Before it was ever a landmark, Shorewood’s Oak Leaf Trail Bridge was part of the railway between Minnesota and Chicago for a historic train known as the Twin Cities 400. When the train shut down in 1963, the local community wasn’t ready to let it go. Fifty-three years later, the Shorewood Ghost Train was born.
Described as an “artistic sensory experience,” the Shorewood Ghost Train, which was created by Marty Peck, simulates the sound, feel, and appearance of a train passing over the bridge. A one-of-a-kind speaker system imitates the sound of train’s horn blaring as it surges over the bridge.
The noise is so loud that standing on the path during one of these “ghost train crossings” will vibrate the ground underfoot. Lights simulating a train charging across the bridge follow the noise. When the ghost train isn’t there, the fake headlights are replaced with a cycle of rainbow light patterns after dark.
The ghost train ran for the first time on Halloween in 2016 and now it bolts through Shorewood twice a day—once Northbound, once Southbound—fifteen minutes apart. Today, crowds of people gather on the bridge to feel the pulse of a train that no longer exists.
You’ll see them leaning against the railings as they hear the horn coming, the familiar click of wheels over tracks alerting the town of a train that will never come again. But if you close your eyes, you might feel it: The Twin Cities 400, 400 miles in 400 minutes, rushing past your body in a symphonic wind of light and shock and sound … now merely a ghost, a passing attraction for all who wish to remember the technological marvel that once was.
Know Before You Go
From September through March, it runs at 7 and 7:15 p.m. From April through August, it comes at 9 and 9:15 p.m. During December, the ghost train is occasionally replaced with a Holiday Express train, which comes at 7:30 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, and Christmas.
Another unique experience is the Circus train, which comes every Saturday in the summer with a multicolor light show and host of unusual animal sounds. If you want to visit the ghost train, an easy place to park is in Shorewood Culver’s parking lot at 1325 E Capitol Dr, Shorewood, WI 53211 or at the Corner Bakery parking lot at 1305 E Capitol Dr, Shorewood, WI 53211.