Northern Pacific # 328 was originally one of twenty 4-6-0 “Ten Wheelers” ordered by the Chicago Southern railroad in 1904. Before it was delivered in 1905 the Chicago Southern went bankrupt and the order went unfilled.
In 1906 the Northern Pacific found itself short on power and went shopping for locomotives. It purchased 10 of the unfinished 4-6-0’s and took delivery of them in February of 1907. They were used on the lighter branches in the Dakota’s and Minnesota. Eight of them were cut up for scrap between 1929 and 1933.
The two survivors, 321 and 328, remained because of their light weight and a rickety old bridge on the Rush City, MN to Grantsburg, WI line. 321 was scrapped in 1948 and 328 was retired in 1950. It was then donated to the city of Stillwater, MN where it sat by the Stillwater depot until 1976.
The Minnesota Transportation Museum leased 328 from the city of Stillwater and restored it to operating condition at BN’s ex-NP Como Shops.
Enter my father…
My father was a volunteer with the MTM, at one point holding elected office within the organization. At the same time he was also volunteering with the New Brighton Historical Society. The two worlds merged in 1981 when New Brighton held their first city celebration. Named “Stockyard Days” in honor of the New Brighton’s stockyards that at the turn of the century were the largest west of Chicago.
Wanting to have a major draw to help launch the celebration, my father used his connections with the MTM and was able to secure #328 to run a railfan trip in New Brighton using the Minnesota Transfer Railroad’s tracks.
So, Northern Pacific #328’s inaugural run after restoration was at the city of New Brighton’s inaugural celebration. All brought about with the help of my father.
This week I am trying something a little different, mainly because I’m running out of decent pictures of the old layout. More of a history thing or of little treasures found.
Since my father passed away about 14 years ago my mother has been slowly going through the boxes of stuff that my father had collected. He was the ultimate pack rat. Anything she finds that even remotely has anything to do with railroads, she sets aside for me. I usually bring it home, look at it and decide whether to keep it or toss it. But sometimes I’ll set it aside to look at later and it ends up tucked away somewhere until I come across it again. Such is the case with the following.
While planning the railroad, I knew that I would have a staging yard for the “rest of the world” where trains or freight cars would come from somewhere else to the main yard in New Brighton. For freight this would be best handled by the Minnesota Transfer Railroad, a line set up by the 9 major railroads serving the Twin Cities. It would move cars between the major rail yards, while also serving local industries. In New Brighton that would have been the Twin Cities Arsenal, the New Brighton stockyards, a pole and tie yard and several lesser industries.
While researching the MTR online I found a group of photos showing the line in action, almost exclusively with steam power. I came across a Proto 2000 0-8-0 at a great price and figured I would reletter it for the MTR and my motive power for the transfer railroad would be handled.
The other thing a found while researching was the constant reference to a book – Gateway To The Northwest, The Story of The Minnesota Transfer Railway. I decided I had to have this book, only it was self published by the author in 1954.
So for about the last two years I have been regularly checking the internet for copies, as well as auction sites and every second hand bookstore I could find. While going through boxes of the stuff I had set aside until later and putting what was “keepers” in the new cabinets, I almost fell over when I came across some photocopies. My father had photocopied the entire book I had been searching for.
Moments later I came across not 1, but 3 copies of the book itself. I should explain that the book is soft covered and only 32 pages long. It mentioned that the “Transfer” with the power and financial backing of 9 major roads dieselized in about 2 years and by 1954 ( the year I’m modeling ) only had two 0-6-0’s on hand. 1 for backup and the other with a flanger. So now I’m looking for a 1000hp Alco to handle the transfers.
Next up is copy of ” The Railroad Telegrapher “. It’s dated September 1913. Something my grandfather had saved and my father ended up with. It contains a wide variety of opinion pages, stories, updates on telegraph operators for all roads by divisions ( weddings, deaths, births of children, promotions, transfers, etc. ) , track updates for all roads by division ( tracks taken out of or returned to service ), as well as poetry, updates on the Women’s Auxiliary, jokes and of course plenty of ads aimed at railroad workers in general, telegraph operators specifically. Kind of a Readers Digest for the railroad world.
Last up is a train order sheet that was tucked into the book. I’m sorry that I didn’t pay attention to where it was in the book as it may have marked a page that referenced my grandfather. I also apologize for it being in two parts as it was to big for my scanner.
It’s surprising what little most of us know about our own family histories. Yes, we know about our immediate families from the time we are aware enough to remember. But what about before that? I know that my father grew up in northern Minnesota on a farm ( hated it ), Joined the Army Air Corp in WWII, became a Lieutenant and commanded his own B-17 for thirty missions. After his thirtieth, he flew cargo planes until rotated back stateside where he became an instructor. Other than that he talked little about the war. He went to college and got his degree in Electrical Engineering and went to work for Honeywell Aerospace designing guidance systems for rockets. Yes , he was a rocket scientist. (Absolutely loved it)
But go back another generation and it gets tougher. Which brings me to the reason for this post. My grandfather was a farmer, obviously since my dad grew up on the farm. But that was his second career. Once my dad realized that model railroading was more then a passing fad with me ( as it had been for my brothers ), he told me that my grandfather had worked for the railroad before he bought his farm. There were other little details about it that he passed along, but no one seemed to know a lot about what he did or even which railroad he worked for.
My mother gave me a couple of pictures of my grandfather, with those and some digging I am able to put together the following history of my family’s railroad history.
When my grandfather came over from Sweden there is little known about what he initially did. He ended up in southeastern South Dakota where he became a telegraph operator for the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railroad.
The first known station that he worked out of was in Montrose, SD. just northwest of Sioux Falls, SD. As you can see in the photo he is standing in front of the depot in Montrose, if you look to the left in the photo you can see the C,St.P,M & O boxcar spotted behind the station. Of importance to the family is that it was in South Dakota that he met and married my grandmother.
The next photo shows my grandfather in the depot in Madelia, MN in 1909. My father told me that as you gained experience and seniority you moved stations. Moving from the smaller towns up the line towards a major city. In this case he was working his way up the line towards Minneapolis/St. Paul. Montrose was 259 miles from MSP. Madelia was 105 miles from the cities. Side note, at the time of the Madelia photo my grandfather was 22 years old. The last reference of my grandfather that I could find was a mention in a company newsletter from 1920 where it mentions that he was taking a fishing trip to central Wisconsin and everyone was looking forward to the fish fry when he got back. At this point he was working out of the station in Savage, MN. Savage, MN. is just 20 miles from Minneapolis. My father was born in Savage in 1918. At some point while working out of Savage my grandfather decided he had enough money, quit the railroad and moved to northern Minnesota and bought his farm.
Interestingly enough, my wife’s grandfather ( also on her father’s side) worked for the Soo Line in central Wisconsin. One has to wonder, did they possibly meet when my grandfather was on his fishing trip?
The Continental Northern Railroad as envisioned is a class 1 railroad set in the early 1950’s running from the upper Midwest to the Pacific Northwest ( picture the Great Northern or the Northern Pacific ) . My original plan, when I had the space, was to do a large layout with a series of separate scenes depicting different areas of the country to give a sense of moving across the country. Why? Because I had wanted to model the Midwest -you model what you know. I also wanted to model a harbor scene. I love ships and ship modeling and had seen some great railroad/harbor scenes modeled in magazines. When we built our present home I finally had the space to attempt to model this. Unfortunately, the layout went horribly wrong. I tried to cram too much into too small of a space. I also ignored everything I had read about layout planning, too tight of radius, bench work that was way too deep, inclines that were too steep ( I should have mentioned I was trying to build it as double deck layout ) and on and on. After not looking at the layout for about six months I went downstairs, took a good look at it, had a heart to heart with myself and decided there was no saving it. I had to tear it down and start over. I also took out a wall between the layout room and my shop increasing the space by about 50%. I now had the space to build a layout where I could hope to accomplish what I envisioned. The true turning point came when I realized that I could model just the eastern end of the railroad. I had overlooked the fact that just 120 miles north of Minneapolis ( my starting point of the railroad ) is the port of Duluth. I could have my Midwest railroad and a harbor scene without overreaching. So, that is what I am modeling- an eastern subdivision of the Continental Northern from the Twin Cities to Duluth.