Tracking the History of Trains

Grohmann Museum show offers paintings, prints, maps and photos of the peak days of Milwaukee Road train line.

By - Mar 4th, 2015 04:44 pm
Olympian Hiawatha, 1994 by John T. McCarthy, Jr. From The Milwaukee Road Collection – Milwaukee Public Library.

Olympian Hiawatha, 1994 by John T. McCarthy, Jr. From The Milwaukee Road Collection – Milwaukee Public Library.

Oh, those romantic, cinematic days of the railroads, when The Milwaukee Road would whisk travelers across the country in its double-decker Super Dome cars, and expansive windows in the train’s vaulted roof afforded riders a splendid view of the craggy mountains, rolling valleys and winding rivers of America the Beautiful.

That is the romanticized vision that greets you in the current show at MSOE’s Grohmann Museum, “The Art of the Milwaukee Road,” running through April 26. The exhibition features paintings, prints, maps and photos from a time when railways and the Milwaukee Road formed the backbone of America’s transportation system. The show offers images of the Hiawatha line among others, along with a detailed photo essay of work in the Milwaukee Road shops. The images come from a time when America was the world’s leading economy and its technological momentum and national confidence seemed at a peak, and they bespeak a bullishness about American industry and, of course, train travel.

The exhibition is a natural for Grohmann Museum, whose collection comprises more than 1,000 paintings and sculptures of “Man at Work” from 1580 to the present. The collection was donated to MSOE by Dr. Eckhart Grohmann, an MSOE Regent, Milwaukee businessman and avid art collector. Most of the paintings are by German and Dutch artists, including 81 works by German artist Erich Mercker (1891-1973), who created colorful images of steel mills and foundries, quarries and factories. Since the museum’s opening in 2007, it has presented exhibitions about workers and companies involved in the steel industry, foundries, mills and marine industry, two different exhibitions of railroad photos, and many other shows.

The Art of the Milwaukee Road, through April 26, Grohmann Museum 1000 N. Broadway, (414) 277-2300,

The Art of the Milwaukee Road

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