Vintage Rail Car Tours
September 30 & October 1, 2023
Explore the Interiors of Mid-Continent Railway Museum’s Finest Restorations
Mid-Continent Railway Museum has a nationally-renowned, award-winning wooden car restoration program. While all museum visitors can see the beautiful restorations from the Coach Shed viewing platforms alongside the cars, much of the fine craftsmanship can only be appreciated from within the railcars. For one weekend only, September 30 & October 1, 2023, museum visitors will have an opportunity to do just that.
Visitors will be welcomed beyond normally locked doors and get inside four of Mid-Continent’s exquisitely restored wooden passenger cars. Knowledgeable restoration volunteers will be on hand inside the cars to give life to the cars’ history and share details of the restoration process. Visitors can view inside the cars at any time throughout the day and proceed through them at their own pace. After exploring and learning about the finished products of Mid-Continent’s restoration efforts, visitors can tour the Museum’s Car Shop to see where the restoration work is carried out by Mid-Continent’s skilled volunteers.
Vintage Rail Car Tour Cost
Adult = $15; Children (ages 3-15) = $9
Visitors choosing to not take the Vintage Rail Car Tours can still enjoy the free, self-guided tour through the museum that is available every day Mid-Continent is open; however, the free self-guided tours do not allow access to car interiors.
Vintage Rail Car Tour tickets do not include the 55-minute train ride, available separately.
Vintage Rail Car Tours are available between 10 AM and 5 PM with the latest suggested start time of 4 PM. Visitors can start the tour at any time within that period and proceed at their own pace. The estimated time to complete the full tour is 1 hour.
Buy Tour Tickets
Due to the historic nature of the railcars on the tour, this tour is not wheelchair accessible. Steps are used to reach the car interiors.
Buy a Train Ride AND Vintage Rail Car Tour Tickets
Select your desired train departure time. In the ticket window that opens, choose the appropriate number of train tickets and tour tickets.
Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023
Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023
The cars to be included on the 2023 tour have been announced! See the chosen cars below.
Wisconsin Fish Commission “Badger” #2
Wisconsin Fish Commission #2, or Badger #2, commonly referred to as the “Fish Car,” represents Mid-Continent Railway Museum’s most ambitious car restoration to date. Built in 1913 for the purpose of restocking Wisconsin’s rivers, streams and lakes with fish from hatcheries, it is the only remaining original fish car in the nation and Mid-Continent Railway Museum’s very first acquisition.
In 2008 the Badger #2 underwent a $950,000 restoration to return it to its 1913 configuration and appearance. The car’s transformation became the subject of an episode of the television show Ultimate Restorations. (you can buy the DVD in our online store). More information about Badger #2.
Copper Range Railroad #25
This wooden car was built by American Car & Foundry in 1903, as coach #59 (one of six identical cars numbered 55-60, including sister car Copper Range #60, also on the tour. Copper Range rebuilt the #59 into a combination baggage/coach in 1913, and renumbered it #25. In 1963, Mid- Continent purchased the car from Copper Range and it was moved to the museum’s new site at North Freedom. The car was quickly restored to the standard Milwaukee Road orange and maroon paint scheme adopted by the Copper Range in 1911, and used in the museum’s regular passenger train until the early 1970s.
In 2013, #25 was masterfully restored back to its 1913 appearance both on the interior and exterior following a five-year restoration process. The exterior restoration included rebuilding both end platforms, reproducing the original buffers, replacing the steps, repairing the trucks, and painting the car. A significant effort was required with the interior restoration as the original seats had been removed from the car some 70 years ago. Great effort and expense were taken to reproduce the original patented American Car & Foundry seats for the car. In addition, all new oak veneer ceiling and headlining panels, complete with gold leaf striping, were reproduced to replicate what was originally in the car.
Copper Range Railroad #60
Copper Range #60 was built as a second-class coach in 1903 by the American Car & Foundry Co. (AC&F). The interior of the coach was originally stained and varnished with a Golden Oak finish. In addition to solid oak woodwork, the car had oak veneer headlining and ceiling panels. The seats were upholstered with cane (rattan). Heat to the car was provided by steam from a locomotive, while lighting was provided by four 2-burner kerosene lamps mounted on the ceiling. Electric side lights were added to the car in 1916. During the 1944 rebuild, the oak veneer ceiling panels were replaced with painted panels and the rattan seats were changed to red plush.
Mid-Continent purchased Copper Range #60 in 1982. Beginning in 1993, museum volunteers focused their efforts on performing a complete restoration. In May 2003, the restoration was complete and the car moved to the museum’s Coach Shed for public display. The car was restored to the appearance that it had during the passenger service period of 1944 to 1946.
Great Northern #3261
Great Northern coach #3261 (originally numbered #271 from 1906 until 1908) was built by the Barney & Smith Car Co. of Dayton, Ohio in 1906. There were fifteen identical coaches included in the order (numbered 260-274).
The Great Northern #3261 was donated to Mid-Continent in 1969. The car was restored to its passenger coach configuration and original number of 271 in 1972 and served in train service. In 1990 it was removed from service due to a leaking roof and placed in the car shop for a much-needed exterior restoration. The work included all-new custom-made poplar siding and trim. Most notably, the stained-glass windows that were removed from the car some sixty years prior, were reproduced to recapture the car’s 1908-1926 appearance. Through the efforts of many volunteer hours, the coach once again provides “Lake” service, as the #3261 rides the Mid-Continent rails to Quartzite Lake during special events.
Mid-Continent’s Car Shop Building
After exploring and learning about the finished products of Mid-Continent’s restoration efforts, make your way to the Car Shop to see where the restoration work is carried out by Mid-Continent’s skilled volunteers. There you’ll see railcars in different stages of their restorations, including active projects like the East Jordan & Southern #2, Mid-Continent’s oldest railcar, and the Duluth South Shore & Atlantic sleeping car DULUTH.