The National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin preserves railroad objects and provides a variety of dynamic exhibits to educate the public on the history and culture of America’s railroads. The museum grounds include a full-sized operating vintage train, a 26,000 square foot indoor exhibit area and a theater. Permanent exhibits at the museum showcase engines, passenger cars, and railroad related objects and artifacts.
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Highlights include the Dwight D. Eisenhower and accompanying commander cars. These are the only A4 class locomotives in the United States. The A4 class locomotives were steam engine powered trains designed in London. A Big Boy locomotive of over 1 million pounds represents the 25 that were built during the mid 1940’s. The giant locomotive spans one half of a football field in length, and was designed to carry over 30 tons of coal through mountainous U.S. regions. General Motors’ stylized Aerotrain of 1955 was built for speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, however, due to poor design and a very rough ride at speeds of 60 miles per hour, the model was discontinued. The museum also houses a 1932 GG-1, the most famous electric locomotive. The train has been featured on a postage stamp, paintings, and as a Lioel toy train. The museum’s GG-1 is one of just 16 remaining of the original 139.
In addition to the trains, the museum is home to the Bauer Drumhead Collection. Drumheads were used to identify a train’s brand in the days before 1971 when trains were operated by several different companies along the same rail lines. The illuminated signs were attached to the rear of the last car. In 1971 Amtrak took over operations of U.S. passenger trains, and the individual logos were no longer used. The museum’s collection of over 40 drumheads was donated by Frederick Bauer in 1999 and is the largest known collection of its kind.
‘Pullman Porters: From Service to Civil Rights’ is a permanent exhibit illuminating the story of over 100 years of railroad service, labor union history and civil rights. Porters on the Pullman railroad successfully organized the country’s first all-black labor union in 1937 after a 28-year struggle. An exhibit of fine china used by the railroads tells the history of the rise and fall of fine dining on passenger cars.
History: The National Railroad Museum first opened in 1956 following a local effort to acquire a steam locomotive for a Green Bay city park. Two years later, the museum was recognized by Congress as the nation’s official railroad museum, and today is among the largest railroad history museums in the world. The non-profit organization welcomes over 105,000 visitors annually.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Guests may opt for a self-guided or guided experience of the museum. Guided tours last a minimum of two hours, and include highlights of the collection as well as a 25-minute train ride or a 25-minute film viewing. Guests may opt to include a boxed ‘hobo lunch’ on their guided tours.
A full-sized vintage train takes visitors on 25-minute tours of the museum’s facilities. The train is pulled by a diesel locomotive and includes a conductor’s talk on railroad history and hobo culture. ‘Last of the Giants’ is a 25-minute film which is included in museum admission. The film educates visitors on the history of the Union Pacific Big Boys. The theater is also host to special train-related screenings of movies such as the Polar Express and Thomas the Train.
A Children’s Discovery Depot at the museum offers exhibits specially designed for younger visitors. The interactive displays teach young children about principles of math, science and engineering using trains. Educational activities include Railroad Activity Time for children ages 4 through 14. The programs involve story telling and discussions on the history of railroads and how they work. The Museum Research Assistant activity pairs children with each other and sends them on an assignment to research a particular object in the museum’s collection. Specialized programs combine railroad history with lessons in science, technology, engineering and math. Programs range from overnight stays, to scout badge programs, to summer camps and holiday programs.
Past and Future Exhibits: ‘Requiem For Steam,’ and exhibit of vintage photographs will open in 2018. The exhibit is presented in partnership with Madison’s Center for Railroad Photography & Art and will feature the iconic photographs of America’s best-known railroad photographer, David Plowden.
2285 S Broadway Green Bay, WI 54304, Phone: 920-437-7623