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2003 GN Finding Trip

Part 5

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Day 14, Wednesday July 30: Duluth/Superior to Fargo

 

Click for larger imageLast night I had searched for the reported GN gas electric hulks near the old USS steel plant location. Having sighted something in the fading light that could be what I'm looking for, I decide to go back and check it out. Working my way on and off the Interstate I finally get to the location. I don't know what I had seen but it's definitely not the two gas electrics. I go to the nearby railroad crossing and sight down the tracks, but alas. Nothing. They have probably become victims to progress. That is, if I was looking at the right location? Well, time now to head out to Wisconsin Point and get some photos of the GN ore docks. On the way over, noticing the nice weather, Click for larger image I decide to revisit the Superior depot and get some nice shots of the front, now basking in the sun, including one mimicking the final shot at the end of one of Anthony DeRosa's GN Video tapes. On towards Wisconsin Point now. Following the winding road I notice several people already up and around. They're busy collecting cans left behind from last night's 'beach parties'. As I drive by they glance at me with a look of 'oh no, not another competitor'. But, I guess the shiny rental car tells them quick enough that that's not the case, and they continue with their work. From the far end of Wisconsin Point I'm able to take several nice shots of the ore-docks complex. Too bad they're not in use anymore, although some parts still look ready to go. Since it's still early I decide to Click for larger imagehead back to the Lake Superior Transportation Museum and buy the Twin Ports Railfan guide. On my way I make two short stops; one to get more photos of GN X340 and another stop close by, to take photos of the old GN built elevated taconite conveyor belt crossing the main highway through town. At the museum I'm happily surprised by seeing both the GN coaches still sitting outside waiting to go on another excursion, but now basking in the sun. I get some additional photos of BN A-14 and GN 1115, in which #1115 clearly shows off the effects of her Scotchlite yellow trim (small grmbl). Click for larger imageAfter a short hop inside to get the Twin Cities Railfan Guide I'm on my way again. I want to get to Fargo tonight as I promised to meet up with a fan of my website. Hmmm, I'd better get there on time. Well, there is a difference between willing and doing, and the first obstacle presents itself leaving town. I decided to follow the tracks south hoping to maybe catch a glimpse of those GN gas electrics on my way (I never did), but this took me straight into a detour through very beautiful scenery, but along extremely winding and therefore slow roads. Oh well, at least I got to enjoy the surroundings while getting a bit irritated over the time I was losing. Finally back on the Interstate I Click for larger imagemake a run for it, heading south towards Askov, MN. The Askov depot is still sitting near the tracks and has been in use by the Pine County Historical Society ever since it was donated by GN on December 12, 1967. Most of the building is now filled with displays of local history, but the operators desk is kept original and still breaths an atmosphere of railroading. I don't stay too long, so it's off towards the next stop; Sandstone. I don't find the Sandstone depot and have a hard time finding the Bruno depot also reported to be moved here. Just when I'm about to leave town, Click for larger imagea bit disappointed to not have found either depot, I spot the Bruno depot! (...as usual; maybe I should leave town first before I enter town, just looking at the fact that then is when I find things most!) Anyway, the depot is used by the Harvest Christian School as one of its buildings, as someone from the school tells me after coming out to check what I was doing snooping around the school. He informs me that it's indeed the Bruno depot and although it's in need of some foundation work, it's in their plans to hold on to the building for quite a bit longer. Good. At Hinckley I leave the Interstate to turn onto Rt. 23 towards St. Cloud. Hinckley is famous for being completely destroyed by one of the biggest forest fires in Eastern Central Minnesota history.Click for larger image The former NP depot there is now home to the Hinckley Fire Museum and I decide to make a quick detour to check it out. I find it closed though. But I'm surprised to find a caboose outside. A steel caboose sided in wood; ex BN 12157, a wide-vision caboose. I guess it had to look old to fit in and steel quite didn't cut the image requirements. I follow the tracks for a bit and find an idling local BNSF freight train powered by two GP28M's. Could these be ex GN GP9's? I take pictures just to make sure, and sure enough one of them, BNSF 1519, is indeed ex GN GP9m 909, itself a veteran being once rebuilt from FTB 414B built back in 1944! Not a bad idea, that detour. I have to get going though and soon I'm on Rt. 23 on my way to Quamba for the depot. Click for larger image A short search through town turns up the small portable type depot in use as someone's garage. Then on to Mora. It's fairly easy to follow the old roadbed into town and the depot is easily found. Well, easily? Is this the Mora depot? Well, it must be it, but it looks strange with its imitation-Bavarian style. It is reported to be in use by a ski-club so it might be. Closer inspection reveals bricked-in areas where the freight doors used to be. Yeap, this is it. Route 23 stops paralleling the tracks until Ogilvie where they join up again. A bit further down the road, just before entering Bock, I notice an old stone bridge in the abandoned roadbed. It appears to be in very good condition and deserves a photo. Two quick U-turns later Click for larger image I'm on my way again towards Milaca. The Milaca depot is still there, on site, and in use as a floral shop; Milaca Depot Floral. I get my pictures and continue-on to St. Cloud. I had visited St. Cloud before and planned to visit it again later in my trip. But looking at the nice sunny sky I decide to make a quick dash for the depot to get a nice sunny picture of her. On my way I also pass a local scrapper across from the Amtrak depot and notice an old aluminum colored CB&Q wide vision caboose (BN 10121; CB&Q 13653) of which I also just have to get a picture. Not as quick as I would like I manage to get back on the road again towards Click for larger image St. Joseph where I failed to locate the depot, reportedly in use as a Boy Scouts office (should have done my homework!). At Albany though, I manage to locate the Stearns County Pioneer Club and the Albany depot, nicely restored, sitting in a small town-setting on the sprawling grounds. Behind the building is a small stretch of track looking as if it's waiting to be filled by some piece of equipment anytime soon. I just can't understand why people place the track in the back of the depot and not in the front where it's supposed to be(?) At Freeport I expect to find a sizeable depot, as it is being reported as moved and converted into a residence. I don't find it but I do find a small portable one.Click for larger image Another portable depot turned garage, as it seems, but I have no idea as to its heritage. Enough depots for now, time for a GN caboose. Caboose X719 is located about 2.5 miles west of Melrose at a Pioneer Village. It's an easy find and I quickly turn of the main road onto the driveway expecting to find a nice Pioneer Village open for the season. Soon I have to slam on the brakes to prevent taking out the entry gate. It's adorned by multiple 'No trespassing', 'Keep Out' and 'You're on camera' type signs indicating that - I guess - they're closed and don't want anybody to find out about their treasure. I do spot X719 though, and decide to back out of the driveway and walk theClick for larger image abandoned-roadbed-turned-bike path to get some pictures of her from there. I get to an aluminum painted outside braced boxcar first and get some pictures (what could its heritage be?). Continuing on towards the caboose I'm being 'greeted' by a gentleman down below asking what I want. I ask if I can see the caboose up close. The question remains unanswered as he continues talking on the phone. I wait a bit but then decide to just take my photos and leave this gentleman alone with his treasure. While I'm taking pictures he never leaves me out of his sight (what am I going to do, steal the caboose? Even if I wanted to I'm sure it wouldn't fit in the trunk of my rental Taurus!) I leave the site, some photos Click for larger image and an experience richer, and continue on my way towards my next stop. I bypass Sauk Centre going on information that the depot was razed. I later learn that the depot is still there though. Oh well, another excuse to re-visit the area. Due to it getting late I decide to skip a planned detour to Long Prairie and Browerville for the depots there and continue straight to Alexandria. Just before entering Alexandria I find the Weston Station Restaurant, home of Empire Builder-used SP&S diner 405. I get my pictures of the nicely painted diner which apparently serves guest as part of the restaurant. No time to eat though (I'll leave Click for larger image that up to the abundant mosquitoes again), so I head into town for the Alexandria depot. It also has been converted into a restaurant and again I get some pictures and no food. I just wish the light would have been better. The next three planned stops - Garfield, Brandon and Ashby - don't yield any of the reported depots, but I don't spend much time searching as daylight-time is getting preciously short. At Dalton I get lucky and find the Dalton depot located at the Lake Region Pioneer Threshermen's Association grounds in use as the depot for a small live-steam operation. Although closed for the night I manage to Click for larger image get photos using a telephoto lens from behind the fence. Well, Fergus Falls is next, home to two GN depots. I had mentioned to Dave Durfee at the GNRHS convention in Havre, that I was going to look for the Fergus Falls depot. He noted that there were actually two GN depots there; the current one and the original one, located a couple of blocks away from the present one. Using the map he provided I quickly find the current depot, now in use by Rail America, and get my pictures. A short drive takes me to the other depot. After closely looking the structure over (was this the old Fergus Falls depot?) I notice the bay window and Click for larger image start making out the shape of a depot. It has been converted into a triplex and heavily modified as such. Thanks for pointing this one out to me Dave! The light is really starting to fade now so I decide to push on a bit longer and make a dash for the Erhard depot. In use as 'the Depot Restaurant' she's an easy find alongside the main road through town. My trusty digital camera still yields some half decent photos, so I'm off for another catch; the Rothsay depot. In use by a business it's still sitting besides the tracks and although modified identifiable as a depot. A couple quick shots and on my way again towards Barnesville. It takes too long to get there though and when I find the depot it's too dark to get any decent photos. Click for larger image I will have to try fitting this depot and some other towns between here and Fargo in next day's trip, but first, it's time to head to the home of Doug Warnecke just north of Fargo. I had called earlier and I was welcome to stop by anytime that evening. After checking in at my hotel in Fargo, I follow the directions he gave me and although street lighting is far and in between I manage to find my way to his home, where I receive a warm welcome. It's time to relax, and we decide to go down to the local American Legion to have some drinks. I get introduced to almost everyone there and they all make me feel right at home. We had a great time and a nice friendship developed that evening. It's really nice to meet the people behind the email I get! We part for the night and decide to meet up again in the morning. Doug will then show me around the (GN) sights of Fargo.

 

Day 15, Thursday July 31: Fargo to Sioux City...err...Falls

 

Click for larger imageDoug and I have agreed to meet at the Fargo GN depot downtown and take it from there. Shortly after I get there and just when I have taken my first shots of the well known depot Doug pulls up. I scrap further picture-taking-plans for now. Time to get introduced to Doug's granddaughter Amanda who will be tagging along today as Doug is 'baby'-sitting her for the day. First thing's first though, and we head out to get breakfast. Doug knows a good place for breakfast and after a short drive through town we pull up at a nice restaurant. Hey! Wasn't I here before today? Yeap, the restaurant just happens to be next-door to the motel I just checked out of this morning! Funny. After a nice and hearty breakfast we head downtown Click for larger imagefollowing the old NP main into town. On the way Doug tells me about Fargo railroad history and the things that are gone now, and more importantly what's still there. We also get to talk about other things as for instance the difference in heads of state in the US and in my country; Holland. We talk a bit about the monarchy in Holland and our Queen. Then I make the mistake to mention to Amanda that royal people supposedly have blue blood. This, of course, triggered several hard to answer questions, questions that lingered until long after my visit, I was told. Sorry Doug! With a well behaved and pleasant 'Queen' Amanda perched on the backseat we drive around the railroad sights of Fargo; the GN depot - closed (again) after Click for larger imageseveral failed attempts to use it as a restaurant-, the current Amtrak depot which is the former GN express building, the NP depot, GN caboose X227 at the NP depot, GN's Red River bridge and the old GN roundhouse complex that sadly enough has been reduced to nothing more than a collection of footings. Since I have a whole program planned for today I reluctantly have to say goodbye but promise to visit again. I make another quick tour around all the sights to get my pictures and decide to walk down to the river bank following the tracks to try to get some good photos of the GN bridge over the Red River. Due to the thick brush I only partially Click for larger imagesucceed. On my way back I notice two homeless men heading my way. Concerned about my camera gear I approach carefully but the closer I get the more careful they get and finally they decide to ignore me altogether. I guess the camera scared them off. I had spotted a 'hobo' camp down by the river so they might have been thinking I was either with the city or the police. Well, fooled them! It's time now to get going with the 'program' for the day. I first head into Moorhead on the Minnesota-side of the river to see if there's a better vantage point of the GN bridge over there, but no luck. Instead I get a picture of the overpass nearby. Click for larger image After grabbing a quick lunch I'm heading out to get pictures of the GN depots I missed yesterday. Passing through Dilworth I can't resist stopping at the nice railroad display in town consisting of a NP steam engine and NP caboose 1651 posed at the nicely restored Dilworth NP depot. Then it's off to Glyndon for the unique combined GN and NP depot that used to stand at the 90 degree crossing of the two railroads in town. I has been moved now and sees use as an information center. On to Barnesville to get pictures of the depot there in daylight. Having been there just yesterday makes Click for larger imagethe visit a quick one and after getting my pictures I'm just about to head south when I spot a watertower down the tracks. Yeap, it's GN and some frames later I'm ready to be on my way again, but not before I draw up a plan for the day.Click for larger image I had planned to visit my usual amount of places between Fargo and Sioux City today just incase my visit with Doug wouldn't work out. Having spent half of the day on a pleasant tour around Fargo and visiting the towns I skipped yesterday, doesn't leave enough time for my planned visits. I decide to cut my trip short and make Sioux Falls, SD my destination for tonight instead of Sioux City, IA. To speed things up a bit I also decide not to visit the 'search and hope I find something' places. These will Click for larger image have to wait for another trip. So first on the trip is driving straight west back to North Dakota, to Davenport for the depot, but alas no luck there. Oh well, on to Kindred then, where I'm lucky to find the Kindred depot still in use by the Red River Valley & Western Railroad. New roofing indicates it might even stay in use for some time longer. A quick dash down I-29 takes me to Galchutt where I find the depot in use at a local fuel dealer and in pretty good condition, although re-sided. Next is Dwight but I can't find the reportedly relocated depot there. On to Hankinson then, where three depots must be located; the old Hankinson depot, the Fairmount depotClick for larger image (both moved and converted to residences) and the new Hankinson depot which reportedly was moved to a farm. With not enough time and/or information I fail to located either of them but do find nicely restored Soo Line caboose 99038 at the local Community Recreation Area. On to Lidgerwood then where the depot is in use as a Senior Citizens Center. It takes me some time to locate it as it's hard to recognize covered in new Click for larger imagesiding with hardly any windows in their original position (or there at all for a matter of fact). I guess senior citizens are not allowed to look outside in Lidgerwood? The roofline gives it away though, and in the setting sun I take some photos for posterity. With daylight slowly fading into the night I decide to make one more stop at Watertown, SD. Once home to a roundhouse it should now be home to the Melham depot with the South Shore depot located close by at Lake Pelican. Even with the address in hand the Melham depot is not to be found, but failing a good street map I can't be sure if it really isn't there anymore. Click for larger imageOn to Lake Pelican. I try the north shore for the South Shore depot (pun intended) but failing decent roads around the lake and the sun setting I stop searching and head back to the Interstate to continue towards Sioux Falls for dinner and a bed. After checking in and getting dinner I scout Sioux Falls to find the locations of the places I want to visit tomorrow like the local depot and the Rutland depot located at the fairgrounds. Tomorrow I will start early and get my pictures around town and will thereafter decide whether to continue south to Sioux City or cut across to Minnesota and pick up my planned trip from there towards St. Cloud. It's been a fun day. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

 

Day 16, Friday August 1: Sioux Falls to St. Cloud

 

Click for larger imageAn early rise, a quick grab from the continental breakfast table and I'm on my way downtown to the Sioux Falls depot (after taking care of the usual stuff like arranging tonight's hotel reservation, gas, water and food supplies, of course). The brick Sioux Falls depot is basking in the morning sun and a few shots are quickly taken. Close by I find a snowdozer and a snowplow. The snowdozer appears to be a GN design but was built shortly after the BN merger (8-70). The snowplow however is a converted steam tender and a check of the BN 972544 number reveals it to be the former GN X1575(3) a rebuilt H-5 class tender. What a nice unexpected find.Click for larger image Just when I drive off, the crossing gates lower and shortly after a BNSF SW1500 switcher moves across with a cut of cars. I take a picture thinking that one never knows if this might be one of the former GN SW1500s. And it is! BNSF 3452 is former GN 206 and is finally, at age twenty-six, wearing a coat of GN's orange and green! It was delivered new in Big Sky Blue paint. Next stop will be the Rutland depot located at the Sioux Empire Fairgrounds. I'm hoping to find the grounds open. I'm lucky as the grounds are indeed open, and it's an easy drive across the grounds where I find the small depot inClick for larger image a historical village. It's kept company by a NP and a M&StL caboose. I get the obligatory photos and head back out of the fairgrounds where I'm stopped by a crossing Dakota & Iowa RR train. I spot an older looking BN hopper in the consist and take a photo but alas - after checking the number - no Great Northern. You can't have them all, I guess. Waiting for the rest of the train to pass I discover that I had forgotten to visit the bridge across the Big Sioux river so it's back into town again. The bridge is conveniently located in Nelson Park alongside the river so access is easy. Click for larger imageI get my photos and record the built-date of 1924. So, I'm done here. It's still early so I decide to head down to Sioux City hoping to visit GN 1355, a H-5 class Pacific currently under restoration. But first it's off to Lennox for the depot there. To be short; couldn't find it. Then to Viborg for the depot which reportedly had been moved to a farm. I have fairly good indications of where this farm is located, so I set out to find it. A short look around the area brings me to the farm and the depot! Wow, a 'farm' depot that I actually find; unique! I go to the house to ask permission to take pictures of the depot but find nobody home. I look around to find anybody there but besidesClick for larger image the interested-but-friendly dogs no one is home. On my way out I pass the depot and take a few grab shots just to have a record of it. Next; Irene (the town, that is). The Irene depot is reported as being moved two blocks south and located at the local elevator company but I can't find it there. Must have outgrown its usefulness. Too bad. On to Volin for another depot that was once moved to an elevator company. Here I have more luck; the depot is still there. All boarded up, missing its bay window and with badly peeling paint but still looking sound. It appears to still be in use for storage. I continue southwestClick for larger image towards Yankton. The depot here was moved to the Yankton Territorial Museum. As I didn't have an exact location for it, it took me a while to find the depot. Located at Westside park the Yankton depot is nicely restored and sitting in a railroad setting complete with ex BN caboose 10047, ex NP 10416), a speeder shed, railroad cross bucks and some signals. After a short look around it's back to the car for the one hour drive to Sioux City, IA to finish up with yesterday's program. Sioux City is the biggest city in the area and if you didn't notice already driving into town the heavy traffic and road construction will tell you. With some detours I Click for larger image manage to get to the first stop; the old GN yard at Springdale where the old GN turntable should still be. I try from all sides but with a jam-packed yard I can only get a small glimpse of it from way in the distance. Click for larger image Due to time constraints I decide to not go into the yard office and ask for permission to go see it. I'll leave that for another trip. Now to the biggest reason I came to Sioux City for; GN 1355. I sure hope I will be able to get to it. Well, luck is apparently with me today as I find the Siouxland Historical Railroad Association  volunteers at work at the former Milwaukee roundhouse complex where #1355 is located today. They are all friendly and willing to let me in, show me around and let me take as many pictures as I like. I learn that they're there to prepare for an open house to be held the next day. About GN 1355 I learn that the restoration is about 75% complete and is basically down to putting the engine back together. The group has help now from Click for larger image the MILW 261 steam group which helps a lot in getting the more difficult things done. Currently funds have dried up though, so it's more waiting for the restoration to be completed. The group also owns other equipment; a small GE 45-ton switcher, a NP caboose and a Milwaukee dining car share the roundhouse with #1355. Outside several freight cars can be found as well as C&NW caboose 11009. The SHRA is also restoring the remaining buildings. I'm being shown theClick for larger image beautifully restored roundhouse roof. Rebuilt in kind with wood aged to look exactly like the original beams of which some are still present. A very nice job. I thank the nice people for their time and wish them luck with their restoration efforts. Before leaving I stop to take some photos of the turntable and roundhouse. Click for larger imageIt's already early in the afternoon and I still have quite a trip (350 miles) ahead of me so I have to get going towards Hawarden for GN caboose X480 there. I find the caboose located right where advertised; at the depot. Painted red with a GN logo that misses the mark by quite a bit, the caboose looks to be in pretty good condition, although the steps are missing. At the back of the caboose I find an ancient bicycle that would scare the lights out of the most daring cyclist! Beats me why they had to build them like that back then. Close by I find three more cabooses; ex Milwaukee horizontal ribbed bay window cabooses of the Dakota and Iowa RR (11, 12 & 99).Click for larger image I get some pictures to share with Roger Kirkpatrick who keeps track of all remaining cabooses in the US and who is a major contributor to this website when it comes to cabooses. Next stop; Sioux Center. On my way I cross the former GN line just north of Maurice and spot a rather long wood trestle and plate girder bridge combination. It's so unique looking that I just have to get some photos. The Sioux Center depot is the only remaining GN depot in Iowa. It's still in use by BNSF today. Before I know it I've crossed into Minnesota. I decide to skip looking for the Jasper depot supposedly located somewhere in Luverne and head straight to Hills for the depot there.Click for larger image I fairly quickly find a depot in town but it doesn't have that GN-feel to it. Unsure what heritage it is I walk into the gas station across the street and ask. The owner tells me that the depot across the street isn't the former GN depot but he knows where she is located instead. But before he tells me that, he takes me inside the adjoining building to show me his priced railroad possession; a beautifully restored GN baggage cart. You just find (GN) fans everywhere! I go to the location that he directed me to and find the GN Hills depot now in use as a barbershop. At first glance I'm doubting if it could have been the depot but the bay window hidden under the newly added awning quickly gives it away. Great, I found another one!Click for larger image Continuing north I elect to skip several impractical stops (inexact location, too far out of the way) and go straight for Pipestone where the depot is reported to still be standing. Well...not anymore! Moved or razed, who knows? I continue north and visit the town of Holland (of course!) to look for the depot there. But I can only confirm the uncertain disposition of 'razed or moved'. Then on to Ruthton for another one of these reports. I look all-over town and just when I want to throw in the towel I spot the depot on the north side of town on a side street close to the tracks. It has been converted Click for larger image into a two-car garage and appears to be in fairly good shape. Apparently it does pay to search for these uncertain ones from time to time. Next stop, twenty-seven miles down the road; the Marshall depot. Built out of brick it makes a perfect building for the BNSF Maintenance Of Way forces and is still in use as such. I manage to get my pictures just before the low setting sun gets blocked by the businesses across the tracks. Just in time. Well, the sun is setting now and the race is on again to catch as many GN relics as possible before it gets too dark for taking photos. I already had pictures contributed for the Green Valley and Cottonwood depots so I decide to skip them. I only do a brief search for the Click for larger image Hanley Falls depot which was moved off line and should now be part of a residence. I'm not finding it quick enough, so I continue on to Granite Falls where I hope to have more luck. On the way there I'm being entertained by a BNSF freight train keeping the same pace on the paralleling track. Luck is the operative word today and there is still some left when I get to Granite Falls. I quickly spot a depot next to a BNSF overpass and take some photos. But the depot doesn't look right; it can't be GN. Checking the map I notice another line going through town. It must be the old Milwaukee depot. I follow the GN tracks a bit further into town hoping to find another depot, and I do. The Tudor style GN Granite Falls depot is still sitting in it's old location and although it's mostly boarded up Click for larger image the roof is fairly new and the electricity is still connected. The rear of the building reveals its use with a BNSF 'Good Housekeeping' banner hanging on the wall. I spot a gondola on a spur across the tracks and go check it out. Here is that luck again; it's GN 72971! I hear the train I had followed into town approaching and decide to wait for it's passage. It stops for a crew change just out of sight though so I decide to not wait any longer and head further north. Next town is Maynard and it's depot is reported to be located west of town in a park. With darkness approaching fast I decide to make this my last search and head into town. Bouncing along broken up streets (yes, lets repave all the streets in one single go, please!) I look but can't find any building in town that resembles a depot. Click for larger image Tired of being bumped around I call it quits and head back to the highway. I get on the highway and glance one more time in my rearview mirror at the town behind me and what do I see? Yes (this just happens too much); the Maynard depot. I did not spot the depot before because it's shielded by some trees on the other side, but from this side the depot sign clearly gives it away. A quick U-turn and I pull up at the depot, which is now part of an antique shop. I quickly get some shots in almost full darkness and once again the versatility of my digital camera proves itself. With no more light left I make the final dash to my motel in St. Cloud. The depots on the Willmar-St. Cloud line will have to wait until later. Tired but back on schedule I hit the sack. Tomorrow people will be expecting me at MTM's Jackson Street Roundhouse in St. Paul.

 

Continue to Part 6 of my 2003 GN Finding Trip.