Full Steam Ahead

At the National Railroad Museum, we are a place where the history of the railroad is brought to life, but we are more than just trains. We welcome people of every age and from diverse communities to come together to explore and learn. Contributing more than $20 million annually to the local economy, we are force for economic growth in our community. 

As an education-based organization, our mission is to inspire lifelong learning by providing dynamic educational opportunities through the preservation of railroad objects, engaging exhibits and innovative programs. We use our collections to create exhibits and educational programs that engage students, help teachers and bring families and our diverse communities together in a shared history. We strive to bring school subjects to life through the railroad-themed exhibits, programs and events that all follow the Wisconsin State Model Academic Standards – the same standards that all educators must follow. 

Since 1956, the Museum has held our world-class collection in public trust. We have collected, curated and protected two hundred years of achievements and memories. These efforts have directly benefited the more than 100,000 visitors who come to our Museum each year. 

In 2016, the Museum worked with a group of community stakeholders to develop an innovative model for our future. The Full Steam Ahead! Capital Campaign allows us to begin expansion of our facilities, to move full steam ahead, into this vision.

Nearly seventy years ago, a group of Green Bay community leaders had a vision: to create a world-class museum that would celebrate and share the history of the American railroad. 

Their first step toward achieving it was modest— acquiring and installing one steam locomotive in a local park. That small step was the fundamental first step toward what is now a 78,000-square-foot, national museum and widely respected educational resource. 

Today our Congressionally-designated museum is home to 70+ one-of-a-kind train cars, known as rolling stock; a dynamic host of rotating exhibits; and a growing collection of priceless railroad artifacts, images and manuscripts that now tops 150,000 pieces. These items are used as part of interactive educational programs for children and adults of all ages. 


Education is at the heart of the Museum’s mission and all of our exhibits, programs and events follow Wisconsin State Model Academic Standards—the same standards that state educators must meet when developing curricula. 

Our immersive environment addresses the needs of a wide variety of learning styles and provides opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to thrive. Each year, schools and non-profits from across the region rely on our educational programming to supplement their classes across subject areas. The railroad theme helps engage students in social studies, math, science, music, language and art. To ensure learners at all economic levels can benefit from the Museum’s resources, we provide admission and transportation assistance to a variety of low-income visitors. 

As one of the region’s most popular attractions, the Museum plays a critical role in the economic vitality of the Northeastern Wisconsin region. 

Our world-class exhibits attract visitors from across the country and around the world. Each year we are pleased to welcome tourists from more than 50 countries. In fact, we are one of the only local attractions offered as onshore trips for passengers of Victory Cruise Lines. 

The Museum has become a popular add-on for travelers who want to experience the hometown of the Green Bay Packers. Our Museum gives visitors a reason to extend their visit beyond game day. 

Each year, spending by Museum visitors, combined with operational spending at our facility, creates a yearly economic impact of more than $20 million. 

The Museum has now reached a critical point in our history, where the size of the facility is no longer large enough to accommodate our current activities or support growth in any area. 

Although the Museum’s collection grows at an average of 18% per year and the number of children who attend educational programs increases by an average of 500 per year, the Museum’s facilities have remained unchanged since 2001. In addition, after the Museum’s attendance grew by 65% between 2010 and 2016, we have consistently hosted an average of 100,000 visitors annually. Our facility was designed to serve fewer visitors and our current resources also do not allow us to continue to meet the needs of our diverse and changing community. 

At this time:

  • Less than half of the Museum’s exhibit space (36,500 square feet out of a total of 78,000) is climate controlled. This puts the integrity of our valuable rolling stock and museum collections at risk. 
  • Not all of our outdoor areas are fully compliant with Americans with Disabilities (ADA) accessibility standards. We want every visitor to be able to access all of the Museum’s amenities and resources. 
  • We lack the space to add the immersive, technology-rich exhibits that would help us meet our educational mission. 
  • We are not always able to accommodate the wide variety of education and community groups who would like to use our facilities to host events. These missed opportunities impact the economic health of the larger Green Bay area and compromise our ability to be a vital and effective community partner. 
  • The Museum’s 33-acre site enjoys a picturesque waterfront location. Expanding our outdoor areas would allow us to showcase our jewel on the banks of the Fox River. Having more outside resources would also allow us to better serve the needs of our visitors and our community. 

With a growing collection, increasing visitor demand and a museum footprint that has not changed in 20 years, a building update is long overdue. Our team of dedicated Museum stakeholders has worked collaboratively to shape a facility update plan that will allow us to meet the needs of the Museum for years to come. The Fox River Expansion will roughly double the size of the Museum’s Lenfestey Center and add 25,280 gross sq. ft. to our facility.

The Expansion includes:

  • Shoreline integration. For the first time, visitors will be able to fully experience our beautiful riverside setting. The expansion includes a 5,000+ sq. ft. covered patio area that provides space for outdoor events and programs, as well as easy access to our operational train, displays on the north side of the property and the Ashwaubomay River Trail. 
  • An expanded lower level. This update will dramatically transform the east wing of the Lenfestey Center. With nearly 19,000 sq. ft. of climate-controlled space, visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the museum’s many offerings including some of the country’s best examples of rolling stock, railroad technology and interactive exhibits. Plus, there will be space to accommodate a wide variety of community events and in-person and virtual educational programs. 
  • A mezzanine. This airy 2,603 sq. ft. second-story mezzanine will give visitors picturesque views of the river, plus the chance to explore our magnificent rolling stock from above—a perspective few have ever enjoyed. Having this space will allow us to accommodate additional exhibits and events and expand the Museum’s role as community partner. 
  • Three-dimensional learning experiences. New exhibit spaces will allow us to integrate technology and hands-on activities to create three-dimensional learning experiences that immerse the visitor in the spaces where history happened. 
  • Wayfinding. To ensure the museum is easy for visitors to find, the expansion includes adding wayfinding signs from nearby highways and streets. At night, the Museum’s new two-story glass façade will act as a stunning frame to weddings and community events and provide a spectacular riverside view of our unrivaled collection. 

These improvements complement other recent renovations, including updates to our lobby and theater, stabilization of more than 1,000 feet of the Fox River shoreline and comprehensive renovation of four pieces of exceptional rolling stock. The additional square footage will also address supporting needs such as mechanical, storage, restrooms and conference space. 

Not only will this expansion allow the Museum to better meet the educational needs of our community, but it will also have an outsized economic impact on the area. This addition is expected to double the economic impact of the Museum to $40 million a year. 

When you contribute to Full Steam Ahead!, you will be part of a campaign that supports a vital educational resource for our community, and also makes a substantial contribution to the economic health of our area. 

The Museum has always operated as a privately funded 501(c)(3). We’ve never received ongoing public appropriations or subsidies to support our dedication to education and our local community. We rely on you. Through our admissions, event sponsorships, private donations, grants, facility rental fees and other business operations, you have helped us meet our financial needs. Now, we need your help to take an important next step. 

Your support has elevated our ability to impact people across the state. This has led Wisconsin’s Department of Administration to invite us to submit a request for capital funding in the 2023- 2025 State Budget. The total cost of the Fox River Expansion is $15 million. The request to the State will cover about 40%, or $7 million, leaving the remaining $8 million to be raised with your support in this capital campaign. 

Your support of the Full Steam Ahead! campaign means more educational programs will be available to schoolchildren, more families will be able to explore history together and the community will have more spaces to learn and gather. 

Your generosity is the catalyst for this community change. Join us.


Dear Friends of the National Railroad Museum,

As fellow supporters of this world-class facility, I know we both appreciate what a fantastic resource the Museum is for our community. 

Since it was established in 1956, the Museum has built a truly outstanding collection of railroad rolling stock and artifacts and there is literally nothing else like it in the U.S. In addition, the Museum has kept education at the heart of its mission since it first opened. Each year the Museum welcomes over 100,000 visitors. They come from more than 50 countries, and are from all ages, walks of life and abilities. There is truly something for everyone at the Museum.

I write to you today because the Museum is embarking on a $15 million capital campaign. This will allow it to create a new addition that will open up views of the Fox River, create more space for educational programming and events, and allow the Museum to continue to safely share the historic objects it holds in public trust. 

With a growing collection and increasing attendance, the Museum needs this extra space to continue serving the families, children, tourists, students and history enthusiasts who flock to Green Bay. Building this addition, will also grow its events facility space. Together, these changes will allow the Museum to boost its economic impact by approximately $20M annually.

The Green Bay Packer organization is supporting this important project and I urge my fellow Museum supporters to do the same. 


President and CEO 
of the Green Bay Packers