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Highlights Archives

Stonefield Recalls the Golden Age of Railroading


Stonefield's signature covered bridge, railroad depot and caboose

The heyday of American railroading will return to Stonefield in Cassville during the historic site's Railroad Days event on Saturday and Sunday, August 21-22. The site, which interprets rural life in southwestern Wisconsin at the turn of the 20th century, provides a perfect venue for celebrating the "Golden Age of Railroading," generally defined as the period between 1880 and 1916. Throughout the two-day event, Stonefield's fully furnished train depot will serve as one of several hubs of activity focused on railroads and railroad travel.

From Morse Code Demonstrations to Historic Hobo Carvings

Inside the depot, visitors can watch as one of the last telegraph operators in the country, Dean Martin, taps out Morse code messages and shares tales of his days working for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad as a telegraph operator. Outside the depot, headquarters of the mythical Governor Nelson Dewey Line whose motto is "Going Nowhere and Always on Time," is a restored velocipede, a three-wheeled handcar used by the station section-master to inspect the track, and a restored baggage cart. Visitors can also climb aboard a restored Burlington caboose. In the restored Soo Line boxcar a display of boards from a section shanty from Oxford Junction, Iowa, recalls the lives and times of hobos who rode the rails. The boards contain numerous carvings made by hobos to communicate with other hobos who were riding the rails. The earliest dated carving comes from June 1871; the other dates fall between 1897 and 1900.

Stonefield's salute to historic railroading will also include railroad-related displays in the historic 1870 Nelson Dewey horse barn, including the Mineral Point Railroad Depot Museum. There will also be a hands-on railroad layout for children of all ages to operate.

Other Railroad Days Activities

  • Music each day at 10:30 am featuring Roger LaBarge and his daughter Mandy whose music bears the influence of Roger's upbringing in and around river towns like Cassville.
  • Re-enactment of a bank robbery each day at 11:30 am and a shootout in the streets of the village each day at 2:30 pm by the "Hole in the Sock" Gang.
  • Storytelling and music by "Luther the Jet," former National Hobo King, and some of his hobo friends who will share tales and tunes about life on the rails at 12:30 pm each day.
  • Wisconsin Historical Society Press author Alex Lorenzsonn will be available both days to discuss and sign copies of his book, "Steam & Cinders: The Advent of Railroads in Wisconsin."
  • On Saturday only Wisconsin Historical Society Press author Jerry Apps will be on hand at 1 and 3 pm to sign copies of his latest book, "Horse-Drawn Days: A Century of Farming with Horses."
  • An "End of the Line Hobo Camp" where visitors can sample some mulligan stew cooked over an open camp fire.
  • Train watching opportunities based on Stonefield's location beside the tracks that carry an average of 40 trains past the site each day.
  • View or download a detailed program schedule (PDF 103 KB).

Much More to See and Do

Of course, there is much more to see and do at Stonefield that doesn't involve trains or railroads. While there, visitors will want to include a visit to the State Agricultural Museum, a stroll through the re-created 1900s rural farming village, explore a 1901 farmstead, or step inside the homesite of Wisconsin's first governor Nelson Dewey. For complete details on hours, admission fees, locations and directions, see our visitor information pages.

:: Posted August 16, 2010

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