Rock Island Excursion, 1854

On February 22, 1854, the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad completed the first rail line to connect the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean. To promote that feat the company contacted notable East Coast citizens and journalists and invited them to ride their train to Rock Island. From there, the visitors took a steamboat trip up the Mississippi, stopping at St. Paul. The journalists, pleased with what they saw, wrote of the beauty and splendor of a region that many in the East thought was little more than a wilderness.

Anoka–Champlin Mississippi River Bridge

Constructed in 1884, the Anoka–Champlin Bridge 4380 was the first structural span of the Mississippi River between Anoka and Champlin. A 1920s renovation strengthened the bridge, replacing the original’s stone materials with steel.

Beargrease, John (1858–1910)

The US Congress ordered the beginning of mail service from Superior to Grand Portage, Minnesota, in 1855, but service was spotty. John Beargrease and his brothers came to the rescue. They began covering a regular mail route between Two Harbors and Grand Marais in 1879.

Bicycling Craze, 1890s

In the 1890s, after bicycles became more comfortable and affordable, bicycling swept the nation, Minnesota included. Minnesotans who embraced bicycling at this time helped lay the groundwork for a number of lasting changes in American society, from shorter skirts to better roads.

Cable Cars of the Minneapolis and St. Paul Street Railway Companies

Before Minneapolis and St. Paul upgraded their street railway systems from plodding horse cars to modern electric trolleys, both cities flirted with the use of cable cars. Costly to build, only two lines operated in St. Paul before both cities converted to electric streetcar systems.

Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Turntable

In August 1900, rail service to the community of Currie began with the completion of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha branch line from Bingham Lake. A hand-operated turntable was built the following year, expanded in 1922, and used until the advent of diesel locomotives in the 1950s. In 1972, a local 4-H club restored the historic turntable and preserved Currie’s railroad heritage through the creation of the End-O-Line Railroad Park & Museum.

Construction of the Stockwood Fill, 1906–1909

Construction of the Stockwood Fill in Clay County between 1906 and 1909 taught Northern Pacific Railway engineers a bitter lesson about building big on northwestern Minnesota’s former-lake-bottom soil.

Currie Line Railroad

Railroads played an important role in the development of Cottonwood County. The 38.6-mile railway called the Currie Line hastened the growth of agriculture and establishment of towns in the northern part of the county in only a decade.

This Day in Minnesota History

December 20, 2017

The last Boeing 747 jumbo jet in Delta Airlines' fleet makes its final landing at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The long-distance luxury jet, introduced in 1968, put Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta in 2008, on the international flight map.

Duluth Incline Railway

In December 1891, the Duluth Street Railway Company opened an incline railway on the right-of-way of Seventh Avenue West. The company had received a charter from the state in 1881 to build a streetcar line for Duluth, and this railway was part of the larger system. The hillside was too steep for a regular rail line, and cable powered lines were often used in similar situations.

Duluth Ship Canal Opening, 1871

The opening of the Duluth Ship Canal in 1871 was a historical turning point for the city of Duluth and the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior.

Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Depot, Endion

Admired for its jewel-like character, the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range depot at Endion was constructed in 1899. The depot was designed by notable Duluth architect I. Vernon Hill, and it is one of the last small passenger depots of its kind.

Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway

The Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway (DM&IR) was a small railroad that hauled iron ore and taconite from the mines of northern Minnesota’s Mesabi and Vermilion Iron Ranges to docks on Lake Superior at Duluth and Two Harbors. It operated in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific Railway

The Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific Railway (DW&P) was a Minnesota railroad that operated between International Falls and Duluth. It connected to the Canadian National at International Falls and to the Northern Pacific at Duluth. As a subsidiary of the Canadian National for almost all of the twentieth century, it moved freight along an artery between the Canadian West and the American Midwest through Minnesota.

Father Louis Hennepin Suspension Bridge

The Father Louis Hennepin Bridge was built in 1855 to take advantage of the transport possibilities provided by the Mississippi River above St. Anthony Falls. It was the first bridge built to span the Mississippi river, and made crossing its length above the Falls much easier. The rushing rapids helped to create industry on the river and spurred a population boom that made Minneapolis the most populated city in Minnesota.

Goodsell Observatory, Northfield

The Goodsell Observatory and its predecessor, a smaller observatory that opened in 1878, helped keep trains running on time and brought national prominence to Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.

Great Northern Railway

The Great Northern Railway was a transcontinental railroad system that extended from St. Paul to Seattle. Among the transcontinental railroads, it was the only one that used no public funding and only a few land grants. As the northernmost of these lines, the railroad spurred immigration and the development of lands along the route, especially in Minnesota.

Hill, James J. (1838–1916)

James J. Hill fit the nickname “empire builder.” He assembled a rail network—the Great Northern (1878), the Northern Pacific (1896), and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (1901)—that stretched from Duluth to Seattle across the north, and from Chicago south to St. Louis and then west to Denver. He was one of the most successful railroad magnates of his time.

Hjemkomst (ship)

While recovering from a fall in 1971, Moorhead Junior High School guidance counselor Robert Asp read a book on Viking shipbuilding. This sparked the thought that he should build and sail his own Viking ship. After ten years of planning, building, and training, the ship named Hjemkomst sailed from Duluth, Minnesota, to Oslo, Norway.

Horsecars of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Street Railway Companies

With the rapid growth of the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis in the mid-nineteenth century, the need for a reliable form of public transportation became apparent. Horse-drawn streetcars provided the answer and sparked the growth of what would become one of the most extensive streetcar systems in the country.

Lindbergh, Charles A. (1902–1974)

Charles A. Lindbergh, a native of Little Falls, became a world-famous aviator after completing the first nonstop, solo transatlantic flight in May 1927.

Lowry, Thomas (1843–1909)

Thomas Lowry was one of the most influential and admired men in Minneapolis at the time of his death in 1909. Streetcars, railroads, libraries, and many other endeavors benefited from his involvement.

Luce Line Railroad

The Luce Line Railroad, known by several different names, was a small rural Minnesota railroad that operated through much of the twentieth century. It connected rural communities in western Minnesota to the Twin Cities and offered transportation for passengers, lumber, grain, and other commodities.

Milwaukee Road in Minnesota

The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company, better known as the Milwaukee Road, was a large railroad network that operated in the state of Minnesota for nearly 130 years. It provided freight and passenger service to many communities, playing a vital economic role. In 2017, much of the Minnesota route survives as a part of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Minneapolis Great Northern Depot

The Minneapolis Great Northern Depot (also called the Great Northern Station) served as an important hub for passengers of several railroads throughout the state of Minnesota for more than sixty-five years.

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