Friends of the 261 is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote public understanding of the history of railroading. Friends of the 261 accomplishes this goal by preserving, restoring, operating and interpreting historic locomotives and rail cars. Friends of the 261 got its start in 1991 as the “Friends of the 261 Inc.” a volunteer group that supported the operation of Milwaukee Road 261, a steam locomotive based in Minneapolis, Minn.
Friends of the 261 owns a fleet of passenger cars, with most of them painted in Milwaukee Road maroon and orange passenger train colors which travel with the 261. These include the last operating Milwaukee Road Skytop glass backed observation car, the Cedar Rapids and a Milwaukee Road full-length Super Dome. Friends of the 261 cars are compatible with Amtrak equipment and can operate on any Amtrak train.
At its shop in Minneapolis, Friends of the 261 workers and volunteers overhaul cars and upgrade older passenger cars to Amtrak standards. Meticulously refurbished, these cars recall the era when everyone travelled by rail. Each has been reconstructed with the latest heating, air conditioning and plumbing systems and state-of-the-art safety features – yet still offer passengers the opportunity to experience rail travel as it was during the Golden Age of passenger railroading. Because safety is our top concern, each of our trains is equipped with automated external defibrillator (AED) machines.
Friends of the 261 has sponsored trips or chartered cars to organizations across North America. Organizations or companies we have worked with include Amtrak, Canadian Pacific Railway, CSX Transportation, Democratic National Committee, Iowa Interstate Railroad, Lake Superior Railroad Museum, the National Park Service, NBC/Universal, Republican National Committee, State of North Carolina, and the Walt Disney Company.
Friends of the 261 can tailor a special train or charter car operation to your specific needs. We have coordinated trips for companies’ customers and employees. Some companies have chosen to sponsor the restoration of one of our passenger cars to display their corporate name and logo. We offer impeccable service in an elegant surrounding as the scene outside the train constantly changes. Let Friends of the 261 be your gateway to the trip of a lifetime.