Sunday morning in small town Minnesota. Currie Minnesota, is the Gateway to Lake Shetek and home to the End Of the Line Rail Museum which houses a train, a depot and assorted buildings.
If you ever are in Cokato, Minn and up for a little history, you can can find it by heading three miles North on Wright County 3. You will find yourself at a corner with a school, a sauna, a log cabin and a Temperance Hall. Until I stumbled across it, I did not know of it’s existence.
The story of the Minneapolis Finntown begins with the 1864 arrival of Finnish immigrants on their way to homestead land near Cokato, in Wright County, some fifty miles west. Minneapolis became their “big city.” Already in the late 1860’s, Finnish immigrant men returned to raise capitol for their homesteads, working in the Minneapolis brickyards. Their families came to expect regular migrations between the homesteads and Minneapolis. The pattern became the way the Finntown community formed and continued. Minneapolis became the workplace, and the rural areas became the homes. (1)
The Cokato Finnish American Historical Society preserves the history of the Finnish pioneers and others who settled in this area of Wright County. The society is a non-profit organization that owns and maintains several historic buildings located three miles north of Cokato on County Road 3. The Finnish Pioneer Park is commonly known as Temperance Corner: (2)
My shots are a mixture of some taken this spring and some from late spring 2013. While I’m not generally a fan of snow photos, I think the snow helps give perspective to how this place feels in the when the Finnish people lived there during the winter.
Log Cabin – Built in 1866, this 10′ x 12′ cabin was home to 15+ people one winter.
Savu Sauna – Built in 1868, acclaimed to be the oldest sauna in North America.
Lee School house – Opened in 1899 and originally located in French Lake Township.
Temperance Hall – One of the oldest functioning temperance halls, built about 1896.
Pioneer Memorial – Erected July 1949 in memory of the Finnish pioneers.
Last summer I travelled to Blomkest MN for an antique power show. Ever since I became interested in photography a few years ago, I try to maximize the new things I see. So I’ll take a slightly longer route sometimes to get somewhere if I have the time, just so I can pass through a town I haven’t been in before.
Lake Lillian a town of a little more than 200 people in Kandiyohi county MN was a couple miles off the direct route to Blomkest, but worth the visit. I stopped for lunch on my way back from West Central Antique Power Collectors Show that I had went to earlier in the morning. Like another blogger I know, I always enjoy finding a restaurant that features real cooking and not just items that come off of the food service truck.
The Food Garage is a remodeled Ford auto dealership.
“Dennis and Rachelle Jacobson renovated what had been Lake Lillian’s Ford Garage into a restaurant. The building’s location, in the heart of the town’s business district, was the mainstay for the William Johnson Motor Company. The firm operated from 1923-84.” (1)
The restaurant features plenty of seating for large and small groups of diners. The special on the day I stopped was a barbecue pork sandwich. It came as a slab of pork on a bun with some barbecue sauce and featured slaw and fries as sides. It was very good. The service was good. I was there about 11 am and it was really starting to get busy when I left at 11:45. If you are traveling on MN 7 through the west central part of the state, it’s worth the stop.
I shot some other photos of the town on as I was leaving.
I did not know the fate that awaited the liquor store when I was there that day in June.
Just three months later, almost to the day, the liquor store would burn. I didn’t know that until I happened to be driving through Lake Lillian in February of this year and took a drive down main street and saw the fire damaged liquor store. I was hoping no on was injured because I remembered before when I was there that it was apparent people lived above the business. A quick search on the internet revealed the following snippet.
LAKE LILLIAN — The Sept. 23 fire that extensively damaged the K&M Liquor building in downtown Lake Lillian has been ruled an arson fire by the State Fire Marshal and the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s office.
I found no indication of any injuries sustained in the fire, so hopefully there were none.
Went looking today for the color green. This was the closest thing I could find. Probably not bad considering it was only eight days ago we had nine inches of snow.
About another month and we’ll see some real green. I can’t wait.
Tooling down the road one day in May 2012 on a photo drive, I spied some railroad cars that seemed out of place. They were off the road a couple hundred yards and seemed to be on their own little spur line next to the main line immediately behind them..
The cars really stood out, these days bright yellow cars are rarely seen and even less so, pink. The sun was hitting them nicely and the colors popped and got may attention. I got a couple of photos and started looking around. There was a gravel road that ran on the other side of the property, so I decided to take a look a little further.
Looking for a place to turn around to go back to that gravel road, I turned into a driveway near a motel on the top of the hill. Here I found several more railroad cars in various states of repair.
I then headed back to the gravel road. Once I got there I saw a building and what looked like a building on a dolly.At the time I didn’t know what to make of all this railroad paraphernalia out in the middle of nowhere. I thought perhaps it was the work of a train enthusiast and I was right, though I didn’t know it until yesterday. I had these pictures on my hard drive and had not thought much about them. I was reading a blog a I follow and that led me to figure out just exactly what I had photographed. I was reading a blog talking about Willy Wirehand. Totally unrelated to trains you would think, in that six degrees of seperation way, one thing led to another.
First, Brian Brown’s excellent Vanishing South Georgia blog talked about Willy Wirehand and dropped a link to Willy on Reddy Kilowatt’s site. While reading about Willy on the Reddy Killowat site, a link caught my eye, Kilowatt as a real Railroader. The post talked about a locomotive purchased by NSP (Norther States Power, – today known as Excel Energy) from Burlington Northern Railroad in 1973 to switch its St Paul, Minnesota coal-fired High Bridge power plant, where it worked until 1996. Later NSP donated the locomotive to the Gopher State Railway Museum. So I looked that up and realized that what I had photographed was actually the Gopher State Railway Museum near New Prague, MN.
From their website they state:
Gopher State Railway Museum is a non-profit corporation that was incorporated in the State of Minnesota in 1990 to educate the public through collection, preservation, restoration, display, and operation of railroad equipment and artifacts.
GSRM’s goal is to educate the public about the railroads that helped create the State of Minnesota we live in today as well as the stories of the people that built, operated and used those railroads.
They’ve been busy and things have changed since the photos above. The “building” on the left in the shot above is actually an office car, Office Car Manitoba to be specific. It was built by the Pullman company for James J. Hill of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad which by now he had grown to the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway. There is a lot of good detail about the car to be found on the Museums site linked above.
The state of things today
I decided since this museum is less than an hour away, I would make a little photo expedition in that direction and see how the museum had progressed since I’d last been there a couple of years ago.Above is what it looks like from the road today.
Before [in May, 2012]After [March, 2014] They’ve made good progress on the main building and moved some cars that were on the spur line before into the yard. There is much to be done yet. The organization is looking for donations of time or money and registered as a 501(c)(3). So if you feel inclined to lend a hand or a few dollars I’m sure it would be appreciated. Their “how can I help page” lists many ways to get involved.
So I mentioned Reddy Kilowatt and how it led to my discovering this Museum. Above is a shot of the locomotive featuring Reddy that NSP donated to the Museum.
Another one of Reddy.
From the GSRM website In the 1980s, NSP sold the rights to Reddy Killowatt and his image was supposed to be removed from all company equipment, etc. The High Bridge crew couldn’t bring themselves to paint over Reddy so they ignored the memo.
Later, NSP briefly revived Reddy Killowatt and officials were surprised to see him still working hard at the High Bridge plant.
Other cars on the property in various states of restoration.
Cars that looked like they served to lend parts to other cars were also on another part of the property.
Gang cars were used to move crews around for maintenance and other things. They were replaced in the 1990’s with pickup trucks with flanged wheels that could be lowered onto the tracks. Probably a welcome replacement during bad weather. Why was it called a Fairmont gang car?
It was called a Fairmont because that was the name of the company that built it and the company got its name because of its location, Fairmont, Minn. More information can be had on Wikipedia about the Fairmont Railway Company.
I was glad I took the time to go back today and look around and see the progress that has been made. I look forward to seeing what the organization is able to accomplish they have a lot of ambitious projects listed on their website. I really hope they get the resources to complete them.
This summer I’m going to make another trip on and try to take a real tour of the cars. They don’t have regular hours but groups and individuals can call ahead for an appointment or are invited to stop in if you see folks working.
Last summer in Iowa, I passed through the town of Stanton and was able to take a few moments to get some photos.
One building in particular caught my eye. It’s an old school that is now a Swedish Cultural Center. It was not open the day I was there so I don’t have any detailed info or photos of the inside, but it is quite a building nonetheless. I’m planning a trip back to the area this coming summer and will make it a point to stop and visit. Also I want to shoot some shots of the coffee pot water tower.
“The Swedish Heritage & Cultural Center is the oldest public building in Montgomery County still in use. The building, known as “Old Main” school, now houses a wide variety of historical and cultural items, genealogy records, a gift shop and new exhibits each year.” http://stantoniowa.com/historical/SitePages/Home.aspx Stanton is also the birth place of Hollywood’s Virginia Christine, the “Mrs. Olsen” on Folgers Coffee television commercials.
You can see the emergency exit tube from the second floor. I would have to say that as a student, that would have been a lot of fun to use for practice.
Last summer I was on a photo road trip. I like to document small towns as well as rural areas. I was photographed Coin, Iowa in Page county. Page County is in the Southern most tier of counties in Iowa and in the Southwest corner of Iowa.
Coin is a very small town with a population just under 200 and has the 51636 zip code and is home to the Wabash Trace which is a 63 mile train line running to Council Bluffs that is now a bike trail. The Wabash Railroad operated in the mid-central United States. “It served a large area, including trackage in the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Missouri and the province of Ontario. Its primary connections included Chicago, Illinois, Kansas City, Missouri, Detroit, Michigan, Buffalo, New York, St. Louis, Missouri, and Toledo, Ohio.”1.
Coin residents are fortunate to still have a working post office.
They also have a small but well kept library.
Someone cares enough to add some extra touches to give it a less sterile feel.
Now it’s an insurance agency.
Now a bar and grill
Coin is a nice little town but it’s dying. The post office will probably close soon. There is no grocery store or gas station so residents need to buy food and fuel elsewhere. But the library indicates they do have community spirit and make an effort to do things for the better of the community with what they have.
Farm houses like this one dot the midwest. They were economical to build and to add onto as the farm and family grew. This one is in Southwestern Minnesota. There is only one other building, a corn crib and the grove left to remember what went on here.
At one time there were probably children that ran up and down the lane to catch the bus and I wonder how many times the words “race ya” or “last one to the house is a…” were excitedly shouted as soon as feet had left the bus and touched ground.
People walked to the mailbox each day to see what news would come from friends and family. The mailbox was the social network of choice for folks further away than a few miles. They “liked” getting a good letter from a friend.
Almost every small farming community had a local grain elevator. I’ve written in the past how they are becoming extinct except for a few large ones located on rail lines. In the fall they are bustling with activity as farmers take the grain to town. It was not uncommon to see trucks and tractors with wagons lined up out of the elevator driveway and onto the street waiting to unload their field’s bounty.
This shot is of a grain elevator in a much quieter time. A few days after an ice storm moved through the region. The gravel parking lot is a sheet of ice and nothing is moving on this Sunday morning in late November.
This barn near Butterfield, MN is one of my favorites. It’s a wonderful structure and has an ACO Silo beside it. It greets visitors as they approach the North edge of the town. It’s very close to the Butterfield Threshing Bee site.