East Troy Electric Railroad Collection

A new digital collection has zoomed in from East Troy, providing a history of electric railroads, streetcars and buses in southeastern Wisconsin. The East Troy Electric Railroad dates to 1907 as a branch of the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company (TMER&L Co.). Established in 1896, TMER&L operated the largest electric railway system in Wisconsin. An interurban line between Milwaukee and Kenosha constructed in 1897 was so successful that other lines soon spread to Sheboygan, Watertown, Burlington and East Troy.

The line from Milwaukee to East Troy was retired by TMER&L in 1939 due to lack of ridership and the remaining track was purchased by the Village of East Troy for freight purposes. In 2000, the Friends of East Troy Railroad pledged to keep the line alive as an attraction celebrating the village’s history.

The digital collection created by the East Troy Lions Public Library features objects related to the operation of the trains, buses, and streetcars such as fare boxes, uniforms and ticket stubs. The collection also includes 27 volumes of Rail and Wire, a newsletter published by the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company to inform employees of industry, company and social news.

The library collaborated with numerous community partners to create this digital collection. The East Troy Viewfinders Camera Club photographed artifacts from the collections of the East Troy Electric Railroad museum. The Rail and Wire issues were loaned by the Milwaukee Transit Archives and Museum for scanning by the library. The East Troy Area Historical Society will help publicize the project with a public reception this spring. The project was made possible through Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds, awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Motorman's uniform cap. East Troy Electric Railroad.

Motorman’s uniform cap. East Troy Electric Railroad.

Controller, brake and reverser handles from various types of trolley cars. East Troy Electric Railroad.

Controller, brake and reverser handles from various types of trolley cars. East Troy Electric Railroad.

Cover of the November 1936 issue of Rail and Wire, depicting the new "trackless trolley car." Milwaukee Transit Archives and Museum.

Cover of the November 1936 issue of Rail and Wire, depicting the new “trackless trolley car.” Milwaukee Transit Archives and Museum.

Advertisement for weekly street car and bus passes from the January 1935 issue of Rail and Wire. Milwaukee Transit Archives and Museum.

Advertisement for weekly street car and bus passes from the January 1935 issue of Rail and Wire. Milwaukee Transit Archives and Museum.


Explore the East Troy Electric Railroad digital collection.

Read more about TMER&L from the Milwaukee Electric Railway & Transit Historical Society and the Milwaukee Transit Archives and Museum.

–Post contributed by Emily Nelson.

2 Comments

  1. John. Theisen:

    Who is the owner of the railroad tracks between. East. Troy. And. Mukwonago

    Who has the paperwork on the sale of this land from the Village ??

    What year did it happen ?

  2. James Matthews:

    The East Troy Railroad Museum owns those tracks. Sale happened in 1986 or so. I’d imagine that either the town or county registrar of deeds would have the paperwork, as well as maybe the museum.

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