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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 20-21. 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.

Morse Code Demonstrations

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. Visitors can also climb aboard a restored Burlington caboose.

Celebrating the Hobo Lifestyle

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.

At the other end of the tracks you will find an End of the Line Hobo Camp where you can sample some mulligan stew cooked over a camp fire. And Luther the Jet, National Hobo King 1995-1996, will be back once again with a handful of his fellow hobo friends to provide music and stories about hobo life riding the rails across the country.

There's More in Store in the Historic Nelson Dewey Barn

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

Also in the Dewey barn, visitors will find a display of a portion of the Adolph Vandertie collection of tramp and hobo art from the Ashwaubenon Historical Museum. Adolph Vandertie was know as the "Grand Duke of the Hobos," and his collection features cigar boxes that hobos carved or whittled with pocket knives into intricate boxes and frames, ball-in-cage whimsies, long chains carved from a single piece of wood, and "crown-in-thorns" that are fit without benefit of nails or glue.

Other Railroad Days Details

  • Music each day featuring Roger LaBarge and his daughter Mandy whose music bears the influence of Roger's upbringing in and around river towns like Cassville.
  • Train watching opportunities based on Stonefield's location beside the tracks that carry an average of 40 trains past the site each day.
  • View a video about Railroad Days on YouTube.

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.

For complete details on hours, admission fees, locations and directions, see our visitor information pages.

:: Posted August 15, 2011

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