The depot under flood waters on June 10, 2008. The building sustained severe damage and will not be open yet.
Jim Connor photo.

The GE, seen here moving the newly restored Copper Range coach to the Coach Shed for display in 2003, will power the post-flood passengers train in August.
Matt Theroux photo.

Mid-Continent Good to Go: Re-opening After Flooding.

Good to go. It’s a phrase commonly used among railroad crews to indicate that the equipment is ready for use. And starting this Saturday the train at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom will be good to go after a nearly eight week layoff as a result of flood damage.

“This is going to be a living example of the little engine that could,” says museum manager, Don Meyer. He was referring to the size of the one diesel engine the museum’s volunteers have been able to repair for active service.

Known as the GE because it was built by the General Electric Company, the small switch engine is designed to shuttle a few railroad cars over short distances. “It’s not pretty,” Meyer says, “but it will get the job done.”

The GE is considered to be too small to operate daily in passenger service so the museum is limiting its train rides to Saturdays and Sundays only beginning this coming weekend, August 2-3.

The number of cars the GE pulls will be limited as well. “We’re being very cautious as we ease back into train service, Meyer says. “That means keeping the load the GE has to pull as light as possible and still be able to assemble what people will recognize as a train.” Called a consist, the train will have two passenger coaches and a caboose in which the public can enjoy ride.

Another limitation being imposed on the museum as a result of the flooding is the length of the trip. Damage to a wooden trestle bridge at Seeley Creek means the train will stop short of that point and the GE will shove the consist back to the depot at North Freedom.

Since the engine will be on the rear of the train shoving the cars ahead of it for the return trip, the train crew will be required to perform a maneuver known as flagging the crossing. At each point where the tracks cross a highway the train will stop, the trainman will get down and stand in the intersection with a red flag in order to stop vehicle traffic and allow the train to proceed to its destination.

“It’s cumbersome, but it’s safe,” Meyer says. And it is part of the way railroads historically operated during the era the museum portrays at its facility in North Freedom. “We do our best to demonstrate how short line railroads like ours operated. Flagging the crossings was not meant to be in this year’s program. But we will be running and grateful for the opportunity.”

There will be three departure times each weekend at 11:00am, 1:00 and 3:00pm. Tickets may be purchased at the museum’s office since the depot is closed for repairs.

Ticket prices for a coach ride are $13 for adults and $7 for children (ages 3-12). The price for a caboose ticket is $15 for an adult and $8 for a child. Children two and under always ride free.