Rails & Trails Pages

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

June 2012 Museums Trip

In June, 2012, friend Jim Malecki of Cape Canaveral, FL flew to Milwaukee for a week of vacation in the north country.  I seized the opportunity to see him and visit some railroad museums in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.  I met friend Dick Johnson of Onalaska in Tomah and off we headed for the East Troy Electric Railroad in East Troy, WI.  I had wanted to visit this railroad for years and we picked a 92-degree day for the venture!!!

The East Troy Electric Railroad is the last vestige of Wisconsin's once broad network of electric interurban railways.  Concentrated in the southeastern quarter of the state, this network once totaled approximately 385 miles of track.  Most of the interurban railway mileage in Wisconsin was built between 1890 and 1910; the last interurban passenger in the state was carried in 1963 by the North Shore Line.  The Est Troy Interurban Line, formerly a part of The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company, carried passengers between Est Troy and Milwaukee from 1907 until 1939.  After 1939 the six-mile line existed as a railroad freight connection for the Village of Est Troy.  The line continues today as a popular tourist railroad.  (Taken from their flyer).

They have LOTS of interurban cars and would have them out on display the following weekend for their big show, but today they are using a homemade open side car.  The  underframe and wheels are from a real car but a private individual built the superstructure.  Even though we would have liked to ride in a "real" interurban, this was the best option for this day with temps in the 90s!!!

There were 6 riders on this last trip of the day, 3 members of the organization, and us.  Jim Malecki is on the left and Dick (Shades) Johnson on the right.

A couple of shots from the ride from East Troy to Mukwonago and back:

 Since it was the last train ride of the day, they let us ride into the car barn and then look around and inside their cars.  A GREAT collection!!!

Car 26 is their pride and joy.  It was built in 1908 by the Cincinnati Car Co. for the Sheboygan Light and Power Co.  It was recently restored by a private contractor at a cost of $300,000.

Here are some other cars in their collection!!

Here is Jim inspecting the interior of one of the cars:

That ended our trains for Wednesday, June 20th.  On Thursday we would visit the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois.  It is advertised as the World's Largest Railroad Museum--and I believe it!!  Dick Johnson's friend Ed Kletecka, a volunteer at IRM, gave us an all-day personal tour of the facility.   There is no way a few pictures can do justice to this facility so here are just a few.  First, Dick poses beside one of Union Pacific's famous gas-turbine engines:

One display I found very interesting was all these different signals.  All these signals, plus the ones on their railroad line, were donated by one individual.  The plan is to have all these signals run by a computer so they will be constantly changing their aspects:

Here are trackside signals.  The furthest track in the background is active Union Pacific track to Belvidere and Beloit while the foreground tracks belong to the Museum--and are used.

Since I like wig-wags, these interested me.  A trolley runs around the grounds every hour and each crossing is protected by a wig-way, ALL DIFFERENT--and ALL operating!!  Here's one of them:

There is just too much to take photos of but I like this Borden's milk car.  Maybe I'll make a model of it some day:

And this small tank car would make a nice model:

The museum has their own track, I think about 6 miles long.  They can run their trains on this track, giving people free rides.  Today's train will be this interurban car and our guide, Ed, is talking with the engineer:

This Museum is a tremendous place to visit and VERY reasonable!!  If you haven't been there, put it on your bucket list!!

Jim left us after this to visit northern Wisconsin by himself.  Dick and I headed back north so we could visit Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom (near Baraboo) on Friday.  As we neared Janesville, I saw a Wisconsin Southern train traveling in the opposite direction from us.  Since we don't see WS trains often, I swung the car around and got ahead of it so we could photograph it at a crossing:

Besides 'regular' freight cars, this train was carrying a lot of military vehicles.  We have no idea where they came from or where they were going.

Since we had a little time before we had to get to our motel in Baraboo, we decided to see what train facilities were in Janesville as we hadn't visited this before.  BINGO!  Here's the Wisconsin Southern roundhouse and some engines:

They have a working turntable:

We found one of their snowplows:

But the neatest thing is their bridges.  Janesville is served by the Wisconsin Southern, the Union Pacific, and the Canadian Pacific.  Their bridges go over and under each other.  In this first pic, the Union Pacific is the foreground bridge.  A train was scheduled to go over this structure in about an hour but we didn't want to wait around, and it might be late . . . .

Yes, that is another railroad bridge in the arch of this railroad bridge.  There were several locations like this!!

We HAVE to explore Janesville more in the future.  It would have really been exciting to watch in the 'old days.'

On the way to Baraboo we stopped in Sauk City and saw the bridge where the Milwaukee Road entered the city.  This line is now abandoned:

On Friday we went to Mid-Continent Museum.  Not as big as Illinois Railway Museum but a GREAT collection of static and running railroad pieces.  This great Museum was 'flooded out' in 2008 when the Baraboo River greatly overflowed and did a lot of damage to their buildings, cars, and traction motors of their diesels.  They have rebuilt and are up and running but not everything is fixed yet.  Dick and I got there before any one else and had plenty of time to explore before our train ride.

This Museum has the last wood caboose The Milwaukee Road built AND the first steel caboose that railroad built:

I thought I had heard that steam engine 1385 was nearly completion of the overhaul being done on it.  I guess I was wrong!!

Here is the Baraboo River that overflowed and damaged the bridge.  This rail is the only connection to the outside world for this Museum and now it can't be used.  There are freight cars stored on the other side of the river--can't see them in this view.  They are no longer accessible.

We took their train ride.  An interesting aspect of their ride is that when they are going to 'run around' their train to pull it back to the Museum, they park the engine and let people walk up onto this stand, see the inside of the engine, and ask the engineer any question they wish.  A unique idea and appreciated by the riders.

A great 3-day mini-vacation.  Lots of trains, friends, trains, good food, trains, . . . . did I mention we saw lots of trains???????

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