East Troy electric line continues track upgrades

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Track workers replace ties and smooth ballast on a section of the East Troy Electric Railroad in southeastern Wisconsin.
Tom Fleming/East Troy Railroad Museum
EAST TROY, Wis. — As the East Troy Railroad Museum resumes seasonal operations on its 110-year-old electric line, the pace of tie replacements is increasing as the threat of future flooding is reduced.

The work underway by Volkmann Railroad Builders of Menomonee Falls, Wis., involves replacing 800 ties and leveling track on a three-quarter-mile section of the 7.2-mile line connecting East Troy and Mukwonago, Wis. The segment has been prone to spring flooding.

"Our board of directors recognized the need to make a commitment to regular improvements to the line to offer a better experience for our riders," East Troy President Ryan Jonas says in a statement. "We have replaced more than 400 ties along the line in each of the past two years, but now we have committed to improving the entire line in a more systematic way."

Volkmann is raising track and adding ballast as it swaps out ties. The company uses workers as well as tie, leveling, and ballast-tamping machines to do the job.

"The work is progressing rapidly," Dennis Woodward, East Troy maintenance-of-way supervisor says. "We are working during the week and leaving the track available for our weekend operations."

The museum, operating as the East Troy Electric Railroad, runs on the last surviving segment of The Milwaukee Electric Light & Railway Co. whose tracks once spread across 130 urban and rural miles in southeastern Wisconsin. The company traced its roots to Henry Villard, the media baron and president of the Northern Pacific Railroad before consolidating Milwaukee's utilities and electric street railways.

TMER&L tracks reached East Troy in 1907, and a successor company continued operations after the village of East Troy bought the line in the late 1930s to stave off abandonment. The village took over in 1950, and the Municipality of East Troy Railroad maintained its rail connection to the outside world through interchange with the Soo Line at Mukwonago.

The museum website lists 27 pieces of rolling stock with 11 motors and cars operational.

The current enterprise evolved from the move of the Wisconsin Trolley Museum and its collection to East Troy in 1985. Ten years later a friends organization bought the line from the village.

This year's operations began on April 22 with multiple Saturday and Sunday round trips through Nov. 5 between East Troy and Mukwonago with an intermediate stop at the Elegant Farmer bakery and market station. Friday trains start running on June 9 through Aug. 25.

More information is available online.
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