Laona Steam Train - Photo Album
In northern Wisconsin, just outside the little town of Laona, there is a working steam train at an active logging operation. It was a fun family excursion and a learning experience, as well. We came to ride the train but also got a lesson in forestry and logging. They had a nice lumberjack museum and a great tour through the forest. The same family has been running this logging operation for generations and today it operates as a managed forest of mixed hardwood and softwood trees. I was impressed by their commitment to preserving the forest through selective harvesting.
Back in the "old days" the loggers worked out of logging camps. These were remote campsites connected to a base camp by the railroad. The base camp was not just the headquarters but also a working farm that supplied the whole operation with food, supplies and horses. The railroad was the life-blood of the operation in, what was then, a very remote area. Men and material went up the line to the camp and timber came back out. The steam train ride took us a short distance from the original base camp (and farm) to camp number five.
Photos were taken with an ordinary travel camera - nothing fancy. Hope you enjoy.
When the train was sitting at the station, kids were encouraged to come up and pull the rope to blow the whistle. I was amazed at how loud it was and my youngest would have no part of it. For the convenience of its passengers, the train offered three riding options. There was the view from a caboose (they had a two of them hooked-up), you could relax in the relative comfort of a coach (with natural a/c via the operable windows), or for the more adventurous, there was the open-air car just behind the engine. We chose the caboose for the trip to camp five and returned to base camp in the open-air car.
The steam locomotive that runs at the museum was built in 1916 by the Vulcan Iron Works in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. Vulcan Iron works produced steam locomotives from 1849 until 1954. Known as a "Prairie" type locomotive because of its common use in the midwest, #4 has a 2-6-2 wheelbase and a coal tender box. There were two coaches on the line that day.One was built by Barney and Smith in 1911 and the other by the American Car and Foundry Company in 1923. Both were built for the Soo Line. The camp seven caboose was originally built for the Duluth, Mesabi and Iron Range Railroad and the camp five caboose was built for the Soo Line. The open car at the front of the train was actually a box car built in 1920 and used by the Laona & Northern Railway. It was modified and converted to an open air car by removing he side panels.
Climb Aboard Engine #1
In addition to the steam train, a diesel switcher sat at the siding. I don't think this one was operational but anyone could climb aboard and drive it (at least in their imagination).
We were not expecting the great amount of logging information that was presented - this was a bonus. The guided tour through the managed forest and the logging museum were very well done. The museum (at camp five) has a large collection of old logging equipment on display. They also have a working blacksmith shop and a large collection of tools, stories and other memorabilia - but that is for another time . . .
Get Connected to the Museum
Heading over to the steam train was a nice side trip and a great way to spend an afternoon. If your are ever in northeastern Wisconsin, in the Nicolet Forest, I would highly recommed you make a stop and take a ride on the the Lumberjack Steam Train at Laola. You will have a good time, learn a lot about the logging industry of the past and get educated on a modern managed forest.
Laona is locted 40 miles east of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. The Lumberjack Train and Camp Five Museum are about one mile west of Laona on U.S. Highway 8. Checkout their website if you want to find out more.