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.
Founded in 1872, Currie was the first organized town in Murray County, but it lacked rail service for nearly thirty years. Finally, in 1900, the Des Moines Valley Railway Company completed a thirty-eight-mile branch line extending from Bingham Lake to Currie. The line was immediately purchased by the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway—commonly called the Omaha Road. Regular rail service began in August of that year.
Rumors that the railway would extend westward proved untrue, and Currie remained the terminus of the line known as the Currie Branch. A hand-operated turntable was constructed in Currie in 1901 in order to more easily turn the steam engines around and return them east to Bingham Lake.
Constructed by the American Bridge Company of Chicago, the fifty-six-foot wood and steel turntable used a center-balanced (also called cantilever) construction style. This style consists of a plate-and-truss bridge carried on a single bearing known as a “sow in the saddle.”
The outer wheels, which ride on a circular track built around the edge of the pit, support the bridge as the entire weight of the locomotive rests on the bearing (though they do carry some of the weight if the load is out of balance). The pit was lined with Mankato limestone. The stones were dry-stacked so carefully that no cement was needed to hold them in place. In 1922, workers expanded the pit and installed a longer, seventy-foot turntable to accommodate larger steam engines.
As was the case with railways throughout the state, passenger traffic on the Currie Branch peaked in the early 1920s, then began a swift decline due to the advent of the automobile. In the mid-1920s, the passenger train to Currie was discontinued. Limited passenger service was provided by allowing people to ride in the cabooses of freight trains.
In the 1950s, diesel engines began to replace steam locomotives, rendering the turntable largely unnecessary. However, it was still used occasionally to turn diesel engines around, according to local reports.
Faced with declining freight traffic, the Omaha Road continued to reduce its rail service to Currie. By the mid-1950s, an agent no longer staffed the Currie depot, and the depot closed permanently in 1968.
The Omaha Road itself ceased to exist as a corporation in 1972, when it was dissolved by the Chicago & North Western Transportation Company. (The Chicago & North Western had maintained stock control of the Omaha Road since 1882.) By then, few trains came to Currie. Consequently, the railroad yard, turntable and tracks fell into disrepair. The last train left Currie in April 1977, and the Currie Branch line was officially abandoned in January 1980.
However, even before the Chicago & North Western officially abandoned the Currie line, local residents took the initiative to preserve the community’s railway heritage and its historic turntable. In 1972, the local Poco-a-Poco 4-H Club, led by adult leaders Louise Gervais and Dorothy Ruppert and youth leaders Colleen Illg and Roxanne Probst, launched a project to restore the turntable and repair the old depot.
Their efforts ultimately led to the creation of the End-O-Line Railroad Park & Museum, part of the Murray County Parks Department, in 1975. The turntable was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Since its beginnings in 1972, the End-O-Line Railroad Park & Museum has expanded and grown from the original 2.8 acres to its current twelve-acre campus. Over the years, the park has added an engine house, a Grand Trunk Western Railway caboose, a section foreman’s house, and a Georgia Northern steam locomotive, among other buildings and railroad artifacts. The turntable— the only exclusively hand-operated railroad turntable in its original location still operational in Minnesota—remains the highlight of the park.
Chicago Saint Paul Minneapolis and Omaha Turntable, National Register of Historic Places Nomination File, State Historic Preservation Office, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Currie Centennial/Currie End-O-Line Park binder, 1972–2004
Manuscript Collection, Murray County Historical Museum, Slayton
Description: Newspaper articles and paper ephemera documenting the creation and development of End-o-Line Railroad Park and Museum.
Grant, H. Roger. “‘Minnesota’s Good Railroad’: The Omaha Road” Minnesota History 57, no. 4 (Winter 2000–2001): 198–210.
Luecke, John C. The Chicago and Northwestern in Minnesota. Eagan, MN: Grenadier Publications, 1990.
Murray County Historical Society Book Committee.“End-O-Line Railroad Park.” In A History of Murray County, Minnesota, 101. Marceline, MO: Walsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 1982.
Prosser, Richard S. Rails to the North Star: A Minnesota Railroad Atlas. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
“Regular Train Service Commenced August 1st, 1900.” Currie Pioneer, January 4, 1901.
Schwieterman, Joseph P. When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2004.
“Taps a Rich Territory, New Line to Currie Opened.” Currie Pioneer, June 28, 1901.
Manuscript Collection, End-O-Line Railroad Park & Museum, Currie
Description: Newspaper and journal articles, correspondence, and paper ephemera documenting the history of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Turntable in Currie.
Vosburgh, Michael R. “Currie’s Rail Park Expanding.” Worthington Daily Globe, October 25, 1989.
In 1972, a local 4-H club leads a community effort to restore Currie’s historic Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha turntable and preserve its railroad heritage in the End-O-Line Railroad Park & Museum.
Currie, Murray County’s first organized town, is founded.
The Currie branch line of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway is completed; regular rail service in Currie begins.
Construction of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Turntable in Currie.
The turntable is enlarged to accommodate larger steam engines.
The Currie depot closes.
Currie Poco-a-Poco 4-H Club begins a Community Pride project to clean up the turntable and restore the Currie depot.
The End-O-Line Railroad Park & Museum opens.
Lieutenant Governor Rudy Perpich speaks at a bicentennial kickoff celebration at End-O-Line Railroad Park; Currie is designated an official bicentennial city.
The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Turntable is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
End-O-Line Railroad Park & Museum hosts Murray County’s sesquicentennial celebration.