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?