Behind The Scenes Trains LIVE Trains LIVE — Exploring the fish car

Trains LIVE — Exploring the fish car

By Bob Lettenberger | May 24, 2024

| Last updated on May 27, 2024

A rail vehicle for moving fish from the hatchery to the stream

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Trains LIVE — Exploring the fish car — 5-24-2024 — Officially the “fish car” is the Wisconsin Fish Commission Badger #2, built for the state of Wisconsin by Pullman in 1913. It was designed to move fish ready to be stocked in lakes and streams from one of Wisconsin’s 25 fish hatcheries. The car has a wooden body mounted on a heavy-duty steel frame. The size of the steel frame structure is unusual, but was needed to accommodate the steel holding tanks inside the car. For a stocking trip, the car would be spotted at or near one of the hatcheries. Fish would be brought aboard in metal cans similar to the containers used to transport milk. During the trip to the stocking site, the cans were held in the steel tanks and aerated. To stock the fish, if the car could be spotted over the river or lake, the cans would be dumped directly from the car. If not, they were loaded onto wagons or, eventually, trucks for a trip to the water.

Interior of Pullman-built car for carrying fish.
The tank room aboard Wisconsin Fish Commission Badger #2 at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wis. The large wooden enclosures on each side of the car hole the steel tanks that carried the fish from hatchery to stocking location. Ben Lake

Badger #2 has accommodations for the crew similar to that found on a business car. There is a kitchen and pantry along with sleeping space and a lounge with an open rear platform. One of the significant drawbacks to traveling aboard the car was the fishy smell that came with the cargo.

The car left state service at an unknown date and was sold to an equipment dealer. The Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wis., acquired it in 1960. It was the first car purchased by the museum. It was converted to a coach and used at the museum from 1962 until 1985 to carry passengers. Completed in 2008, the museum undertook a $950,000 restoration, bringing the car back to its as-built condition.

Today, with the help of museum docents, we visit Wisconsin Fish Commission Badger #2.

Come along as Trains LIVE explores the fish car.

Trains LIVE is a regular video program, recorded live and unscripted from Firecrown Media. The series began in July 2022.

Trains LIVE features Bob Lettenberger, Trains associate editor, Bryson Sleppy, Model Railroader associate editor, Firecrown Media staff, and guests talking about railroads and trains in a casual, behind-the-scenes format. On Trains LIVE we will ask the questions you would like to ask and take you into places normally not open to the public. Trains LIVE also takes you on the road to museums, trackside locations and other railroad-related venues.

You can watch and listen to new episodes every other Friday at 2 p.m. Central time. Trains LIVE is now available as a podcast and in full video versions. The podcast can be found on, Apple Podcasts, and Listen Notes. The full video version is a membership benefit for Unlimited members.

If you have questions or comments, please log-in and leave a comment in the area at the bottom of the page. We will attempt to answer questions during future episodes.
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2 thoughts on “Trains LIVE — Exploring the fish car

  1. Great video, thanks. California in the “old” days once used railcars to transport fish from the hatcheries to the lakes and streams. Early Calif. Blue Books had pictures of them.

  2. The New York Central used to ship live fish in express cars coupled in to passenger trains, from Sandusky, Ohio to New York City. Being on Lake Erie, Sandusky was a source of whitefish.

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