Railroad history to roar back to life in Shorewood

Posted at 7:41 PM, Jun 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-29 10:46:13-04

1935 was a time when lightweight streamlined trains were introduced in the United States.

The 400 was born. The train's claim to fame was traveling the 400 miles between Minneapolis and Chicago in 400 minutes.

"Because at the time it was very innovative. It was high-speed. It was state-of-the-art. It was something people didn't see," said Pat Algiers, Ghost Train chairperson and member of Public Arts Shorewood.

Traveling at speeds of over 100 miles per hour, The 400 created quite a spectacle.

"It was exciting enough that they had cars lined up at crossings. They had police cars there to stop the traffic," said Marty Peck of Creative Lighting Design & Engineering.

Robert Dean, a Shorewood resident, said he can still remember riding The Flambeau 400, one of the trains in the 400 series.

"My parents put us on the train and off we go," Dean said. "You know you get off at Woodruff. My cousins were waiting for me there but it's hard to imagine that today."

The 400 rode the rails until 1963.

The train whistle hasn't sounded in Shorewood in 50 years, but that's about to change.

Public Arts Shorewood is working with Peck to recreate The 400 in an art installation. Peck said it will span across the Oak Leaf Trail bridge in the Village of Shorewood.

"We're going to be able to move light across the bridge to recreate the passage of the train cars," he said.

Using yellow and green lights, the trademark colors of the Chicago and North Western Railroad Company, it will appear as if the train is passing through the village.

"We're going to have the train pass across the bridge at the same historic speed that the train went out to Minneapolis and came back through Milwaukee to Chicago," said Peck.

Algiers said it's known as the Ghost Train, and it will debut this Halloween. "It will be every evening, 365 days a year," she added.

It's a chance to bring history back to life for generations to remember.

"We're remembering our history," Dean said. "Which is so important because if we didn't do this, within just a few years really, the next generation would never know the trains were here."