The National Railroad Museum (NRM, reporting mark NRMX), is located in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, a suburb of Green Bay and is one of the oldest such institutions in the country with its earliest beginnings dating back to 1956. It's interesting that this museum began as an endeavor to preserve a single steam locomotive in a local city park and has since snowballed into an organization that was recognized by Congress in 1958 as the National Railroad Museum. Today, its collection features several dozen locomotives and even more rolling stock. In recent years the NRM came under fire for its handling of their most famous piece of equipment, Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 #261. Leased by the Friend of the 261 since 1993 and operated on countless excursions it was in danger of being placed on permanent display until the museum decided to simply sell the locomotive to the group.
The National Railroad Museum is based in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin (near Green Bay) and was founded in 1956 by the locals of Green Bay who were interested in establishing a museum dedicated to the general history of American railroads and how they have helped grow and shape this great country. By 1958 the organization had gathered enough momentum to have Congress recognize it as the country's official railroad museum and provide it with needed funding. Property for the organization was located in southern Green Bay and their first display piece was Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 #261. Since then, the NRM has amassed quite a collection of steam and diesel locomotives, freight and passenger cars, and numerous other pieces of railroad memorabilia. Aside from the NRM's large, and growing collection it also features interactive and static displays (such as an entire room of original passenger train drumheads from various railroads around the country) in its indoor facilities.
The National Railroad Museum has also drawn criticism over the years for the handling of its collection, some of which is in rather poor condition exposed and rusting away to the elements outdoors. They also drew ire during the Milwaukee Road #261 negotiations in 2009 that nearly witnessed the big 4-8-4 returned to display status rather than remaining operational and hosting excursions by the Friends Of The 261. Thankfully, this fate did not befall the Northern as the Friends acquired ownership of the locomotive in May of 2010 for $225,000 and it returned to service a few years later. In any event, aside from the drumheads other features include an operating model railroad, an observation tower, and a short stretch of track that hosts train rides, including the very popular Day Out with Thomas event for kids. By request, NRM also fields a large collection of photographs and other historic documents.
All in all, if you have the chance, a visit to the National Railroad Museum is one of the must-see such institutions in the country. Given the National Railroad Museum's size it is somewhat surprising that they do not either operate their own excursion train or have one located nearby (such as the case with the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania). In any event, the NRM does have two very nice indoor facilities, the Victor McCormick Train Pavilion and the Frederick J. Lenfestey Center, which houses most of their restored pieces. Aside from their exhibits and collections the museum also has activities available for youngsters including educational field trips hosted during April and also offers the Railroading Merit Badge for Boy Scouts, which are normally held during the fall each year. For more information about the National Railroad Museum and planning a visit please click here to visit their website.