Many families in Portage have a connection to the railroad: in its heyday, railroading was the largest employer in Portage and provided good-paying jobs for two or three generations of workers. The Milwaukee Road and the Wisconsin Central/Soo Line thrived here from the last quarter of the 1800’s to the middle of the 1900’s. Multiple passenger trains arrived and departed from Portage every day, and freight trains brought manufactured goods and agricultural products to Portage, and local businesses saw their goods loaded and sent to distant customers. In the 21st century, Portage remains an active hub for Canadian Pacific Rail and two Amtrak trains arrive and depart with passengers twice daily.
Our exhibits tell our stories
Step into the past to learn about our history: the American Indians who lived here for thousands of years, the explorers who visited, the settlers who moved here in the early 1800’s, followed by the entrepreneurs who saw opportunity, and the men and women who built homes, schools, stores and churches. Most of the artifacts in our exhibits came from Portage residents who lived ordinary lives in this small town on the big river.