Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Train Museum

We have left central Minnesota behind and moved to the shores of Lake Superior. We had originally intended to stay in Duluth but discovered that it was cheaper to stay in Duluth's somewhat downscale nextdoor neighbor, Superior, WI.  So, of course, we decided to stay in Superior's even more downscale and obscure border colony, a place called South Range. If any of you claim to have heard of this place before, you're lying. We've told a number of locals where we are staying and most of them have never heard of it either.
Trains of yesteryear
Our first day in town we decided to go to the Lake Superior Train Museum. It is housed in the old Duluth Union Depot which is an interesting piece of architecture originally built in 1892 in a French Norman style, probably not like any train station you have ever seen. It served seven different railroad companies and could accommodate up to 5000 passengers a day. By the 1960s it was no
Duluth Union Depot
longer a working station and the city's Junior League started pulling together a number of basically unrelated cultural organizations to put the space to use for the community. The train Museum came about because the bottom level of the building still had functioning tracks and switches and it seemed obvious to use them to preserve some of the local railroading heritage. The building currently also holds the Duluth Art Institute, the Duluth Playhouse, the Minnesota ballet, the Veterans Memorial Hall, the St. Louis County historical Society and Matinee Musicale.

On the bottom level of the station where passengers use to board the trains, they have constructed a model early 20th century town around the train exhibits. It includes:
The platform and ice cream parlor
A drugstore

Useless nostrums.  Nothing much has changed.

The local pawn shop and several other businesses
Last but not least, the doctors office

and his horseless carriage.

The engines were all spiffy and spotless, unlike when they were actually in service.

I liked the fact that the trains on display were all from local lines.

In the glory days, each train had its own style of fine china.  They had about a dozen examples on display.
A wedge type snow plough.  This could get bogged down in heavier drifts.

A rotary plough was a better solution.  The steam engine would spin the blades and cut through the snow.

The colorful little engine above was the first locomotive in the state of Minnesota.  It was brought up through the great lakes to Duluth on a barge pulled by a steam boat and ran between Duluth and St. Andrew (since renamed Minneapolis) back in the 1880s.  It was a time when something as functional as a train could also be a work of art.

This represents about 20% of what they had on display.  We daudled for about 2 hours and felt it was time well spent.  The only thing that would have made it better would be if 6 year old Christopher could have been there.  Chugga-chugga-choo-choooo!

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