From 1969 through the early 1970's, major maintenance of existing facilities inside the Village, including the addition of new facilities and a new progressive way of presenting and educating the public, took precedence. Greenfield Village became the recipient of a $20 million dollar capital improvement and endowment grant from the Ford Foundation and the Ford Motor Company fund, and this gave them the opportunity for such improvements.
One of the improvements included the construction of a perimeter railroad. Completed by the 1974 season, several steam locomotives are now operated in Greenfield Village, including the popular Torch Lake. Built in 1873, Torch Lake is the oldest continuously running locomotive in the United States, encircling the Village daily from April though September. There are numerous stops throughout its perimeter run where the passengers can load or disembark at the pointed locations.
Also, many years before the planning stages of such a ride Henry Ford wanted an American style William Mason locomotive from the post-Civil War period for his museum. Mason's engines were famous for their superior performance and technical design, but no original examples could be found. In 1932, Ford created a replica using parts from a number of different locomotives. He named it after his friend Thomas Edison.
After spending many years inside the museum, the Edison, like the Torch Lake and other steam engines, it now gives patrons an old-fashioned thrill as they chug around the perimeter of Greenfield Village, listening to the conductor as he recites a well-rehearsed tour.
The train rides generally last about 45 minutes and is always a thrill to not only the children but to the adults as well. I have always felt that it would be neat to have period train cars in the spring and autumn time of the year to give visitors a real experience of what train travel was like in the old days. I'm sure there are no plans for that to happen, but even so the train ride around the Village is always a pleasure.