|| The history of our organization and our former East Troy Trolley Museum is intertwined with the history of electric
railways in Wisconsin.
Years ago, a member of another organization said we should forget about our past and move on. We found that a bit
ironic. After all, we are a historical organization. Who can better record our history and the transit history, other than those
Three questions most often asked are:
1. Why did the museum close?
2. What equipment did we have?
3. What happened to the equipment?
An earlier history on this site didn't go into much detail. It brought several requests for more info. Our second version
went into more details of our problems, which may have been too much for the average visitor. To compromise, we have
now limited this page to a brief history. If your are really interested, you can Email us for more informantion.
The link to our equipment roster is at the bottom of this page.
Mid- 1960's - The Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society, Inc. (TWERHS) began as the "Traction Committee" of the
Mid-Continent Railway Museum. Their main interest was restoration of former M&ST streetcar 978 and former CNS&M
1967 - Mid-Continent decided to concentrate on steam railroads and offered to sell the traction equipment. The members of
the "Traction Committee" incorporated as TWERHS, purchased the 978 and 715 and looked for a new site to establish their
own trolley museum.
1967 to 1970 - While at several temporary sites (including Menomonee Falls and North Lake) more equipment was obtained
and we began to attract more members.
1970 - TWERHS moves to East Troy, pending operation on the Municipality Of East Troy Railroad.
About the same time, several other important events took place.
1. Wisconsin Electric Power Co. (WEPCO) decided to end electric freight operations at its Lakeside and Port Washington
power plants. (see power plants page). They donated locomotives, work equipment, rails, ties, wire and spare parts.
2. The URTX company was closing down its Milwaukee operation. They donated several wood and steel reefers and all the
lumber, nuts, bolts, hardware and office furniture we could load into them. These donations were a great boost to helping us
establish our trolley museum.
3. Village of East Troy purchased 44-ton diesel loco to replace M-15. Because they no longer needed the rotary converter
or overhead wires for their freight operation, they became our responsibility. It is fair to say that our use of the line is the only
reason it remained in continuous electric operation, and the electrical system was not scrapped in 1970.
1972 - Memorial Day weekend - We opened our East Troy Trolley Museum offering rides on tracks leased from the Village
of East Troy. These tracks had been part of The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co. (TMER&L) interurban system
connecting East Troy to Milwaukee since 1907. (See East Troy page).
Although the line was seven miles long, our regular operation was on the five miles from East Troy to our storage yard at
Phantom Woods Road. At the time, this ten-mile round-trip was the longest trolley museum ride in the country. Our depot
and gift shop were housed in the former TMER&L substation, which still housed the rotary converter used to supply the 600v
1972 to 1975 - Our scheduled, multi-train operation, with meets mid-line meant riders didn't have to wait long between trains,
and could ride a different one each direction. This operation also received compliments from visiting railway and transit
In addition to our regular rides, we did a lot of charter business for schools, scouts, seniors, etc. We also initiated or expanded
several special events. "Trick Or Treat Trolley", "Rides With Santa", "North Shore Days" and our re-creation of the
"Schuster's Christmas Parade" were very popular with the public, and a lot of fun doing.
Our contract to use the Village railroad called for us to pay them 25% of our revenue. This was to be off-set by us replacing
ties and tie plates to bring the railroad up to minimum FRA standards. Our volunteer members replaced hundreds of ties and
tie plates with those we salvaged from the power plants. We also supplied hundreds more to a government funded CETA
program to install. Our labor, and these ties enabled the line to be brought up to FRA standards at no cost to the local
1973 - Through our efforts, the East Troy line was designated a Wisconsin Historical Landmark.
1975 - A major rift occurred when several of our Officers and members acted in their own self interest, not that of the Society.
Resulting litigation found they had violated their fudiciuary responsibilites and were ordered by the court to leave. As a result,
we had to restructure our financial obligations. Loyal members kept things going, and we recovered to have our best years
1979 - Village obtains a $700,000. State grant to rebuild the line, and replace several bridges. The grant reflected the need to
continue service to the local industries, as well as our contribution to the State tourism industry. The project began in fall of
1979 and extended through most of 1980. As a result of several interruptions due to construction, our operation continued on
a limited scale. In addition, the rebuilding meant we could no longer off-set revenue due to the Village by installing ties.
At this time, we also received a donation of six solid state rectifiers to install them at our Phantom Woods yard. The rectifiers
were to provide a more reliable and balanced power supply.
1982 - Our Milwaukee Streetcar 978 goes to Appleton to celebrate their Festival Of Light commemorating 100 years since the
first hydro-electric power plant was put in operation. 978 was restored, repainted and operated on about 900 feet of track at
the power plant.
1982 - October - Our contract with Village came up for renewal. Instead of extending the old contract while we negotiated,
they unexpectedly let it expire and closed us down, cutting our season short.
1982 - Village purchases another diesel for $80,000.
We reach an agreement with the Village to cancel our debt for leasing the line, by supplying rails, ties and other materials to
build a wye and other tracks in their industrial park.
1983 We sign a new contract with Village, and despite some major changes in the contract, including us now paying 50% of
our revenue, our 1983 season goes fairly well.
July 1983 - We enter into long term equipment exchange with San Francisco MUNI. They send us PCC 1164 and our
M&ST streetcar 978 heads west. However, 978 was damaged in transit and returned to Appleton unrepaired.
1984 - In July the Village canceled our contract. Our brochures weren't ready, and newspaper and radio publicity was lacking.
We had trouble finding crews for weekday operations, with some trips being delayed or cancelled. These problems were being
resolved, and really didn't concerned the Village.
However, while our contract stated the days and hours we were permitted to operate, they interpreted it to mean days and
hours we must operate.
Without any prior meeting or discussion with us, they voided the contract and padlocked the substation/depot which denied us
access to our gift shop merchandise, displays and other property. They later came on our property and removed our rectifiers,
citing that we owed them money. (They denied they had agreed to cancel the debt in exchange for rails and materials, even
though they had been taking and using the materials).
We began negotiations to reinstate the contract, and were involved several legal disputes.
With no income we sold a few pieces of equipment to pay expenses.
While this was going on, the Village again brought up the idea of selling the railroad or turning it over to someone else to
operate. We submitted several proposals in writing to the Village Board and the shippers, in which we could take over
operation and maintenence at no cost to the taxpayers. These were never reported to the taxpayers. Instead, without any open
discussion at Board Meetings, they turned the railroad over to over to one of our former members.
1984- 1988 - We searched for a new site to move our museum operation. Despite interest from several parties, we could not
find the right combination of a suitable site, community support and financial assistance. Meanwhile, we had no income to pay
expenses or maintain the equipment. We were subject to numerous break-ins, theft and vandalism. While some thefts may
have been kids or misguided railfans, some items stolen, like air compressor armatures, had value only to another museum.
1988 - With mounting expenses, no place to move, and our land being sold, we decided to sell the majority of the equipment.
Not wanting to see anything scrapped, we negotiated an agreement with the Illinois Railway Museum. Along with the better
equipment, they also got the locos, work equipment and cars needing much restoration. They also received carloads of nuts,
bolts, lumber and other parts. In addition, they also cleaned up the property, relieving us of that huge burden. That equipment
is preserved at IRM, and much has been restored and is operated.
For a short time we held title to a few pieces, as we pursued some last hopes for a smaller operation. When these failed to
materialize, the remaining equipment was sold to the Fox River Trolley Museum. We were out of the museum business.
We weren't the first museum to close, and haven't been the last. Many thought it would also be the end of the organization, as
it had been with others. However, a number of members stuck with us. We paid off all our debts, and switched our focus to
other activities. Even when we had been operating our museum, we were always involved in other activities. (See other pages
on this site for details of activities).
While our East Troy Trolley Museum only lasted twelve years, we are proud of what we accomplished. Through our efforts
much electric and regular railway equipment was saved from the scrappers, and continues to survive. Also, because of our
involvement the East Troy railroad has remained in continuous electric operation since 1907. Most of all, we brought history
to life, and enjoyment to thousands of visitors.
1988- Present - TWERHS continues to be involved in other activities and projects related to electric railroads. (see "Us Now"