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Milwaukee Road Mississippi River Color Train
Winona, Minnesota to La Crosse, Wi

Winona Minnesota
Steam Locomotive #261 leads the Milwaukee Road's annual Great River Road Color Train
With stops at LaCrescent, Winona and St. Paul Minnesota

2014 Fall Color Train

This year's Fall Color Excursion ride will be a return-to-service for Steam Locomotive 261 which was rebuilt in Minneapolis by the Friends of the 261. It is a round-trip excursion to Duluth and the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. On Saturday Sept 27th the train will travel from Minneapolis to Duluth where it will overnight at the Museum Depot. On Sunday September 28th the train depart about noon for the return trip to Minneapolis. See ticket and excursion information at our Steam Locomotive links and the Friends of 261 Website.

Steam Locomotive Links

LaCrosse Area pages

- La Crosse Things to See & Do
- La Crosse Oktoberfest
- Milwaukee Road Color Train
- Trempealeau, WI
- Great River Road Scenic Travel
- Winona things to see and do

Milwaukee Road 261

The Milwaukee Road offers a number of scenic train rides, including the Great River Road Color Train, which traditionally runs the first weekend in October. In 2007 we caught up with her in Winona, Minnesota and chased her along Minnesota's River Road to LaCrescent, MN.

The star of the train is Steam Locomotive #261, a gigantic powerhouse built in 1944 by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) and delivered to the Milwaukee Road Railway in July 1944. She is an S3 style locomotive with a 4-8-4 wheel arrangement. The S3 was the zenith in steam engine technology. The 14 car train was made up of a number of classic train cars - including the Hiawatha Skytop Lounge car and the historic Super Dome #53 Observation car.

The route runs from St. Paul, Minnesota through Red Wing, Winona, and LaCrescent, Minnesota. Two fall color rides are available: St. Paul to Winona and back and Winona to LaCrescent and back. Travelers coming from St. Paul have a two hour layover in Winona while the train make the second leg to LaCrescent and back. The color train ride is repeated on Sunday.

Winona Railroad StationPeople greet the arrival of Milwaukee Road #261 in Winona from St. Paul, Minnesota. Those passengers who have not also bought a ticket for the LaCrescent leg will get off here and tour Winona for two hours and then re-board the train on the return trip.

Super Dome #53

Passengers with First Class tickets ride in either the Super Dome car or the Skytop Lounge car. Food and beverages are included with the ticket. Get more info on tickets and prices here.

red tri Like Steam Locomotives? Here's another Scenic Fall Color Train Ride (along Lake Superior) - Steam Locomotive #2719, from Duluth to Two Harbors.

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Classic Railway Cars

pullman cars

< < < Coach class customers boarding the pullman style coaches at the Winona station.

Mail Car Milwaukee Road

Some customers chose to ride in the Mail Car. > > >

super dome

< < < Super Dome #53 Luxury Observation Car.

hiawatha skytop

The Hiawatha Skytop Lounge Car brings up the rear of the train. > > >

hori bar

Running along the Great River Road
After Milwaukee Road #261 left the station in Winona, we jumped in our Rialta Motor Home to catch up with it on the way to LaCrescent. Sprinkled at strategic points all along Highway 61 were parked cars and people with camera's waiting for the Color Train to pass by. It took a while for us to catch the train because once in the open, the big steam engine had no problem going 65 mph! And then we had to get some distance ahead of the train in order to get setup for pictures. At times it seemed we were caught in a bit of Keystone Cops routine.

super dome< < < Traveling 60+ mph #261 didn't give us much advance warning to set up for photos. All of sudden, there she is!

hiawatha skytop
And then there she goes ! > > >

super dome

< < < The Mail Car rushes by.

hiawatha skytop
The Super Dome whizzes by just ahead of the Skytop which serves as the caboose. > > >

hori bar

Milwaukee Road #261 Maintenance Stop at La Crescent, Mn

Milwaukee Road Engine #261
The Fall Color Train stops at LaCrescent for maintenance and turning around for the return trip north.


Milwaukee Road Engine #261

< < < The bearings get greased. This close-up gives you an idea of the massive size of the driving wheels.

Milwaukee Road Engine #261
The steam engine uses huge amounts of water and was refilled from this hydrant. In the photo, the water tank car is in the center-background and the coal car is to the left.

In the future we hope to ride the steam train vs. chasing it. Watching the train come into and leave the station, chasing it along the road, and having an opportunity to inspect the train close-up while it was being serviced was a very interesting and exciting experience. And we imagine that actually riding the train will provide an equally memorable, yet quite different, railroading adventure.

Milwaukee Road Fall Color Excursion Train
In 2012 we had first class tickets for the Minneapolis to Boylston, Wi (just south of Superior, Wi) train ride. You can see some pictures and our report from this Friends of 261 fall classic train ride on our ScenicPathways travel blog.

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Steam Locomotive Links

bulletMilwaukee Road Friends of #261 Website - History, Schedules, Ticket Info
spacer2014 Fall Steam Train Trip to Duluth
bulletSoo Line Steam Engine #2719 - Duluth to Two Harbors Fall Color Train
bulletLake Superior Railway Museum

Links to More Great River Road Scenic Byway Pages

bulletWinona, Mn - Things to See and Do
bulletLa Crosse, Wi - Things to See and Do

bulletScenic Drive from Fulton to Galena to Prairie Du Chien
bulletScenic Drive from Prairie Du Chien to LaCrosse to Winona
bulletScenic Drive from Winona to Red Wing

Go Here for our Master Scenic Byways Directory

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