Camp 5 and the Lumberjack Steam Train

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.

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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.


Yours truly blowing the whistle

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!

Exploring Your Family’s Past

(Nebraska State Historical Society)

I love everything about history. What I find most stimulating are situations that call for some serious historical investigation. History would not be as fun if everything was plain and simple, laid out for us, requiring little to no effort to explore the past. If you love that rigorous researching and exploring, try exploring your family history. The only warning I have for those aspiring to explore their family tree, beware, it is addictive.

Granpda and his first car

Granpda and his first car

You might ask where to start.  The best thing to do is to get a recorder or pen & paper and start talking to relatives. Talk to your grand parents or older relative to record some of their history. Where and when were they born? What were their parents’ names, birth dates, and death dates. These are some good points start at, and they will help expand the tree later. I was only 15 when my grandpa died, but I remember asking him about his childhood, when we met my grandma, and other interesting things. Once these people are gone, their history goes with them.

There are some really good sites out there that can help you dig deeper. Ancestry is a good site, although it does charge a monthly fee. You might want to check to see if you have access to the site if you are a student at an academic institution. Another site that has free features is familysearch.orgHeritageQuest Online is another amazing research tool for family history. Check with your local library to see if you have access to it through your library account. Acquiring information is one ordeal, storing it is another.

Receipt for Grandpa from Great Grandpa

Another tip when doing family history is to keep things very organized, or you could risk loosing them in the mass of information you gather. My mother has two ways of keeping track of her research. She has folders with last names, so all the family information is categorized by last night. She has a program by Ancestry called Family Tree Maker that allows her to organize an electronic family tree. You can also register it and add information from the Ancestry site right to your tree.

Family Tree Maker 2012

Great grandparents wedding

Great grandparents wedding

Have fun with your family research! You never know what kind of information you might find. I was digging through some old boxes and discovered old photos and documents, some that really blew me away. These are all ways to document your family history and pass it on to your future generations. There a lot more ways to explore your genealogy. Check out your local library for old newspapers or locally published information, you may find relatives who highlighted in stories. Courthouses and archives have and can get information about family members like marriage certificates, death certificates, and naturalization records.  

City Man on the Farm

I was going through some photos on my computer, and I couldn’t resist making a post about this after I found the pictures from last year. Last Summer my soon-to-be in-laws made a trip to our family farm. According to the dates on the picture, it was the last weekend in July 2011. I remember that being a really fun weekend with both families getting together.

My future father in-law, Dan, was in for a treat that weekend when he came to the farm. Dan is a great guy who is always willing to try something new. He does a lot of volunteering and loves to help people. He is involved with Habitat for Humanity, an MS fundraising bike ride and many other fundraising/charity drives. Something he has never done, and expressed an interest in trying, is working on a farm. Well, we don’t milk cows anymore or have thousands of acres of farm land to tend to, but we did have some straw to bale that weekend. My dad was excited that we had an able and willing hand to help with that.


Stationed in the haymow.

We assigned Dan to the haymow station. He was in charge of stacking the straw bales up in the barn. Dad did some training on what to do, but soon figured out that Dan had the hang of it. I was stationed down on the hay rack to put the bales on the elevator to send up to Dan. We only had 2 wagon loads to do, but it was a hot day to be unloading bales.


Catching the bales to stack.

Bale unloading was only phase I of his training. We decided to introduce him to phase II on a farm, tractor driving. One of the first things people learn to do when starting off on a tractor is raking hay/straw. That is how I learned, and I think that is how my dad and brother learned. We had the Allis-Chalmers D-15 all ready to run with the rake. I remember Dan was pretty excited about being able to do some farm work in the field. I showed him where to go and what to do. It was pretty self-explanatory, and he caught on right away. He was having fun, we could all tell.


Someone is having a fun time raking!

Dan had a lot of fun with the farm work he got to do that weekend. I think he looks forward to doing more. Maybe Dad will have to buy a herd of cows and we can have Dan come up and help with a milking operation. Next time we will get Dan in a bigger tractor with a different piece of equipment to pull behind him. I am sure he will look forward to that.