Vintage Rail Car Tours

October 2-3, 2021

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, October 2-3, 2021, museum visitors will have an opportunity to do just that.

Visitors will be welcomed beyond normally locked doors and inside the exquisitely restored railcars. Knowledgeable restoration volunteers will be on hand inside the cars to give life to the cars’ history and share details of the restoration process. Tours are self-guided, allowing visitors to view inside the cars at any time throughout the day and proceed through them at their own pace.

Tour of wooden passenger car

Vintage Rail Car Tour Cost

Adult = $10;  Children (ages 3-15) = $7

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.

Tour Schedule

Vintage Rail Car Tours are available between 10 AM and 4 PM with the latest suggested start time of 3 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.

Tours are being modified in 2021 to allow social distancing while on the tour. Face masks are required while visiting Mid-Continent. See our COVID-19 Information page for additional information.

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Tour Details

Tour areas are not wheelchair accessible and require steps to reach the car interiors.

The cars included in the 2021 Vintage Rail Car Tours are listed below:

Duluth South Shore & Atlantic #213

Coach #213 was part of an order for twenty cars built in 1888 for the Duluth South Shore & Atlantic Railway. These cars were of a standard open platform design that car builders had offered to the railroads for some twenty years. The cars served the DSS&A for many years as first-class accommodations.

By the mid-1930’s the cars were no longer needed as revenue cars and the #213 was remodeled into a dining and kitchen car for work train crews. It was used in this capacity until 1969 when switching accident rendered the car unfit for further service. It was then acquired by Mid-Continent and restored to its 1910 appearance. More information about DSS&A #213.

Milwaukee Lake Shore & Western #63

Coach #63 was built in 1888 by the Barney and Smith Co. for First Class service on the Milwaukee Lake Shore & Western Railway. The interior finish is varnished cherry wood and was designed by Edward Colonna. Colonna’s relationship with the Barney & Smith Car Co. ended soon after the design of these cars and he went on to greater fame in Canada. An unusual design feature of these cars is the Art Nouveau motif of the carvings above the doors and on the corner of the washroom. This is a departure from the Neo-Classical motifs of other railroad interiors of the day. In 2000, the car underwent a 2-year, $350,000 restoration to return it to like-new condition. More information about MLS&W #63.

Wisconsin Central “Oak Park”

Interior of Oak Park

Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad (Soo Line) business car “Oak Park” was built by the Barney & Smith Car Co. of Dayton, Ohio in 1884. The car was constructed for the Wisconsin Central as a 31-seat cafe-parlor car and named “Oak Park.” The Soo Line subsequently converted the “Oak Park” to a business car for traveling railroad officials. In this configuration, the smoking rooms became observation rooms and the central parlor room was remodeled to contain a single large stateroom, kitchen, and a dining room. The car was later converted to work train duty, serving as a bunk and dining car for work crews. The car has been restored to its 1920s business car configuration. More information about “Oak Park.”

Badger #2

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Fish tank room inside 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. (Watch the episode on Amazon Prime). More information about Badger #2.

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.