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Our family adventures

All about choo-choos

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Original plans for Saturday included a trip with my sister Jeni to a bridal shower in New Richmond, four hours away. We unfortunately had to cancel because Jeni and Dave have been having car trouble. I was a little sad but also glad I wasn’t going to leave my family all day!

So instead we went to the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, which is about an hour away from here. We’ve wanted to go there for a long time.

The draw of the museum is the ride in the restored old-time train. Its a 7-mile ride on a former branch of the Chicago & Northwestern line with authentic-dressed conductors. We started by getting our tickets for the 1:00 train. Then we needed to get lunch. North Freedom isn’t really a bustling metroplex though. In fact, the population, according to the line, is 649. There’s not much to North Freedom. Using my fancy new phone I found there was the “Railroad Cafe” in North Freedom and no other food until Baraboo, about 5 miles away. We were a little short on time and looking for something interesting, so we braved the Railroad Cafe.

We were pleasantly surprised. It was an old fashioned diner and we were the only customers, at noon on a Saturday. That worked just fine for us.

Allie enjoyed some crackers and fries. We got her a grilled cheese but she wasn’t into it. The only hangup of the restaurant was that it didn’t have a changing table in the bathroom. I had to get creative and change her on the floor! It worked fine though.

The food was quick and it was good. We finished in plenty of time to get back to the train.

This is the historic depot built in 1894!

We rode in the Delaware Lackawanna & Western coach #563. They also used cars 425, 557 and 595. According to the pamphlet we got, these cars “were constructed by the Pullman Company between 1914 and 1917 for suburban passenger service in New York and New Jersey. These cars are of riveted steel construction and were one of the last large orders of open-vestibule coaches ever built. Their simple design provided economical transportation in short-distance use.”

The weekend staff is volunteer! I’m sure its a labor of love for these people. Fascinating.

Allie liked looking out the windows at all the other trains. She really loved the entire experience, though we had taken a calculated risk, however, in skipping nap time. She had a mini meltdown before the ride started. Luckily she recovered nicely and we all enjoyed our ride.

The way her face lit up when the train whistle blew was priceless. This is the only real picture I got of the expression, hence the picture with only half her face!

After the conductor punched our tickets, we let Allie hold on to hers. Her ride was free, but she still got her own ticket.

The ride was a bit more than 3 miles down the track. When we got to the end of the line they separated the engine from the train to display for people to get a closer look. After everyone got a look, they moved the engine to the other end of the train for the trip back to the depot.
Allie’s reaction was interesting. She loved the horn, but I think she was a little scared of it as well. Because her face would light up, but she’d also snuggle in closer to Mama. I think her tiredness played a part in this as well.

After the ride Allie ran around a bit while Mama used the bathroom. You gotta leave time for running around!

The other part of the museum is the coach shed, where they display the other restored trains. Its so interesting, but it was difficult, really impossible, to spend much time looking at the trains with Allie, especially with a tired Allie in tow.

Allie enjoyed walking between the trains though. She especially liked going up and down the stairs on the platforms.

It was a great family day. On the way home we stopped at Culvers in Sauk City for some sundaes. Allie didn’t care for the frozen custard though. She enthusiastically took a couple spoonfuls and was startled by how cold it was. After a few bites she didn’t want anymore part of it! Its better that way though, for her at least. Toward the end of the trip home we really started losing Allie. She’d been in the car and without a nap a bit too long. She was much more relaxed once we got home!
We really enjoyed this trip. We had considered going to one of the Milwaukee museums, but this trip was so much easier and perhaps cheaper. The train kept Allie’s attention better than a normal museum would have for sure. They have several special events and we’d love to do any of them. They have a fall colors weekend, pumpkin special where you get a pumpkin at the end of the line, a Santa Express, and a winter train. The one we really want to try though is the dinner trip. Its $80 a person but it sounds like an awesome experience.
The train we rode Saturday was pulled by a diesel engine. The museum’s mission though, is to get a steam engine in service. The conductor said they expect that to happen in a year. We were a bit bummed, however, to find out that a steam engine had made a guest appearance the weekend before! Now that would have been an experience. But now we have an excuse to go back next year!

Author: Jessica

I am a running working mama. We work hard and play hard and I have a lot to share along the way.

One thought on “All about choo-choos

  1. When you guys come to Chicago you should try and hit the Chicago History Museum, they've got a bunch of stuff about trains and the Pullman workers (apparently there was some sort of strike or something for a union, I don't remember all the details, but it was interesting) and there's a kid type area that Allie might like. And there's a bunch of just generally cool stuff. And, really, it's not that big. The only reason it took my mom and me so long to get through it is because I like to look at everything, and the stuff about the great fire was REALLY interesting to me. 🙂

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