This past weekend our families got together in northern Wisconsin. It was a weekend of relaxation and fun at the lake. We spent some time out on the lake boating and swimming. My father-in-law, Dan, was the cook, and my father, Mitch, was the entertainment! It seems like whenever we visit the cottage we do some sort of history lesson. This time we paid a visit to the Camp 5 Logging Museum.
First off, I am a railroad fanatic. I have always been fascinated with the steam locomotives, so when we pulled up to the museum and an old steam locomotive was waiting by the station… I sort of lost it. I knew this was going to be a fun experience. You purchase your tickets at the ticket office in the old depot. The train takes you for a short ride over to the logging camp/farm. On our way out to the museum, the family piled into a vintage, wooden passenger car. With a few short blasts of the steam whistle, the train began to move down the track.
A few minutes later we arrived at Camp 5. What a neat little museum they have. There was a petting zoo, logging museum, blacksmith shop, general store, and a food shack. I was eager to learn some history about the logging industry in the area ( I had ancestors who were lumberjacks). They had a full spread of tools and equipment used by men in the camps, as well as some history of the company the camp was associated with. Molly was really excited to feed the animals at the petting zoo, so we spent $1 for a bag of oats to feed to the goats, donkey, and a calf.
When we were done at the museum the train came to take us back. I chose to sit in the observation car ( formerly a cattle car) right behind the locomotive. A conductor yelled, “All Aboard,” and we were on our way. The locomotive gave a few long blasts of the whistle and began to hiss and chug. The black smoke billowed from the stack as we roared down the track. The smell of the burning coal was distinct, and it made me wonder what industrial cities like Oshkosh and Milwaukee once smelled like with all the coal-burning factories and locomotives. Tiny particles of soot rained down on us for a few moments. I did not mind it all. I figured it was all part of the experience.
Finally, we arrived at the depot. As we disembarked from the train, one of the engineers asked a five or six-year-old boy if he would like to blow the steam whistle. He must have been shy, because he opted out. I wonder what the engineer thought when a stocky, twenty-four-year-old guy came running up and anxiously asked if he could blow the steam whistle ( I was just a little excited ). After posing for a picture with Molly, I made my way up to the cab of the locomotive, and Dad, who was just as excited, was right there to watch. I latched on to the cord and gave two long blasts and then two short blasts of the steam whistle. It was better than I imagined it would be. Wow, I got to blow the whistle of a steam locomotive. I can cross that off of my bucket list.
It was truly a fun day at Camp 5. If you are near Laona, Wisconsin, I would recommend it to anyone with small children. It is educational and hands on. Heck, I might even go back again someday for a chance to ride in the locomotive and blow the steam whistle again!