Last revised: May 9, 2023
By: Adam Burns
The National Railroad Museum (reporting mark, NRMX), is located in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, a suburb of Green Bay. The organization is one of the country's oldest such institutions with a heritage dating back to 1956.
It all began as a singular endeavor to preserve a decaying steam locomotive in a local city park.
As the group became better organized they managed to have the museum recognized by Congress in 1958 as the National Railroad Museum.
Today, their collection has grown exponentially featuring several dozen locomotives and much more rolling stock.
In 2009 the NRM came under fire for its handling of 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 poor publicity from the dispute resulted in the museum selling the locomotive to the group.
Around this same time, in 2008, NRM made the decision to scale its collection in an effort to focus on a core group of equipment it could display, properly restored. Today, the museum boasts an annual visitors of over 100,000 with more than 300 volunteers.
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.
Green Bay & Western #315
Green Bay & Western #103
Green Bay & Western #106
U.S. Army #8651
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy #510
Milwaukee Road #38-A
Rock Island (Trainset #2)*****
Soo Line/Wisconsin Central #715
Minneapolis & St. Louis #D-538
Milwaukee Road #767
St. Paul Union Depot #441
U.S. Army #106
* Built as South Buffalo Railway #73.
** Built as Fairport, Painesville & Eastern #103.
*** Built as Kalamazoo Green Bay & Western #103.
**** Built as Southern Pacific #1034.
***** The locomotive, an LWT-12, and two cars are preserved.
****** Built as St. Louis Ordinance #2.
Pennsylvania Railroad #4890 (Cosmetically Restored)
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.
Santa Fe #5017
Chesapeake & Ohio #2736
Duluth, Missabe & Northern #506
Pardee & Curtin Lumber Co. #12*
Lake Superior & Ishpeming #24
London & North Eastern #60008**
Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie #2718
Sumter & Choctaw #102
U.S. Army #101 (named General Pershing)
Union Pacific #4017
* Later became Ely-Thomas Lumber Company #5.
** Named the Dwight D. Eisenhower. Built by the Doncaster Works of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England in 1937.
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.