East Troy Railroad Offers Historical Adventure For Kids; New Safety Measures In Place

Riding the historic electric rail cars on the East Troy Railroad is like taking a giant step back in time with your kids. Stepping on to the electric rail cars, lined with vintage advertisements and old-fashioned seating, it’s easy to imagine what life may have been like in the 1920’s.

We visited a couple of years ago (pre-pandemic), but our pictures provide a sense of what your experience will be like. (Just add masks!)

New safety measures are in place, including social distancing and electronic selling and scanning of tickets.

All the volunteers at the railroad wear masks and the railroad requires that all visitors wear masks while riding the trains. Masks will also be for sale in the East Troy Depot.

The trains currently operate Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. (See schedule.)

Getting there

To start our adventure, we boarded our minivan armed with snacks and good music. We live in Glendale, and it took us about 45 minutes to arrive at the historic depot in East Troy. The museum is well-marked and there’s plenty of free parking.

You’ll board the train at the historic depot in East Troy. (See schedule.)

The museum itself is filled with interesting historical tidbits, model train layouts, vintage mementos, railroad souvenirs, and a hands-on area where kids can pretend to be a trolley motorman. It is still open at this time.

Normally, you purchase your tickets at an old-fashioned ticket counter, but now all ticket purchases are made online. There’s also a well-kept bathroom right inside of the depot with touch-less equipment.

All aboard!

The kids were so excited when they heard the announcement that the train was about to depart. Be sure to follow social distancing signage.

Tickets are now sold and scanned electronically.

The seats on the rail cars are old-fashioned as expected, but also padded and quite comfortable. We found a small room with two long seats facing each other, and it was perfect for our group of five.

Currently, trains are at limited capacity to allow for social distancing, and all staff and riders are required to wear masks.

Throughout the ten-mile ride, we enjoyed the sunny countryside and spotted farm animals, wildflowers, wild berries, country houses, and more. My son was convinced that the train blew its whistle to indicate “something beautiful.” (I didn’t have the heart to tell him otherwise.)

The ride was about 30 minutes, and the kids were transfixed on the scenery for most of that time.

My one year old was not impressed with the loud train horn. It’s tough being the third child! Luckily grandma was there to snuggle her while the big kids enjoyed the ride.

Destination: Elegant Farmer

You have the option to disembark at Elegant Farmer, or to keep riding on to Indianhead Park in Mukwonago.

We disembarked at Elegant Farmer because, well, have you ever tried their pie? Elegant Farmer is still open at this time for shopping.

We arrived at 10:00 a.m. and at first I was a little worried about what we would do there for an hour before the train came back to get us. But the timing turned out perfectly.

First, we spent some time on the wooden rocking horses, and then we meandered through the country store.

The store is filled with gourmet, local products including raw honey, caramel popcorn, old-fashioned candy, salt water taffy, cheeses, meats, pies and other baked goods. My kids opted for ice cream.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the depot. We got to ride in a different train car on the way back, lined with vintage advertisements and original 1920’s decor.

Somehow my kids had not completely fallen apart yet, and we had a genuinely fun day together. It was such a unique adventure, and we’re so lucky to live within an hour of it.

Helpful hints:

  • You must purchase your tickets beforehand online. You can print them or show your bar code when you board. You can purchase tickets here.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes early so you have enough time to explore the museum, and use the bathroom (with no-touch equipment).
  • Remind your kids before the ride that they need to keep their hands and body inside the train. There is brush along the way that can scratch them.
  • During the colder months, the trolley cars are heated, and you can ride the Christmas Train or Bunny Train for a festive holiday experience.

About the East Troy Railroad

The East Troy Railroad Museum operates on the last remaining piece of the original interurban network which operated in Wisconsin. By 1939, the railroad was retired by The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company due to lack of ridership. Since everything from gas to groceries came in to East Troy by this line, the town passed a referendum to purchase the remaining 7.5 mile stretch of track and overhead for freight purposes. The Village of East Troy operated the railroad until the year 2000 when it was purchased by the Friends of East Troy Railroad. Today, the East Troy Electric Railroad has 32 pieces of equipment with over 500 members worldwide, 110 active volunteers and 15,000 visitors each year. The East Troy Electric Railroad is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization run by volunteers committed to the operation and preservation of historic trolleys and interurban railcars. All proceeds and sales benefit the education and preservation work of the museum. Contributions are tax deductible as permitted by law.

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