Matt finds the trains in TRAINS’ backyard: Eat and photograph by the tracks

Posted by Matt Van Hattem
on Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Throughout the month of August, I want to try a photography project that focuses on the trains in TRAINS Magazine's backyard. How many different pictures can be taken in a circle extending 10.27 miles from downtown Waukesha, Wis.?

Like many cities around the country, Waukesha has an old train station that has been converted into a restaurant. (My boss, Jim Wrinn, likes to ask: How come they never turn restaurants into train stations?)

Waukesha's former Chicago & North Western depot, built in 1881, is now a Mexican restaurant called La Estacion. (Across the street, there's a bar called Club 400, named for North Western's famed passenger train.) The restaurant has a great outdoor courtyard where you can dine and watch Canadian National and Wisconsin & Southern trains roll by — during the temperate months, of course.

Part of the restaurant includes a string of five heavyweight passenger cars, sitting on what at one time had been the depot's station track.

My coworker Dave Ingles tells me the cars came from the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio, and were in service until Amtrak's startup in 1971. Although the current restaurant has only been in operation since 2003, the station building has been an eatery of some kind since 1973. North Western ended its passenger service through Waukesha in the mid-1950s, and vacated the station completely in 1964.

Dave says the original restaurant owner, looking to create a railroad-themed restaurant, brought in the GM&O cars. (The owner also brought in Soo Line 4-6-0 No. 2645, which had been donated to the city of Waukesha by Soo Line upon her retirement in 1952; the city later gave the engine to the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in 1988.)

You saw Waukesha's other preserved depot in photo 1 of this series, the former Soo Line station, still in use by Canadian National. None of the structures built by Waukesha's first railroad, the Milwaukee Road, remain standing.

I had wanted to get both the North Western station building and the passenger cars in one frame, but a standard photo didn't seem to do either element justice. So I settled on this shot, where the station is reflected in the windows of an ex-GM&O coach.

Gulf, Mobile & Ohio heavyweight passenger car


The neon sign is a bonus.

La Estacion neon sign

What I like:

You can see the town name Waukesha twice in this photo.

What I don't like:

I could not have both town names in focus in the picture. Blame the depth of field for that one.

Flickr: Matt finds the trains in TRAINS' backyard album
Facebook: Trains Magazine Facebook Page

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