Rails & Trails Pages

Monday, October 19, 2015

CNW Mini-Convention 2015

The Chicago & North Western Historical Society held its annual Western Wisconsin Mini-Meet on Saturday, October 17, 2015 in Black River Falls.  Approximately 35 railroad historians/enthusiasts met for a day of socializing and learning about railroad operations in the Black River Falls area.

After registration, coffee, and rolls, we headed out in a car caravan to see the railroad sites.  Here's part of our group at our first stop, the Black River Falls depot.

The BRF depot has been added on to and now houses several small businesses.

And the back side.

To cross the Black River, the railroad built first a wooden bridge and then a steel bridge.  It was removed in 1915 but piers still remain in the river.

And--houses are built on the abutments on each side of the river!

Here is part of our caravan.

The highlight of the tour was a visit to Hoffman Construction and now retired owner Dave Hoffman, a real railroad enthusiast!  He had a new office building constructed to resemble a depot.

Note the "wings," resembling the Union Pacific logo.  It's also on his company's flag.

Mr. Hoffman greeted us in his meeting room and told us the history of his company and his train interests.

Besides his static railroad display, he owns two private cars, a dome car and a sleeper, which he runs behind Amtrak.  He showed us a video of his Northern Sky cars.

A couple of pictures from the Internet.

Railroad #9003, Northern Sky Charters, "Northern Sky" Private car ...

<b>Train</b> Chartering - Private <b>Rail</b> <b>Car</b> <b>Northern</b> <b>Sky</b> - dome (USA) | Flickr ...

Outside he has a steam engine, a flat car, and two coaches.  The steam engine was built by Baldwin in 1906 for the Warren and Ouachita Valley Railroad.  In 1948 it was purchased by the Rock Island and represented the railroad in the 1949 Chicago Rail Fair.  It was retired in 1954 and purchased in 2002 by Mr. Hoffman.  It looks good enough to be steamed up right now!  (He does has air piped to the whistle and can blow it--SOUNDS GREAT!)

The flat car was owned by the Royal American Shows.  It was built by the Warren Tank Car Company in 1929 and traveled to Wisconsin and Minnesota State Fairs.  Mr. Hoffman purchased it in 2003.  It displays antique caterpillars that were owned by Peter Hoffman and skidded white pine logs in northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan in the 1920s.  They have been rebuilt and probably would run right now.

Mr. Hoffman has two passenger cars.  The rear car is an open end observation built by the American Car and Foundry in 1917 for the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad.  It became a business car for the NC&StL in 1925.  Mr. Hoffman purchased it in 2002.

Here are two interior shots.

The second car is a wooden coach car built by Pullman in 1900 for the Rock Island.  It also represented the Rock Island in the 1949 Chicago Rail Fair.  It was purchased by Mr. Hoffman in 2002.

We then journeyed to Merrillan for a brat, beans, chips, and salad lunch.  The bar/restaurant was right along the tracks but no trains came through.  It and the Merrillan depot are located at the crossing of the GB&W (Green Bay & Western) and Omaha Railway (CNW) tracks.  Those tracks are now owned by CN and Union Pacific.

We went back to the Thunderbird Motel for picture shows.  The feature was a 168-picture Power Point presented by Dick Johnson.  It thoroughly covered the Black River Falls railroad action as well as some other local highlights.  Attendees brought models and memorabilia and Dave Mikelson, the meet organizer, gave away door prizes.

The one-day meets are always fun.  They cover the railroad history of the area as well as being inexpensive, offering the opportunity for lots of people to attend.  Next year's site is undecided--looking for ideas!!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Soo Line Convention 2015

The 37th Annual Soo Line Historical Society and Technical Society Convention was held in Hudson on September 17-19, 2015.  Although Hudson is not located on Soo Line tracks, it is a location that was easy to reach for attendees and a place where excursions could be launched.

We had great Special Interest sessions including modelling clinics, Soo Line picture shows, and historical photos such as the history of the St. Croix River High Bridge.  Convention chairpersons Kent and Dawn Ohlfs always include a bus tour of area railroad highlights.  And this year's trip included THREE TRAIN RIDES!!  I'm betting no other historical society convention could match that.

Our first train ride would be on the Iron Horse Central Railroad at Chisago City, MN.  On the way, we stopped in New Richmond to see the depot, constructed in 1915 which means it is 100 years old this year.
The Iron Horse Central was started in 1966 by brothers Robert and Richard Thompson, ex-railroaders.  Robert died some years ago and Richard died about two years ago.  I have been at this museum several times and Richard gave me material for my last two books, including a great snow-plowing story.  Richard's son Eric has now taken over the museum.  They have collected lots of memorabilia and equipment, much of which needs restoring.  Here are shots of some of the equipment.
They even have the last wood bay window Milwaukee Road caboose.
They have steam engine #4, one of their first acquisitions.  This was at the Dresser Trap Rock facility and is steamed about twice a summer.
They have a depot which was brought in, which is filled with memorabilia.
And lots of railroad signs!!!
The brothers built about one mile of track to run their equipment on.  We all got 2 laps behind this small diesel.
Here is their website if you would like to see more pictures.

Our second train ride would be on the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railroad in Osceola, WI.  I formerly "worked" on this tourist line so this wasn't a new ride for me but I got the opportunity to renew acquaintances with the train crew.

We had a delicious box lunch sandwich on the train.  This is part of our group.
We cross the St. Croix River.  This is looking down river.
And this is looking up river.
Our last train ride would be at the St. Croix Live Steamers Club expansive layout south of Hudson.
There are 3 separate railroad lines on about 10 acres of land.  They are a 7 1/2 inch gauge, a 4 3/4 inch gauge and a mixed gauge track with 4 3/4, 3 1/2, and 2 1/2 gauges.  Locomotives are powered by steam, diesel, gasoline, or batteries.  Here's some scenes from their impressive club.

Although I have been here several times, it's always fun to go back and see all the new stuff they've added.  A few years ago they added this impressive roundhouse and turntable.
Inside are a LOT of great engines, way to many to photograph.  Here's just one of them.
I was last here in 2011 with friend and club member Fred Hoeser.  He owns a Rock Island train which he runs here and I got to run it!  To see more pix of this club, click this link.

Next year's Soo Line Convention will be held in Duluth.  I hope we get a ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad.  I hear that it is a real neat train ride to Two Harbors!!