Feature Friday March 3, 2023

03 Mar

One hundred and twenty years ago tomorrow, the Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad (G&LS) was incorporated in the State of Minnesota. Owned by the Pigeon River Lumber Company, a Wisconsin business headquartered in Port Arthur (Thunder Bay), Ontario, the logging line was built to harvest timber along the southwest shore of Gunflint Lake and adjacent areas in the northeast part of the state.

The G&LS was in operation between 1902 and 1909 and branched off the Canadian Northern Railway Duluth Extension (originally the Port Arthur, Duluth & Western) at Milepost 79. It was likely the most unusual railroad in all of North America as it was an American line, but had no terminus in the US and its only access was via Canada. All the timber harvested in Minnesota was shipped to the company’s mill in Port Arthur for processing.

Today there are vestiges of the line still visible, but they are rapidly disappearing. The photos, taken between 1997 and 2016, along with the map (which shows the area in 1911), covers the initial few miles of the line as passes from Ontario across the international boundary into Minnesota. Corduroyed logs, some rails and even a line shaft from a Shay locomotive litter the route. The most amazing remnant of the line was a massive corduroyed log trestle on the south shore of the lake beside the Crab River, which helped it climb the massive ridges in the area. Unfortunately the trestle was burned in a 2007 fire and the following winter the Forest Service was forced to dynamite it to extinguish the smoldering embers inside.

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Posted by on March 3, 2023 in History, Railway


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