Founded in 2006, Lake States Railway Historical Association (LSRHA) is a 501(c)(3) Not-for-Profit Corporation dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of railroad history through an extensive collection of historic artifacts and materials, socioeconomic data, and industrial archeology relating to American railroads, with emphasis on the western Great Lakes region of the United States.
Lake States is governed by a board of trustees. The board elects four officers at its annual meeting and meets four times a year. Each of the trustees has an extensive background and interest in historic railway preservation, archiving, and collections.
Lake States maintains a state-of-the-art climate-controlled secure archive storage and research facility at Baraboo, Wisconsin, just 45 minutes from the state capital of Madison. It is equipped with integrated storage and intake areas, ADA parking/access and restrooms, efficient LED lighting, internet connectivity, and on-site drawing and imaging reproduction services. Utilizing industry-standard PastPerfect software and a proprietary collection management program, we use professional parameters to inventory and catalog our growing collections. Our friendly knowledgeable volunteers are ready to assist in-person researchers. Our building is open when volunteers are present during the week. We encourage you to visit in person, however, it is strongly recommended to call ahead to schedule a guided tour or arrange for in-person research. If you cannot visit in-person, we can provide staffed research assistance for a fee.
Our extensive rail history holdings include large collections from C&NW, CStPM&O, DSS&A, CRIP&P, LS&I, ICRR, SOO, Copper Range, Milwaukee Road, CM&N, and other regional lines. Our 5,000 sq.ft. facility includes a research library containing over 5,000 books and period technical manuals; many historical periodicals, railroad company publications, and traction periodicals; and a large collection of Official Guide of Railways (1868-1984), Official Railway Guide of Chicago (1920-1931), Official Railway Equipment Registers and locomotive, car, and maintenance-of-way Cyclopedias. There is also a historic collection of 29 Wisconsin County Plat Books ranging from 1890 to 1951, as well as an Illustrated Historical Atlas of Wisconsin from 1878. A small collection of hardware, artwork, and ephemera is on display to the public.
Photographic collections exceed 1,000,000 images that are continually being cataloged and scanned. 100,000 of them are available for viewing on our on-line archive. Downloads and prints of photographs may be purchased. We welcome use of our images for publications and video productions, with written permission and appropriate fees. Download Permission form (pdf with fillable fields) HERE.
Our 2D collection of paper items includes over 100,000 railroad technical drawings and countless paper documents that include personnel records, equipment rosters, correspondence, company reports, annual reports, train registers, public and employee timetables, right-of-way and station maps, condensed profiles, operating and maintenance manuals, and many more. Over 80,000 are searchable with our Document Database interface.
Lake States also conducts an annual symposium featuring guest speakers offering oral histories and visual presentations. These are recorded and preserved on our youtube page. The gatherings are a great opportunity for like-minded individuals to meet and share their interests in railroad history.
The Lake States Railway Historical Association shall dedicate itself to the expansion and dissemination of knowledge on the history of railroading and associated social, economic, and technical development. As such, the Association shall primarily preserve and protect two-dimensional documentary/graphic/bibliographic artifacts (e.g. photographic prints, negatives, positives, transparencies, maps, drawings, books, pamphlets, magazines, company/industry publications, rule books, and so forth). The Association shall also preserve and protect relevant media such as audio recordings, film, video, and 3-D artifact collections secondary to and as appropriate to the primary collection. The principal geographical focus of the collections shall be North America with concentration on the Western Great Lakes Region of the U.S. during the era extending from steam locomotion power to the end of the 20th Century. The Association is dedicated to the highest standards of collection, restoration, preservation and scholarship. It is committed to facilitating research, interpretation, and publication from its collections.
LSRHA is supported through the generosity of individuals, foundations, firms, and organizations who share a dedication to railway history preservation. We offer several levels of annual membership. Members receive a quarterly newsletter, a 20% discount on photo orders (coupon code is required), and participate in our annual banquet and history symposium. Won’t you join us? Memberships are valid for 12 months, upon receipt of dues. Download an application form HERE. Or join using PayPal:
Working in our archives provides an ideal opportunity to broaden one’s knowledge in the ever-interesting and challenging field of railroad history. It also affords an excellent learning environment to gain hands-on experience in artifact preservation and collections management. Join us for a rewarding and fascinating journey into the world railroad history! Call our office for details.
Preserving endangered collections for the appreciation and education of future generations is our mission at Lake States. We welcome new collections. Do you have rail history seeking a home? Please consider us as the future repository of your important collection. We will provide it with a safe, secure, and long-term home. You can view our Collections Policies HERE or contact our office for more details.
Lake States Railway Historical Association is affiliated with the Wisconsin Historical Society and Wisconsin Council for Local History, and a member of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).