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East Troy Railroad celebrates 100 years

Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

(Published Dec. 18, 2007, 10:46 a.m.)

Terry Mayer/The Week
Dick Cecil, president of the East Troy Electric Railroad and Bill Loesch, president of the Village of East Troy, drove a silver spike into the line beginning East Troy Railroad's second century of continuous service.

Exactly 100 years to the hour after the first cars rolled down the East Troy railroad tracks, the Sheboygan Car traced its maiden voyage celebrating 100 continuous years of service as the only existing electric railroad.

Last Thursday, Dec. 13, the ride kicked off the 100th anniversary party, Beginning Our Second Century, resembling the first celebration with a parade and party with lots of guests including state, county and local representatives.

"Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves reliving a part of ... East Troy's history," said Allan Lacosse director of marketing.

"Dinner at the former East Troy House, now Ivan's on the Square, gave everyone a chance to get to know us and see where we are headed with our action plan for the next five years and beyond."

The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co. (TMER&L) carried freight and folks to and from the city on a 600-volt direct-current overhead system in 40 minutes for 32 years, beginning in 1907 and ending in 1939.

The remaining seven-mile stretch between East Troy and Mukwonago is the last bit of a railroad that completely changed the lives of everyone in our area.

It obviously gave people in turn-of-the-century Walworth County the ability to travel, it brought in products not available before and it dramatically increased employment opportunities as the finished products could be shipped anywhere in the world via Milwaukee.

The event gave organizers an opportunity to talk to people about the railroad's past and future.

"The biggest eye opener to everyone is that we have been clean and green for 100 years, well before the term was as well known as it is today," Lacosse said.

Future plans include the 2008 and 2009 revitalization plans to install 6,000 railroad ties, increase the electrical capacity, get Milwaukee Streetcar 846 operational, finish reupholstering and install crossing improvements, among other improvements.

Today it's a volunteer-financed and -operated living museum with regular rides and lots of seasonal special events hosting 30,000 visitors a year. The Depot also has a gift shop, car barn and the main ticket agent just west of Division Street.

The East Troy Electric Railroad, 2002 Church St., East Troy, runs from East Troy to Mukwonago every weekend, May 12-Oct. 21, and weekdays June 13-Aug. 31. For more information, call 642-3263 or visit www.easttroyrr.org.

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