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National Railroad Museum: A Photographic Tour and Update

text and images by Jeff Terry

The National Railroad Museum in Green Bay has made significant improvements over the past two years. The last time I visited was in 2000 when they were preparing to begin construction of a new building to house some of their more significant artifacts. At the time I was told the building was going to be something like their Victor McCormick Train Pavilion, which is basically a roofed shelter that gives some protection from ice and snow.

What actually was constructed is an enclosed and climate-controlled structure which is large enough to house several locomotives and cars. When this building, known as the Frederick J. Lenfesty Center, was finished last year several locomotives and cars previously stored outdoors were moved inside where they can be properly cared for. In addition, some items previously displayed inside the Victor McCormick Train Pavilion were also moved into the new building, freeing up space and allowing other artifacts to be placed under cover. With the addition of the new display building the museum now has every steam locomotive in their collection except one (a small 2-truck Shay) under cover.

There have been several locomotives and cars restored at the museum in the past five years. This photo shows the condition of the museum's Pennsylvania GG1 in 1990. Since this photo was taken it has been cosmetically restored and moved indoors. The Milwaukee Road Fairbanks-Morse switcher in the background is part of the museum's operating fleet.

One of the advertised attractions is former Union Pacific No. 4017. Unfortunately, the museum's location along the Fox River and the harsh Wisconsin weather were not kind to this or other locomotives in the collection. This photo shows No. 4017 in 2000 when paint had started to flake off. Remarkably, it had been painted just a few years earlier! This is one of the reasons for building a climate-controlled building at Green Bay.

Fast forward two years. This is the UP Big Boy and GG1 today as exhibited inside the Frederick J. Lenfesty Center. The Big Boy has been completely repainted and lettered (correctly, I might add) and the GG1 has been repainted into the Pennsy's five stripe scheme. As you can see both have operating headlights and classification lights. No. 4017 has been at Green Bay since 1961, but the GG1 is a relatively new addition, having been acquired in the mid-1990s from the B&O Railroad Museum.

Another prominent exhibit in the Lenfestey Center is the English-built Gresley A-4 Pacific No. 60008, the "Dwight D. Eisenhower" and its short train which was part of Eisenhower's command train in Britain during World War 2. These were cosmetically restored over ten years ago to participate in the Eisenhower Centennial celebrations in Kansas, and since then have been displayed under cover inside the Victor McCormick Train Pavilion. Today they have been cleaned and polished and are now exhibited in the new building along one wall. Note that there is a ramp all around the right side of the train which allows visitors to peer inside the cab of No. 60008 and also view the interior of the passenger cars. I was told that after some work the passenger cars will be open for tours.

Little 0-4-0T No. 29 was built by Alco in 1924 for service at the Pullman Plant. It once operated on the museum's "Wisconsin & Yesterday Railroad" until complaints from neighbors forced it into retirement. While in tourist service it carried the name "Brillion Pioneer" on its saddle tank. Today the 29 has been cosmetically restored and has been placed inside the Lefestey Center. It still needs proper lettering, and a sign with its history is being made up. Behind it is a restored bay window caboose from the Anhapee & Western.

Minneapolis & St. Louis D538 is an NW-1 built in 1938 by EMC that is equipped with a Winton diesel engine. It was donated to the museum by the Marienette, Tomahawk & Western in 1973 and wore their colors until it was restored to its original M&StL paint scheme three years ago. The unit is not operational.

The museum constructed a small display building in the early 1990s that was known as the Lefestey Center. However, when the new building was completed the older display building was renamed the Harold E. Fuller Hall and a long corridor was constructed to link the two. The old building previously housed the Frederick Bauer drumhead collection, which has since been set up in the corridor. With space now available for new exhibits, many items previously in storage - such as this scale model of the Aerotrain - have been set up. This exhibit shows the excellent quality and planning that the National Railroad Museum is putting into their displays.

Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range 2-10-2 No. 506 was cosmetically restored in 1999. It was displayed outdoors from 1962 until 2001, but now is under cover in the train pavilion on track #2. Its cab is one of the few open to visitors.

Rock Island Aerotrain No. 2 was painted and cleaned many years ago, but still is in good condition. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for its two passenger cars, which are in need of cosmetic work. The Aerotrain is displayed on track #1.

At the other end of the Victor McCormick Train Pavilion you will find most of the museum's large steam locomotives. All have been repainted in the last five years, although it is difficult to tell that. There is a major problem with bird droppings inside the train pavilion, and a freshly-painted locomotive ends up looking bad in just a few months. From right to left are Lake Superior & Ishpeming 2-8-0 No. 24, Soo Line 4-6-2 No. 2718, and AT&SF 2-10-4 NO. 5017. Not seen is C&O 2-8-4 No. 2736, which is displayed behind No. 5017. The Santa Fe and Soo Line engines should have their number plates reinstalled for proper display.

Another view of the train pavilion at Green Bay. Lake Superior & Ishpeming 2-8-0 No. 24, seen on the left, was cosmetically restored in 1999. It operated on the museum railway as late as 1973. Soo Line 2718, in the center, also operated at Green Bay for the first few years after it arrived at the museum; it was used to moved donated equipment onto the grounds. It was repainted in 2000 but has yet to be lettered.

Milwaukee Road 38A is next in line for restoration. It is currently stored outside the museum's small restoration shop.

A former C&NW Alco S-1 was in use at the museum when I visited in 2002. The short train ride circles the grounds, crossing Dutchman's Creek twice during its journey. The Wisconsin & Calumet F-unit is one of five diesel locomotives restored by the late Glenn Monhart and currently stored at the museum.

These two BL2s are also from the Glenn Monhart estate and are currently stored at the National Railway Museum. Both were formerly used on the Janesville & Southeastern in Wisconsin. They have been at the musuem since July 2001.

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