Facebook Page

The 2004 National Railroad Historical Society Convention

by Chris Guenzler

Empire Builder 7 6/29/2004

The Empire Builder arrived into La Crosse at 8:22 PM and after the conductor streetcar all the tickets on the ground we boarded the 2815 car departing La Crosse at 8:32 PM. Minutes later we passed the Cedar Rapids before crossing the Mississippi River back into Minnesota for a beautiful reddish twilight trip into night along the Mississippi River. Led Zeppelin and a little Chicago rolled the miles away. After we crossed the Mississippi River at Hastings, I went to the lounge car to spot the Canadian Pacific 2816 in the Pig Eye Yard. I came back to my seat finding a couple sitting in our seats who were going to Portland. Since the car attendant had taken down the seat checks the conductor thought no one was sitting there. We stopped short of the station to cut off the express cars before we arrived at Amtrak Midway 55 minutes late. We were first off the train to a taxi cab and for under $10 we were taken to the Best Western Normandy in downtown Minneapolis where we checked in for a short night of rest.

NRHS Duluth/Two Harbor Trip 6/30/2004

Up early at 6:00 AM so it was indeed a short night. We enjoyed a fair breakfast missing those breakfasts of the last few mornings. We walked the three blocks over to the Hilton to get our 2004 NRHS Convention Packets and tickets we would need for our trip this day. We took the stuff back to the Best Western before returning to the bus loading location for the trip north to Duluth. The buses arrived late at 8:00 AM with Bob and I boarding the second bus which left for Duluth at 8:24 AM. On the way out of town we passed the former Milwaukee Road Station with train shed now a Courtyard by Marriott. This station was served by the Milwaukee Road, Soo Line and Rock Island. Once on Interstate 35W when we crossed the Mississippi River you could see the Stone Arch Bridge, now a bike path, that the railroads used to use to get to St Paul. Bob and I spent the bus ride chatting with Gary Kazin and Dan Chazin. Dan also writes for Trainweb and has a very interesting web site. All the buses made a rest stop at the same time at the Kettle River Rest Area. This put a strain on the Men's restroom. From there the bus ran to Duluth and after giving us a scenic tour of Duluth the driver finally found the museum parking lot.

We arrived at the Lake Superior Transportation Museum and I went outside to photograph the North Shore Scenic RDC 9169, the Great Northern NW-5 192, DM&IR SD-18 193 and the two F-units that would pull our charter train today. After watching some switching, I returned to this outstanding museum. It then became time to board our train. Two lines of people trying to get into the one line to get their box lunches and one major delay. We finally all boarded and at 12:37 PM we were off for Two Harbors. Bob and I sat with Jim Bergant of Louisville who I had met at the St Louis Convention.

Our train was backed the half mile out to the junction with the mainline since when the freeway was built that eliminated all eastward movements out of Duluth Union Station. Our train had Erie Mining F9A 4211, Soo Line FP-7 2500A, Duluth Iron Range {DIR} Northland, DIR W-24, Great Northern {GN} 1250 Lake of Isle, GN 1000 Baggage, GN 1115 Liz Frebich, DIR Minnesota and DIR 33. We ran along the freeway and after the waterfront activities ran along Lake Superior with a view of the breakwater. We ran by the Korean War Monument before Lakeview Park was passed with a Rose Garden with 250 varieties of roses. We cut inland through some neighborhoods and forests. Lester River was crossed on a 150 foot long 45 foot high bridge before the train ran across Highway 61. The train ran at a good clip as we ran through the forest with the highway to the left before it left us. We crossed the trestle over French River and later Big Sucker Creek followed by Little Sucker River.

At Knife River with the DM&IR Depot still standing we did a Photo Runby.

I switched locations for the forward Photo Runby. We crossed the Knife River right before it flows into Lake Superior. Our train passed the siding at Marbles the furthest spot I had ever been on this railroad and I started new trackage from this point on. We crossed under the DM&IR tracks to the ore docks at Two Harbors then ran under another DM&IR line.

Our train then backed into the Two Harbors Station as the sky was beginning to get stormy looking.

We arrived at the Two Harbor Depot at 2:20 PM. At Two Harbors I toured the Museum which houses a nice collection of area history before heading into town to get some Coca-Cola and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I did some photography around the train before I rested on the train until departure time.

We backed out at 3:18 PM as the rain started and did it ever down pour. After the down pour we proceeded to Palmer where we did a Photo Runby in brilliant sunshine right after it had stopped raining. It was one of the best diesel runbys that I had ever done. Hats off to the North Shore Scenic for such an excellent trip and runbys. With the Soo Line unit leading we all enjoyed the unit's air horn as it blew for all the crossings on the way back to Duluth. As the train made the return trip to Duluth, great conversations were had by all. We pulled back into a sunny Duluth which had been rained on before we arrived. The train backed into Duluth Union Station at 5:04 PM ending a very interesting NRHS 2004 Convention Trip on the North Shore Scenic Railroad. A special thanks to their crew for a very special trip.

John Jensen of Louisville joined Bob and I as we walked one block to the Duluth Radisson and went up to the Revolving Roof Restaurant for a nice sit down dinner with me having a T-Bone Steak. What a great view this great eating establishment gave us.

We returned to get our bus back to the Minneapolis. Jon left on the bus at 6:00 PM with Bob and I on the 6:15 PM bus. I listened to music on the way back and above Hinckley we passed through a light rain shower. We stopped at the General Anderson Rest Area to break up the trip back to Minneapolis. We returned to the Hilton at 9:00 PM and walked back to the Best Western for the night.

Hiawatha Light Rail Line Part 1 7/1/2004

This July 1st I was up early and had breakfast before walking over to 5th Avenue for my first ride on the brand new Hiawatha Light Rail Line. I rode north from the Government Plaza Station to the Warehouse District which is near the Target Center. We rode down 5th Avenue to the Nicollet Mall Station and on to the Warehouse/Hennepin Avenue Station before I returned back to where I started. I found a Kinkos to check my e-mail then found a National Camera for film later in the day.

NRHS Minnesota Transportation Museum Trip 7/1/2004

Bob and I walked over to the Hilton for our Transportation Museum Tour this morning. We left on time and took the bus which crossed the abandoned Milwaukee Road Line to the West Coast then we ran west to Lake Calhourn where I caught my first view of the streetcar line we came here to ride.

Como Harriett Streetcar Line 7/1/2004

The buses delivered us all to the Linden Hill Depot where half the group got on the first car.

The rest of us waited for PCC 322. It was delivered to the Twin Cities in 1949 before being sold to Newark in 1953. It was sold again in 1978 to the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit in Cleveland before returning to service here at Lake Harriett in the year 2000.

We backed down the tree lined grade to the shop building where half of the car got off. We then headed forward back to the Linden Hill Depot.

We went into the passing siding track where we met Streetcar Number 1300. It was built in 1908 for the St Paul-Minneapolis Interurban Line and run in service for 46 years before it was stored inside. We ran under an arch bridge with a last look at Lake Harriett. Now we had the view of Lake Calhourn and ran along the cemetery to the end of the line.

At the passing track we met the 1300 again before we ran to the shops and dropped off a few more members. I returned to the Linden Hill Depot and visited the gift shop.

Next the Duluth Car 265 came from the shops. This car was built as Twin Cities Rapid Transit 1791 and sold to Duluth in 1916 running there until 1939. The car ended up as a summer cabin. It was saved and restored in 1982. I walked down to the lake, found a restroom before boarding the bus for the trip to St Paul.

Jackson Street Roundhouse 7/1/2004

The bus pulled by the building and into the parking lot of the Jackson Street Roundhouse of the Minnesota State Transportation Museum. I was greeted by a Northern Pacific Caboose 1264 wearing the "Main Street of the Northwest" brown paint scheme.

I immediately walked out to the turntable finding the Great Northern SD-45, the first ever built unit named Hustle Muscle.

Inside the restoration shop were Northern Pacific 2153 and 2156 both 4-6-2 and BN SD-9 6234.

Outside was Dan Patch Line Box Cab 100.

Lake Superior and Transfer NW-2 101.

MTX 10106 lettered General Ben.

Armco B-71 1900 an oddball locomotive a visible cab switcher.

There is also a F7A ex GN 454A in Northern Pacific paint that came from Bandana Square. In the car shop is the NP steamer 328 in pieces. The inside of the roundhouse has a nice collection of passenger cars. I got a chance to ride the Hustle Muscle for 0.2 of mile out along the BNSF mainline. I then rode a Fairmont motor car out just a bit further. All in all the Jackson Street Roundhouse is an excellent museum that gives you the experience of what Twin Cities Railroading once was. I talked with Gary out front in the fresh air with nice cooling breeze before the bus picked us up to take us back to the Hilton ending another very interesting NRHS 2004 Convention Trip.

Hiawatha Light Rail Line 2 7/1/2004

Bob and I first walked to National Camera so I could get more film. We were now headed to the Hiawatha Light Rail Line.

On the way there we found the Mary Tyler Moore Statue that TV Land denoted to Minneapolis. It was the scene where Mary threw her hat into the air at the opening of the show. Bob and I boarded the first car that came along with Bob off to ride the whole line. I on the other hand had someplace to be. I got off at the Metrodome leaving Bob on his own.

Chicago White Sox vs the Minnesota Twins 7/1/2004

I arrived at the top of the 6th with the White Sox leading 2-1. Carlos Lee hit a two run home run in the top of the first and the Twins got one back in the bottom of the first inning. I bought a Hot Dog and Coke before finding a Lower Pavilion seat out in Centerfield. A little kid named Tyler on his 5th birthday guessed today's attendance right at 21,127 baseball fans. I finally got to see a game in the Metrodome. The Twins with two outs in the ninth had Cuddeyer doubled but Joe Mouer stuck out to end the game.

Stone Arch Bridge 7/1/2004

After the game was done I knew the first four trolleys would be standing room only so I decided to walk across the Stone Arch Bridge the route of the Empire Builder and North Coast Limited among others. The bridge is now a walking, bike and transit bridge and is in the National Registry of Historic Structures. After photographing it from the west side, I walked across the bridge over the Mississippi River to a park on the east side to relax.

Upper St Anthony Falls and the locks are seen from the bridge. After a nice period of rest I walked west over the bridge.

On my way back to the light rail I saw the former Milwaukee Road Station.

Hiawatha Light Rail Line 3 7/1/2004

I boarded a standing room train as the Light Rail Tour from the Convention was aboard as well as more baseball fans mixed in with the regular riders. We ran by the Metrodome to our right and curved to the Cedar/Riverside stop. The light rail ran under Interstate 94 then by the Hiawatha Light Rail Shops. Just south of the shops is the Franklin Avenue Station. A bike lane joined our route as we reached 52 MPH. We climbed a grade to bridge Highway 54 which we will follow south. We dropped back to the ground only to climb again to the elevated Lake Street/Midtown Station with a great view looking back to downtown Minneapolis. South of here are interesting buildings to the east. First is the ACME Company in a large brick building. Is this the company that cartoon characters would mail off to get things to help them? The large Secure Mint storage is followed by the large ADM Milling Company. We passed EZ Storage before the 38th Street Station. Another ADM Milling Company Elevator then the Harvest State Grain Elevator. We ran through a short tunnel to the 50th Street/Minnehaha Station. Now we leave Highway 55 as we climbed to cross Hiawatha Avenue and a future highway with our last glimpse of downtown. The route dropped and curved onto a residential area before the VA Medical Center Station. From there we made our way to the last stop at the present time to Fort Snelling with the 133 Airlift Wing of the Minnesota National Guard located here. This is the present end of the Hiawatha Light Rail Line at 7.7 miles in length. In December the line opens to the airport and the Mall of America. Here we all detrained while the trolley pulled down to switch ends before I returned downtown to the Government Plaza Station where I detrained.

I returned to the hotel, then Bob and I went to McCormicks and Schmicks where I had Fish and Chips with plenty of Sourdough Bread. After walking some of the Skywalk, we returned to the hotel to watch some of "Unforgiven" as I rested before my last NRHS Convention activity.

Night Photo Shot 7/1/2004

I boarded a MTA Bus 1145 built by GM Truck and Coach Division in 1953. We left right at 9:30 PM and on the way out of town we passed a newer model bus with me saying to a passenger aboard it, "Our bus is older than your bus!" That got a round of laughs from the passengers on our bus. We made our way back to the Jackson Street Roundhouse. The Hustle Muscle was on the turntable so we shot two different angles of it. Next the Dan Patch Line 100 was lit up for the 50 photographers present. The next scene was with the Lake Superior and Transfer NW-2 with Frisco Box Cars. The final scene was a triple photo location with three tenders sticking out of the roundhouse. It was a unique photographic experience to be a part of and this was my last NRHS Convention 2004 activity. Hats off to the Northstar Chapter for hosting this year's convention. We got back to the Hilton at 12:35 AM and I made a quick walk back to the Best Western for my last night there.

I am very sorry but none of my night photo pictures scanned for this story!

Click here for Part 6 of the story.