribution (RMD) is right for you.
Q: Is the rail currently installed on Mid-Continent’s rail line dangerous to ride on?
A: Not at all. Mid-Continent’s rail line is still very safe to take a ride on and will remain so for years to come. The primary issue now is the increased ongoing maintenance costs that are a direct cause of the aging rail. Mid-Continent is performing this rail replacement project proactively to address the issue well before it gets to the point of becoming a safety hazard.
Q: Why must the rail be replaced at all? How can steel rails “go bad?”
A: Each time a train passes over a section of track, a small amount of wear occurs. Because the wheels and rail are made of very strong steel, it takes a long time, but given enough time and enough trains, the railhead will eventually change from its original shape.
This is akin to driving a car with poor alignment. In that case your tires, bearings, and other components wear out much faster. Similar symptoms can occur to train cars and locomotives when riding on rail is worn and improperly shaped. These symptoms are currently appearing on Mid-Continent’s locomotives and cars and it is creating the need for expensive maintenance on an increasingly frequent basis. This takes money and volunteer time away from other worthwhile projects the museum could be focusing on instead.
Q: Will the rail line be extended as part of this rail relay project?
A: No. This is a project to replace the rail already on Mid-Continent’s rail line. No new tracks are being added.
Q: Will the trains go faster when the new rail is installed?
A: No, train speeds will not be impacted.
Q: What will happen to the old rail?
A: A portion of the removed rail that is in the best shape will be retained for future use. Even though it is no longer suitable for Mid-Continent’s mainline, it can still be useful for future expansions to the museum’s display yard since those tracks are only used infrequently. Some rail will also be preserved at Mid-Continent for its historic value to be used as a future display. The majority of the rail will be put up for sale – in bulk – to help offset some of the cost of the rail relay project. Likely buyers include rail resellers and mining operations.
Q: Can I buy a small piece of the old rail?
A: We have received several requests to buy small quantities of the old rail, either as short pieces for use as a historic souvenir or full-length pieces usable for other purposes. These requests are being taken under advisement but at this time no rail is available for sale from Mid-Continent – the old rail is still installed and in use on our mainline until we complete the relay project!