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Depots and Trains in Nebraska 8/24/2022

by Chris Guenzler

After we arose and checked the Internet, we checked out then went to Cracker Barrel where we both enjoyed French Toast. Elizabeth drove us out to Fremont where we started our day.

Chicago and North Western Fremont freight house built in 1906.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Fremont station.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy freighthouse. As we left Fremont, we both saw something unexpected so turned into where these items were.

Fremont and Elkhorn Valley Ralroad SW1200 1219 nee Chicago and North Western 319, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1962. The Eastern Nebraska Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (now known as Nebraska Railroad Museum) was chartered in 1983, to preserve the abandoned railroad line running between Fremont & Norfolk. Before the FEVR, the track was operated by the Chicago & North Western north to Norfolk, which was a major hub (at that time) on their western division. Traffic volumes on this stretch of the Cowboy Line began mildly declining in the mid-1970s and abandonment was beginning to be discussed. In the spring of 1982, the declining freight traffic levels were combined with flooding along the Elkhorn River across northeastern Nebraska. After the flooding occurred, the C&NW promptly filed a request with the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the line & was granted permission a short while later. The 1982 abandonment left the track with a very dismal future.

By October 1984, the Eastern Nebraska Chapter began negotiations to purchase the abandoned line. After many months of negotiation, the line was purchased from Fremont to West Point in summer 1985, giving birth to the Fremont & Elkhorn Valley Railroad. After the acquisition of the line, repairs were started immediately. On Memorial Day 1986, FEVR ran the first train to Nickerson. Originally, the FEVR operated out of the old C&NW freight house in Fremont. By Independence Day, trains were run to Hooper. New Year's Eve saw the inauguration of the Pathfinder Dinner Train over the FEVR line. In 1987, FEVR was evicted from the downtown freight house, relocating to a newly-acquired property on Somers Avenue. In 1988, the Pathfinder Dinner Train left the FEVR rails, its whereabouts were unknown after that. A short time later, the section from Hooper to West Point was deemed too costly to repair. That section of the FEVR track was removed in summer of that year. Only a few months later, the newly-formed Fremont Dinner Train began operations. Summer 1989 saw a new paint scheme applied to much of the equipment. Locomotive 1219 & a few pieces of the rolling stock were painted in the maroon, yellow & black colors which were chosen to replicate the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley railroad, which was the grand predecessor to the FEVR.

Throughout 2000 & 2001, FEVR was contracted by American Car & Foundry to do seasonal car storage. Small strings of empty covered hoppers and tankers were brought in by the Union Pacific and stored on FEVR rails west of Hooper. By 2003, the FEVR slowly fell into decline. A bridge north of Nickerson was deemed unsafe to cross and the tracks north of the bridge to Hooper were embargoed. Union Pacific embargoed the connection track in 2004 after an interchange agreement with the Fremont North Western Railroad (private entity using FEVR track) fell through. The worst was yet to come. In 2010, foreclosure was threatened on a bank loan and many of the FEVR assets were sold to a private party out of Richmond, Missouri. After promised repairs were not made, FEVR operations were suspended in October 2012. The Fremont Dinner Train ceased operations then & moved to Baldwin City, Kansas (now known as the Kansas Belle Dinner Train). FEVR operations were suspended until repairs could be made. To date, repairs have still yet to be made. In May 2021, the process of removing the track was started, effectively eliminating any chance for a return of railroad service. Nebraska Trails Foundation acquired the land for the railroad between Fremont and Hooper with plans from a Fremont group to add to the area bike trails.

Fremont and Elkhorn Valley coach 1101 built by Pullman in 1924 as heavyweight 10-2-2 sleeper "Lake Bluff" for the Chicago and North Western. It was acquired by FEVR in 1986 and painted FEVR in summer 1989. This car was transferred to the Nebraska Railroad Museum.

Fremont and Elkhorn Valley coach 1102 built by Pullman in 1924 as heavyweight 10-1-2 sleeper "Fort Andrews" for the Chicago and North Western. It was acquired by FEVR in 1986 & painted FEVR in summer 1989. This car was transferred to the Nebraska Railroad Museum.

Fremont and Elkhorn Valley concession car 1938 built by American Car & Foundry in 1922 as a heavyweight RPO car for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and later used in maintenance-of-way service for Burlington Northern Railroad. It was acquired by FEVR in 1987 and painted FEVR in spring 2003. It was out of service from summer 2008 to summer 2011 due to various reasons. In July 2011, new knuckles & brake shoes were installed and the car returned to service. Summer 2012 saw the car returned to the original CB&Q livery. This car was transferred to the Nebraska Railroad Museum.

Energized by these finds, we continued on our route with Columbus the next stop.

Union Pacific 2-8-0 561 built by Baldwin in 1904 as Oregon Short Line 1101. It was renumbered 561 in 1915 and was leased to the Union Pacific in 1936 then donated to the City of Columbus in 1955. It is on display in Pawnee Park on Lincoln Highway.

Information board about Union Pacific 2-8-0 561. We went west of Columbus and caught a moving train.

Union Pacific 2577 West came down track one at Silver Creek.

Union Pacific 2577 West came down track two at Silver Creek. I drove us to St. Paul and the Howard County Historical Village.

Union Pacific track speeder M14-4044.

The 1914 Union Pacific station in St. Paul, which was moved from Gibbon in 2000 and restored in 2003.

Union Pacific section house.

Concrete whistle post.

The Cotesfield Post Office building served the village of Cotesfield from 1920 to 1996 and was moved to the Historical Village in 1997. It was donated to the Society by Maxine and Joe Coufal. In the four counties of Greeley, Howard, Sherman and Valley, 98 different post offices were established, with only St. Paul and Gage Valley older than Cotesfield (1871). The current building was built in 1920 by Jess Sautter. It contains the original postmaster's counter, a safe, a desk and several other items, as well as artifacts from a variety of county post offices, including an extensive collection from the Elba post office. Volunteers raised funds for the move and renovation of rotted sills and foundation, deteriorated siding, screen door, exterior lighting, brick steps, painting, window screens, authentic interior doors, refinished floors, removal of suspended ceiling, carpet linoleum and paneling. Trim was recreated around doors, windows and mopboards.

Saint Paul Blacksmith Shop originally belonged to an early (1871) settler, Waldo Little, but was purchased for the Village in 1970 and moved from Cushing. The building began as a garage and was elongated by six feet after it was moved to the Village. Equipment came from several noted blacksmiths in Elba, St. Libory, and Cushing (Klein, Schwenk, Fredricksen) is on display Henry Fredricksen donated the homemade trip-hammer and Kenneth Simpson donated the very old set of wooden tools. The authentic forge was built by Jim Peirce and Dave Sprague in 1996 and is used regularly by blacksmith/member Dave Sprague. Notice the license-plate collection of Vigo Kyhn and the barbed wire saved and mounted by Thorvald Jacobsen. Barbed wire was most important to the early settlers, since there was neither rock for walls nor wood for fences to protect their fields and gardens from being overrun by the herds of cattle driven up to graze on the prairie grasses. The reason for the many types of barbed wire is that farmers made their own before manufacturing companies began marketing it. The Village arch at the south end of the brick walk was built by Peirce & Sprague from an original design. The arch was forged using 1890's blacksmithing methods, all are hand-forged welds.

The building bearing the sign Battle's Store stood on the northwest end of Main Street just east of the old City Fire Hall. In early days of the county, this building was Amsler's Feed Store. It later became Callahan's Cream Station, and finally Pat Kelly's tavern. It was donated to the Historical Society by the Zlomke family in 1969. Items donated by Bartles, and many county families, present a poignant display of early settlers' food and clothing needs, stove/lamp supplies and reminders of illness and early deaths of children.

The St. Libory District 41 School came from a German settlement seven miles south of St. Paul. The School was closed in 1964 and purchased in 1965 by the City of St. Paul, which established the Historical Village in park space. The school was the first museum building and, from 1965-2001, was used to display all manner of historic artifacts. In 2003 the restored school was dedicated. This building is a monument to all of the one-room schools, of which there were once 86 in the 24 square miles of Howard County. School district #1 was formed in 1872, the last country school, at Bunker Hill, was closed in 1993. Though alumni of country schools grow fewer, bonds are extraordinarily strong among them. Outdoor play, Christmas programs, and parent parties are some of the most cherished memories. The schoolteacher, often little older than the children, was required to keep the school clean and come early to start the heating stove. She had to maintain order and teach children sometimes much bigger than herself, in several grades. Each class was called to the front to recite its lessons. Children carried a tin lunch pail and walked to school, but laws required that no child should walk more than three miles; water came from an outside pump.

The Farwell Scandinavian Lutheran Church. This church is now part of the Historical Village in St. Paul. Settlers in the Farwell area came from Germany, Poland & Bohemia, Scotland and Scandinavia. Farwell first had a Polish name (Posen) but in 1889 some Danes petitioned to change the town's name to "Farwell", close to the Danish word for "goodbye." The first known Danish Lutheran services were held in the Farwell area by pastors on their way to Dannevirke. The first Lutheran baptism was on December 31, 1882. The first funeral was on February 23, 1883 and the first wedding on April 28, 1886. Organization of the Scandinavian Cemetery Association began in June 1893. Occasionally Farwell Danes traveled ten miles to Nysted to attend church services. They decided to build their own church in 1898. Contributions came from Danes, non-Danes and from persons living in Dannevirke, Elba, Nysted and St. Paul. $768.02 was soon collected, enough to assure that the church would be debt-free upon completion. On September 18, 1898 the church was dedicated. During the depression years of 1931-36, very few services were held. The congregation celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1963. In 1965 the sad decision was made to close the church's doors. The twenty-member congregation held a farewell party for their resigning pastor who had been with them for twenty-two years. Henry Rasmussen, popular auctioneer with family ties to the church, purchased the Farwell church in December 1967 and had it moved to St. Paul, where it became part of the Historical Village. The last Lutheran services were held in the summer of 1988.

Museum view. We next drove to Boelus for our last station of the afternoon.

Union Pacific Boelus station. I drove us to Nebraska Highway 2 hoping for some train action.

BNSF 8442 East west of Ravenna.

BNSF 6607 East at Sweetwater.

BNSF 8867 East west of Hazard.

BNSF 6158 East west of Mason City.

BNSF 6627 West west of Broken Bow.

BNSF 6158 East east of Anselmo.

BNSF 6158 East of Hancock. Elizabeth then took over driving the rest of the way to Alliance.

BNSF 6158 west of Hancock.

BNSF 6587 East of Westside. We drove into Alliance and had dinner at the Ken & Dale's Restaurant where I enjoyed a steak and Elizabeth the chicken then I then drove us the rest of the way to Holiday Inn Express for the night.

The view of the railroad from our hotel room. We called it an early night.