|At the Minocqua Museum|
For families who head Up North on their summer vacation, a day away from the cabin can include a whistle stop at local museums with charming model train layouts and retired railroad cars. More avid railroad fans can even enjoy the rare opportunity to ride an operational steam train. This being a tourist paradise, the non-train lover will be rewarded for coming along for the ride with fun sites to see and things to do at the very same spots.
|Main-level layout at Minocqua Museum|
|Large layout at the Minocqua Museum|
My family recently returned from our first Northwoods vacation in several years. We knew our week in the woods would include a few train stops, but the first was a chance discovery. During a morning visit to Minocqua we were in need of rest rooms and turned to the Minocqua Museum in our time of need. Lo and behold, what should we discover upon entering but a delightful model train layout on the main level and an even larger layout in the museum's basement. Both illustrate the area's history as towns grew up around railroad lines thanks to logging and tourism industries in the late 19th century. My boys were captivated by both layouts and appreciated being able to operate some of the trains with the push of a button. As is so often the case at small museums, the engineer on hand, who had built both layouts, was eager to share his love of history and trains with our family. (For my daughter, who was less entranced with the trains, other exhibits fascinated her, including sitting in the Cameron automobile and playing teacher in the schoolhouse exhibit.)
|The Lumberjack Steam Train|
The very next day, our family headed in the opposite direction to little Laona, Wisconsin for a ride on the Lumberjack Steam Train. Despite our many visits to train museums and countless train rides, this day marked our first family experience with a real, running steam engine. In truth, it was the dad of the family who was most excited to finally experience the puff-puff, chug-chug! According to the museum, the "Laona & Northern Railway was incorporated in 1902. ... It is the only logging railroad engine left in Wisconsin operating on its original line." The engine itself, a 2-6-2 for those of you who count wheels, was built in 1916.
|Playground at Camp 5|
|View from the caboose cupola|
|"Steam Hauler" for pulling sleighs loaded with logs|
|Model train display by the Rhinelander Rail Association|
|Part of a mural outside the Firebarn.|
|"Number 5," a narrow-gauge locomotive|
After visiting the Hodag in the gift shop -- Babe the Blue Ox isn't the only mysterious creature of the northwoods -- we were begged yet again to head for the playground next to the museum for some running, climbing, and sliding. It was the end of the line our train adventures. We needed a day of playing in the woods and the lake before saying "All aboard" to the family van and heading home.
|Soo Line Caboose from the 1880s|