About Mid-Continent
What is Mid-Continent?
Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society--also known as Mid-Continent Railway Museum--is an outdoor, living museum and operating railroad recreating the small town/short line way of life during the "Golden Age of Railroading," spanning the years 1880-1916, with operating trains, educational exhibits, and displays of restored rolling stock. Mid-Continent has operated at North Freedom, Wisconsin since 1963.
Mission Statement
The Mid-Continent Railway Museum is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the railroad legacy for the educational benefit of the general public. Its primary focus shall be on railroading of the Upper Midwest during the Golden Age of Railroading, 1880-1916.

The Museum adheres to the
following principles:

1) to collect and preserve rolling stock, structures, and other artifacts that meet the Museum's focus;
2) to restore the equipment based upon sound scholarship; 3) to operate a demonstration steam passenger train in an historically accurate environment of a turn-of-the-century rural railroad;
4) to interpret, through Museum display and educational programs, the history, equipment, skills, and the human facets of the rail industry;
5) to maintain a library and archival collections in the interest of promoting historical studies of the industry;
6) to hold the Museum's collection in the public trust, ensuring long-term care of historic objects entrusted to its collections.
Mid-Continent History
Mid-Continent is a not-for-profit, membership society. Its members have been the driving force behind its establishment and growth since its inception. Founded in 1959 as the Railway Historical Society of Milwaukee, its sole purpose has been to perpetuate the heritage of steam railroads through the operation and display of authentic railroad equipment. The first attempt to fulfill this mission took place at Hillsboro, Wisconsin, in 1962. But the rules of the rail line owner required the fledgling group to pull its coaches with gas power and leave the steamers for display only.

In 1963 the society purchased 4.2 miles of track from the Chicago & North Western Railroad and moved its operations to North Freedom, Wisconsin. That year society members offered steam train rides under their new name, the Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society, Inc. The year 2013 marks our 50th year at North Freedom. In 2012, nearly 22,000 visitors enjoyed the sights and sounds of railroading as it was done in the early part of the century.

Longtime member Jim Neubauer has compiled a historical timeline of Mid-Continent's development, giving an in-depth presentation of the museum's development from inception to present.

Over the years, the society has added to its collection of rolling stock, laid new track, and constructed shops and display sheds in an effort to create a reputable railroad museum. The members have maintained a very narrow scope in their purpose statement to focus on those railroads that operated in the upper Midwest during what is popularly called the "Golden Age of Railroading." This has given the museum a unique look so that a visitor today feels like they have stepped back in time. It has also helped to keep the museum's limited resources committed to a manageable task versus trying to save everything from everywhere.

The membership roster averages nearly 600 people each year. Volunteer hours have steadily grown as society members continue to impact every aspect of museum work. A board of twelve directors governs museum operations. They in turn supervise a paid staff, who handle the day-to-day business of the museum. And funding is being sought through a federal program to underwrite the cost of adding a curator to the staff; the next major step in securing Mid-Continent's position as a true railroad museum.

Mid-Continent is operated for the benefit of the general public. This primarily means Wisconsin residents. But the guest register shows that it is visited each year by people from around the United States and Canada. This is aided by the museum's proximity to both Baraboo, where the Circus World Museum and the International Crane Foundation are located, and the Wisconsin Dells, a popular tourist destination.
The Future
What does the uture hold for Mid-Continent? In 2013,
Mid-Continent's nearly 600 members live in 30 states and 3 foreign countries. They come from all age groups, from both genders, and from a great variety of interests and occupations. Some are full-time or retired railroaders (representing roads such as the Central Vermont, the New York Central, the Wisconsin Central, the Alaska Railroad, and many more). Others are teachers, machinists, nurses, law enforcement officers, journalists, government workers, aircraft pilots, students, farmers and engineers. The ranks include budding enthusiasts, as well as some of the best known rail artists, photographers and writers in the land. Many volunteer their time to carry out the many tasks required to operate and improve a living, operating railway museum. Regardless of their "day jobs," members work as brakemen and locomotive engineers, as steamfitters and carpenters, as researchers and writers, as cooks and waiters, as designers and gandy dancers. But volunteer work is never required of members, and many are content to observe from an armchair, knowing that their dues and contributions help as well.

Membership in the Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society brings the usual benefits, including publications, museum store discounts, and a pass to ride. More importantly, it brings the satisfaction that you are supporting what Trains Magazine publisher Kevin Keefe called "one of the most authentic, essential institutions of its kind." Won't you join us today?

Every member begins at the Associate level. Annual dues are $40 a year. The membership year begins January 1 and you will receive a dues renewal notice after the first of the year. Many members have been content to stay at the Associate level during their entire involvement with the museum. However, those wishing to take a more active role in the museum's administration can upgrade to Regular or Life status after two consecutive years as an Associate member in good standing.

The cost to upgrade to the regular level is one-time initiation fee of $100. Annual dues for a Regular member are $50. Regular members have the privilege to vote on board elections, may run for election to the board of directors, or accept an appointment to an officer position.

For upgrade to Life membership, the one-time initiation fee of $100 is required. Dues for a lifetime members are $1,000, after which you will no longer be assessed annual dues. A portion of dues and the cost of membership upgrades may be tax deductible.

A copy of the bylaws and board minutes may be requested from the office by any member by sending a self-stamped-addressed envelope.

Mid-Continent members receive the following items as part of their membership

  • Railway Gazette published several times per year;
  • The member-designed calendar;
  • Quarterly issues of the Steamer newsletter;
  • 10% discount in the gift shop;
  • Access to the members-only Web page;
  • Free coach rides when space is available

Print out the handy Membership Application form and mail today. And welcome aboard!

Contact Us
Office phone: 608-522-4261
email: inquiries@midcontinent.org

Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society
E8948 Diamond Hill Road
P.O. Box 358
North Freedom, WI 53951