Tuesday, August 5, 2003
2003 Lines East Trip
by Lindsay Korst
How about a 3,500 mile, 9 day trip through the
wilds of Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana
looking for GN depots, cabooses, etc.? Read on...
Saturday, July 26, 2003
Approximate driving mileage: 270
It's an early start (4:00 am) for me as I catch
the first plane on Northwest Airlines from Seattle
to the Twin Cities.
This year I am skipping the 2003 GNRHS convention
in Havre, MT (Blasphemy! Blasphemy!) but hope to
make up for this by taking enough pictures (300
plus) of GN-related stuff to keep my website fresh
for the next year. And yes, I WILL attend the
Spokane 2004 convention...see you all there!
I arrive MSP around noon, hit the local Target store
for provisions (water, film, munchies) then to
St. Paul for a visit to the fabled Como Shops hobby
store at Bandera Square. I browse for a solid hour
and then finally pick up a copy of "The Saint Paul
& Pacific Railroad" by Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr.
as a souvie to add to my collection.
On to New Brighton, MN for some photos of the X-271
in the city park. Now it is a loooong, 2 1/2 hour
drive north to near Aitken to see the unknown, but
definitely GN caboose at an antique dealer just off
US 169. I park the car and am immediately greeted
by a very friendly and shaggy dog who wants to be
petted first before pictures will commence! The
caboose has a GN emblem only on the east side and
it is off its trucks. It appears to be something
from the wood, 25' series (X-300 through X-700?).
Now on through Brainerd and the ex-NP shops, to my
holy grail at Nisswa, MN, the X-27, one of the few
remaining "slant" all-steel cabooses from the
X-1 through X-30 series. Ahhh...there it is.
Hmpf. They painted it green and yellow. Oh well,
a dozen shots are taken for posterity in the low,
evening light. I'm told this caboose was originally
painted in an NP scheme which would have been
UNACCEPTABLE, so neo-BN scheme is forgivable.
Now for the final leg of the day to my hotel in
Little Falls, MN. Why not stay in Brainerd? Well,
when I made reservations in April, every single,
frikken room in Brainerd was taken. I can't imagine
what was going on this weekend, but maybe one of
you MN locals can tell me.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
Approximate driving mileage: 460
Little Falls, MN to Moorhead, MN
An early start today. I head to the Perkins
restaurant and see 3 people sitting at tables
with coffee and no food. There are no
employees visible and there is a gent trying
to pay for his coffee with a, "Hello? Hello?"
to imaginary people in the back room.
Not good. Across the road I go to McDonalds
for another bun and run. Sigh.
At McDonalds as I open my window to get my
meal, I am swarmed by dozens of the Minnesota
State Bird, a passel of blood-thirsty mosquitoes,
several of which will keep me company for much
of the day INSIDE the car until I finally stop
and squash them all. Bastards.
On to St. Cloud, I stop at the James J. Hill
statue, or rather half-of-a-statue in Eastman
Park and take a photo. Funny, it looks like
the sculptor had a good start from Jim Hill's
head down to about his beltline when either
funding dried up or the artist kicked the
bucket. I also take a token shot of the
St. Cloud ex-GN depot for good measure.
The next stop is Melrose, MN and my meeting
with the only "curmudgeon" of the entire trip.
At Melrose, is the X-719 caboose. It is early
Sunday morning and no one appears to be around.
It looks like some sort of "frontier village"
where you drive up, pay a few bucks, and see
the historical items.
I come quietly up the road and stop short of
the caboose. I get out and snap a couple
of pictures. I run out of film, so I go back
to my car and load film. At this point, the
owner comes out and asks me what I want. I
say I am a GN fan and would like permission
to photograph his caboose.
"Oh no, no, I didn't give you permission for
that. I'm still restoring it". I apologize
and tell him I will leave and do so. Strangely
enough, there weren't any "No Trespassing"
signs out front. Note to future photogs:
Simply walk on the bike trail next to the
caboose for your pictures (it is a morning
More adventure. While driving west on I-94,
I came across an elderly woman driving
towards me the wrong way down an off ramp.
THAT was exciting. I flashed my lights and
honked the horn and I think she got the idea
and did a "3 point turn" right then and there.
The next stop is Alexandria, MN which has a
very nice GN depot quite covered in ivy. The
station has been converted into a restaurant
and attempts to lure thirsty bike riders off
the trail for drinks and appetizers.
Fergus Falls, MN has, by far, the nicest
depot I've seen. It is virtually intact and
the tracks are being used by the Ottertail Valley
Railroad on this ex-GN line. The
depot even still has its 3 color train order
signal AND its flimsy stand (for hooping up
orders). Very oochie!
North on US 59, I photograph yet another
depot/restaurant at Erhard, MN which still
has the station signs intact.
Lunch at Detroit Lakes (Hi there, President
Larson!!!!!) and then on to the Maplelag Resort
for shots of the GN X-85 in a very nice red
paint scheme. As I take my pictures, I am
set upon by a very determined group of
mosquitoes who keep buzzing around my head.
Also at Maplelag are 4 other cabooses
(ex-MILW, NP, SOO and one other).
Now, it is only 1 pm and I am done and a mere
hour's drive from Moorhead, MN. I can't quit
now! I punch north to lovely Erskine, MN
which has a very cool, small, depot still
intact trackside. On to Crookston, MN and
the Polk County museum. Well, their caboose
is actually a Frisco (says SLSF on the trucks)
and was built in 1974, so not GN. Also, the
Crookston GN depot appears to be gone. I
watch a westbound coal train thunder by and
then follow it west getting a picture of it
near Mallory, MN. The X-259 caboose which
was supposed to be moved from Farmington, MN
to East Grand Forks appears to be in hiding.
I spend an hour looking for it, but can't
locate it. I later find out it is in a
"secure location". Fine. Be that way.
The Grand Forks, ND depot still looks good and
I get a few shots of it in the low, evening
light. I head south on I-29 to Fargo. I catch
the coal train seen previously at Buxton and
get a shot of him. Interestingly, he has a
green signal south, but backs up to pick up
his conductor first (he was blocking one of
two crossings in town and the conductor was
waving people through the rear crossing).
On to Moorhead where I check in for the evening.
After a quick dinner, it's downtown to Fargo
for some evening shots of the X-227 caboose
and ex-GN depot. At the GN depot is a very
nice, almost Tyco-looking boxcar painted in
a very light Glacier Green scheme with red
goat emblem and lettering.
Monday, July 28, 2003
Approximate driving mileage: 430
Moorhead, MN to Minot, ND
A quick stop into Fargo again for some morning
shots of the GN depot, caboose and boxcar.
Then it is on to Hillsboro, ND for a picture of
the ugly GN brick depot. There is also a caboose
in the nearby park, but it is Frisco (SLSF).
Whilst nosing around in the early morning light,
I spot and photograph some rail with an 1893
date stamp on one of the side tracks!
Now it is on to a veritable GN North Dakota depot
FEAST with stations to photograph in Mayville,
Portland, Hatton, Northwood and Larimore.
North of US 2, there is a caboose (X-59) and
depot located a good mile offline at Park
River, ND on the west side of town. Even further
north at Dresden, ND is the X-308 caboose.
After lunch in Langdon at the local Dairy Queen
(where I am thoroughly stared at and scrutinized
by every person in the joint), I stumble across
the ex-GN depot which is now the city library.
Back south to Lakota (I like that, Lakota, Dakota...
has a nice ring to it), where I capture the small
depot on film. Devils Lake has a GN depot to shoot
and just across the street is the boonie restored
Great Northern Hotel, now being used for apartments.
And no visit to D.L. would be complete without a
picture of the X-181 "Hutch Line" caboose, now
being used as a local watering hole and nicely
painted in the red GN scheme to boot.
The next stop is the Pioneer Museum in Rugby where
I pay my $5 and get some really nice, evening light
shots of the X-415 caboose and the Penn, ND depot
on display there. I obligingly trudge downtown
for a Rugby depot picture as well.
Berwick, ND, which is practically a ghost town,
has a huge GN depot hidden in the trees and moved
north of the mainline about 200 feet. I almost
missed it, but that telltale bay window will tip
you off every time.
Granville, ND's depot is worth a couple frames
and then it is off to Minot where I get photos
of X-51 caboose and Minot depot in the fading light.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Approximate driving mileage: 450
Minot, ND to Williston, ND
I am up early and...it is raining! Not good.
At Gassman Coulee trestle and Des Lacs just west
of town it is too dark for any photographs so I
keep going. By the time I reach Stanley, the
sun has returned. I shoot the Amtrak depot and
an older GN depot in a field just west of town.
From here I turn north along a GN branch line and
find a nice depot at Powers Lake which has been
moved up the hillside next to the main highway.
From here, the tracks are all paved over at road
crossings, so the line's future doesn't look too
bright. The Zahl, ND depot is now located at
Hanks, ND and the Grenora depot has been converted
into the city hall offices. Grenora, of course,
is named after the GREat NOrthern RAilway. Here,
they are tearing up the tracks and it won't be
long before this branch is history.
South to Williston for lunch and then all the way
south and west to lovely Lindsay, MT for some sign
shots although the "town" is nothing more than a
wide spot in the road.
Unfortunately coming into Glendive, MT on my way
down there, I meet the only Montana fuzz I'll see
this entire trip who tickets me for 80mph in a
70mph zone, and then pockets the $20 fine. Sheesh.
It must have been my out-of-state
I was passed by locals going a lot faster than
that. Oh, for the days of "safe and prudent"
speed. Those long, straight roads can be so
I head north, out of Glendive and shoot the NP/GN
depot at Sidney, MT. Just north of there in
Fairview, MT is the fabulous Yellowstone River
lift bridge and Cartwright tunnel (only rail
tunnel in N.D.). This was to be Great Northern's
second mainline across Montana but was put on hold
due to economic conditions and never completed.
You can walk right onto the bridge and across
the river and through the curved tunnel (which I
did). I took pictures of all the signs describing
the never-finished "Montana Eastern". The rails
were pulled out in the mid-1980's.
In the evening light, I snag pictures of GN depots
at Alexander, Arnegard and Watford City. Back to
Williston, I check into the hotel and in the
remaining light get a shot of the BLUE X-394
caboose and Alamo, ND depot just north of town.
Oh yes, and no visit to Williston would be
complete without a pilgrimage to see the O-1
class 2-8-2 steam engine 3094 near the GN
downtown depot! Recently the boiler was repainted
green but...it looks like they ran out of paint
on the engineer's side and there is a gap
between the smokebox and front of boiler that
is still black!
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Approximate driving mileage: 450
Williston, ND to Havre, MT
Another LONG day (this is a vacation???)
Anyway, enough sniveling. As I'm filling
my gas tank I notice the name of the service
station....KUM and GO. No, I am not making
this up. I take a picture for posterity and
then it is on with the show...
I head straight west on US 2 for Culbertson, MT.
I take pictures of the X-708 caboose and the
passenger depot in town and then go north up
the Opheim branch line. Like the Grenora branch,
it appears they are getting ready to scrap this
line as just the Plentywood and Scobey depots
remain. Between Flaxville and Redstone on the
side of the road, I see what looks like half
of a depot on wheels about to be demolished!
I can see the smashed lumber of the rest of
the depot nearby (could this be the former
Senior's Center/Flaxville, MT depot?).
Also at Scobey is the ex-NP caboose painted
up as GN X-409 at the museum west of town. It
looks very nice in the morning light although
the paint is starting to peel.
Now it is south through the Indian Reservation
to Wolf Point, MT for a depot shot. Next is the
Nashua depot moved back from the tracks and used
as a Senior Center. South towards Fort Peck Dam,
I see the X-187 "caboose" (really a heavyweight
car) and the GN 535 baggage car.
North to US 2 at Glasgow, I get depot pictures
and some nice photos of the X-426 caboose. Heading
west, I shoot the nicely-repainted Malta, MT depot
and a very spiffy-looking Rarus Railway GP7 in
Harlem, MT used as a grain elevator switcher.
Chinook, MT also has a GN depot worth some film.
At last I reach Havre! I take all the standard GN
shots in town -- the depot, the James J. Hill statue
and the S-2 4-8-4 #2584 in all her faded boiler
green glory. There is a GN caboose at the RV
park and also in a field in North Havre and, of course,
a shot of the "Great Northern Inn" sign, where the
2003 GNRHS convention was held. I also grab a shot
of the Havre diesel shop and the famous "overhead"
view of the yard from the west end of town.
Thursday, July 31, 2003
Approximate driving mileage: 430
Havre, MT to Minot, ND
A long drive east today, but it went fairly quickly
as I would only be picking up shots I missed on the
I leave Havre in the dark of 4:30 am to get an
early start. East of town, I come upon a westbound
Z train who dims his headlight for me! I turn my
lights off and on and he serenades me with a highball
as we pass. Classy guys, these Lines East engineers.
I reach Glasgow at daybreak and have breakfast. The
next stop is Williston for morning shots of the Alamo
Depot and X-394 "blue" caboose. There are still GN
depots at Epping and Tioga, ND which are worth some
film. At Stanley, I see an unknown BN caboose and GN depot
moved from Ross, ND.
Back in Minot, I head out to Gavin Yard and taking
advantage of the overcast skies, shoot south and get
a few pictures of the two-tone brick yard tower. Next,
I take gravel roads to Verendrye trestle and the
David Thompson memorial just in time for an eastbound
coming down the Surrey - New Rockford line.
Back to the other side of Minot, I photograph the
Gassman Coulee trestle just as an eastbound happens
by (westbound would have been better, but such is
railfanning) and finish my photography for the day
with a low light shot of the nice GN semaphore
on display just east of the Minot depot.
Friday, August 1, 2003
Approximate driving mileage: 330
Minot, ND to Moorhead, MN
This morning is a direct run along the Soo Line
beside US 52 to New Rockford, ND. This line,
now Canadian Pacific, appears to be busy (I saw
4 trains) and unsignaled as well. The odd thing
was, all 4 trains were parked and an oil truck
was refueling one set of units (derailment?).
On into New Rockford which is a much bigger town
than I expected. Meaning, I couldn't find the
depot on display! So I did my old trick of going
into a supermarket, buying some munchies, and asking
the oldest looking clerk I could find where the
museum was. Bingo -- head out the road out there
to the west end of town by a church, she said.
I thanked the lady, went over and got my pictures
and then headed to McHenry, ND which has a very
nice NP caboose on display along with a Russell
Snow Plow. Russells were always my favorite
piece of snow removal equipment -- almost an
honorary caboose what with that jaunty cupola
up top and rakish side wings as well.
The depot is labeled as McHenry, but is in fact
the ex-GN depot moved from Glenfield, ND.
Since I was so close, I drove 7 miles east to
take a picture of the "Welcome to Binford, N. Dak"
sign (does anybody know what time it is? Tool Time!)
I had planned to visit the ex-NP trestle at Valley
City and the ex-GN crossing at Casselton, but after
such a long trip, I checked into my hotel, then
went out and saw a movie instead! (American Wedding).
Enough trains...ENOUGH!!! ;p
Saturday, August 2, 2003
Approximate driving mileage: 300
Moorhead, MN to Minneapolis, MN
Up at the usual time (early) taking I-94 to
Barnesville, MN which has a very nice depot,
ex-GN whistle post (see above) and water tower.
Then it was over to Breckinridge for a shot of
the depot and the X-111 caboose which is tightly
wedged in behind trees and a fence and quite
difficult to get much more than an end shot.
Now I was on Minnesota Highway 9 following the
old route of the Empire Builder. Much of the
way still has the cool, old pairs of three
color block signals and telegraph poles making
this a scene right out of the 1950's.
Along the route, I find and photograph depots
at Herman, Donnelly, Morris and Hancock.
Arriving at Willmar, I take obligatory shots
of the brick depot still used by BNSF. Then to
the north side of Willmar to visit the P-2
class 4-8-2 steam engine #2523.
I'm happy to report that the museum folks have
repainted the cab lettering AND a beautiful
GN logo on the tender so the engine looks much
better than my previous visit in 2001. Okay,
the white painted tires and counterweights
are a bit much and that choice of bright
green is jarring BUT mebbe it'll fade after
a few years... Still, mustn't quibble over
semantics. 2523 is a fine looking engine
and she does look much better with her proper
My last two depot shots for the day are at
Atwater, MN and Dassel, site of a small museum.
The "Dassel" depot was actually the GN depot
brought over from Cokato.
On to Bloomington, MN and a visit to the
Mall of America! I pick up some "Trinkets
and Baubles" for the Mrs. back at home!
Sunday, August 3, 2003
Approximate driving mileage: 200
Visiting GN stuff around the Twin Cities
Today is a catch up day to visit all those
spots I missed or overlooked during my 2001
First stop is to downtown St. Paul to
photograph various GN buildings BUT...
it is very FOGGY outside, so I press on to
the first caboose of the day near Lindstrom.
I pull off onto the rural road near the X-640
caboose and notice another car coming up behind
me. It is Sunday morning and I figure it is
just a local going to church, so I pull over
and let him pass.
Making my way slowly down the road, I finally
spot X-640 behind someone's house with a blue
tarp over part of it. I whip a U-turn and park
by the side of the road. Now here comes that
same car...and pulls into the driveway! Hmmm...
I may have some explaining to do being parked
outside this guy's house...wait a minute.
Now the car is backing out and pulls up on
the other shoulder. We both roll our windows
down and...it is Ben Ringnalda of Great
Northern Empire website fame! Holy Train Hype!
What are the odds of running into Ben clear
out here in the middle of nowhere?
This is great! We shake hands in the middle
of the road and both take pictures of X-640
and then discover we're both headed to the
MTM tourist line at Osceola, WI.
We head over there to photograph their GN
equipment including two coaches, a caboose,
the A-11 business car and a switcher painted
as NP, but actually LST&T. The switcher has
a very cool Nathan Air Whistle, too.
Ben and I briefly ponder riding the brunch
train, but the 3 hours involved would take too
much time today. Instead, we head to a family
restaurant in Stillwater, MN, have lunch and
shoot the breeze for 90 minutes about what
we've seen and done.
A wonderful meeting! Finally we go our separate
ways. I'm heading back to St. Paul. Luckily
downtown is still fairly deserted and I get pictures
of the first GN office building (now trendy condos
called, "The Great Northern"), the second GN office
building (Railroad and Bank building), the James J.
Hill Reference Library and a visit to the MTM
Jackson Street Roundhouse which is....uh oh,
CLOSED on Sunday! Curses! Their website said it
would be open. Oh well. Back to Summit Avenue and
some pictures of both the James J. Hill house at
240 Summit and the Louis Hill house next door at
Since MTM Jackson Street is closed, I have some time
and I decide to take the 90 minute tour of the
J.J. Hill mansion. It is well worth the $8.00 and
I even got to stand in Jim Hill's bathroom! That was
a hoot. Webmaster LIN-Z daring to tread where
James Jerome used to wash up. After the tour, I pick
up a couple books about the mansion for my collection
along with some interior postcards (flash pictures
not allowed inside) for the website. In all, a very
And THAT, my friends, is my trip. I flew back to
Seattle the next day and here I sit typing this up.
Now I've got to start scanning and posting up some
of these 300+ pictures I've taken. It was a great
trip. GO GREAT NORTHERN!!!