Milwaukee Road 261

The steam locomotive called us – its haunting whistle was an invitation to adventure and opportunity. Its tall wheels sped us to new destinations. The steam locomotive made us the most mobile society on earth, brought us together, and made our lives better.

Milwaukee Road 261, weighing in at nearly one million pounds, was built at the height of World War II and represents the state-of-the-art in steam locomotive design. Its 6’2″-diameter driving wheels and 5000 horsepower hauled heavy wartime freight trains and regular passenger, mail, and express trains at speeds up to 75 miles per hour.

When the war was over, the 261 brought GI’s home to joyous reunions and then served our country’s burgeoning postwar growth. New technology finally caught up with Milwaukee 261 in 1954 when it was retired in favor of new diesels. No. 261 was donated to the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where it rested on static display until the fall of 1991. North Star Rail, Inc then removed it for a meticulous restoration to better-than Federal safety standards. Since her return to service in 1993, the 261 has travelled across the United States, from the Canadian border to West Virginia, and from Montana to New York State. In 1995, the 261 led the dedication ceremonies for a new National Historic Site in Pennsylvania and, during the following eleven months, pulled excursion trains for the National Park Service.

“The 261 is an American legacy and one of the best restored historic locomotives operating anywhere in the world, “

– William L, Withuhn, Smithsonian Institution

A proud and impressive giant now serves as a dramatic symbol of the past for a new generation.

Fully restored, the 261 is the centrepiece of The Friends of the 261. This group, formally incorporated as Railroading Heritage of Midwest America, is a 501 (c)3 non-profit educational organization. Our mission is to promote public understanding of the great history of railroading in the Midwest. We preserve, restore, operate, and interpret historic locomotives and railcars. We make history dramatically come to life!

Not only is it exciting to watch and ride our excursions, but it is fun to participate in our educational programs and to learn how railroads were – and are today – important to your Nation and your City.

Benefits of membership include:

The informative newsletter Northern Lines is mailed to all members on a regular basis. The newsletter lets members know about upcoming 261 trips, new products, activities, and events.

Members receive advance mailings, informing them of excursion trips pulled by 261 and periodic discounts on tickets.

Membership in the “Friends” is tax deductible. All proceeds from memberships, excursion trips, and souvenir sales go to keeping 261 in top operating condition. Use the attached application to become a member and help keep the memory of Midwest steam railroading alive!

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*All memberships are processed on Fridays, if you become a member Saturday through Thursday, your membership will be processed the following Friday.
Remember we are a Non Profit, that means staffing is limited.