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Category Archives: Railway

Port Arthur, Duluth & Western Railway MP 59-60.5

Video from Saturday’s hike at Iron Range Hill, between Mileposts 59 and 60.5.

Iron Range Hill, between Sandstone and Iron Range Lakes, had the heaviest grade on the line at over 2 percent. There is a famous series of photographs taken of the hill in 1915-1916 showing a train stuck in deep snow on its way to North Lake (MP 71).

In the video I mistakenly refer to the Height of Land as the end of this section. In fact, the Height of Land was further down the line, west of Iron Range Lake. The top of IRH and the Height of Land have a similar elevation.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2020 in Hiking, History, Railway, Video

 

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Port Arthur, Duluth & Western Railway MP 20

Video from Saturday’s hike at the former PAD&W bridge west of Stanley at MP 20.

This bridge is the last remaining structure on the railway, and was built in 1922. At the time, the line was part of Canadian National Railways, and was known as the North Lake Sub-Division or the North Lake Branch. It was the third bridge at this location; the original was constructed in 1889 and the first replacement installed in 1902. The last train rumbled over it in March 1938, 82 years ago this month. The whole line was abandoned in October of that year.

It was converted to vehicular use at some point afterwards (for sure before 1960) which it continues to faithfully do. The bridge is in need of some repair, which hopefully occurs soon to keep this great reminder of the railway operating well into the future.

Available in 4K (though it may not be available due to YouTube lowering bandwidth worldwide).

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2020 in Hiking, History, Railway, Video

 

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Corduroy Trestle, Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad 1997

In honour of the 115th anniversary of its completion, and the 12th anniversary of its demise, we revisit the Gunflint Corduroy Trestle.

This amazing structure was built in the winter of 1904-1905 by the Pigeon River Lumber Company for their logging railroad, the Gunflint & Lake Superior. To climb the ridges south of the lake, the company built a very crude trestle by corduroying logs and topping it with gravel. Just over 250 feet long, the elevation increases 25 feet in that distance, creating a brutal 10% grade. It was probably one of the most unusual railroad trestles in all of North America.

Later that year they purchased a Shay locomotive (SN-683) to work this section of the line.

Sadly, the trestle was lost in 2008. The year before it was engulfed by the Ham Lake Fire and the logs smoldered for months. The USFS was forced to dynamite the structure to extinguish the fire. I’m glad I was able to see it before its demise and shoot this footage. My apologies for the shaky recording; I was very young, rather excited and there was no stabilization!

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2020 in Hiking, History, Railway, Video

 

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PAD&W of Minnesota MP 89.7/4.2

A video of 300-foot rock cut on the Port Arthur, Duluth and Western Railway near Round Lake, MN.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2020 in Hiking, History, Railway, Video

 

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I didn’t know it would take this long!

I didn’t know it would take this long!

Have you ever started on something and thought “this is a piece of cake; I’ll be done in no time”? We’ve all be there before, right? Sometimes the task is small, you know, like making dinner or cleaning the house; other times, it’s a big, complex project like renovating a room or say writing a book. Wait, what? Writing a book? Who casually writes a book? Haha, I guess the percentages of people doing renos is much higher than people writing a book. Are there bonus points for doing both? Asking for a friend.

Hey kids, I’m (finally) back. I know I said in my last post I’d be back before Christmas and well, it’s now the end of January. My bad? I guess it’s the difference between aspirations and reality. I really did intend to post before Christmas and then, as usual, life gets in the way. Hey, I’m busy guy…I’m writing a book and doing some renovations. Okay, I’ll be honest, there isn’t a ton of work with the renos, but I have been doing a lot of work on the book. That’s a topic for later though.

So, if it’s the end of January, that means I’m in a bit of a down time. What does that mean? Well, it means that the first semester is almost over and we’re gearing up for the second half of the year. The good news is that, as JBJ would say, “we’re halfway there;” bad news is that there is still half a year to go. Oh well, we’re on what I call the downward slide. Second semester always goes faster, the days are getting longer, and winter will, eventually, be over. Yay!

Speaking of the weather, no post would be complete without some mention (or rant) about it. Funny thing is that there isn’t too much to complain about. The winter so far, fingers crossed, hasn’t been too bad. We haven’t had very many cold days, and it’s been fairly mild at times. The only issue is that we’ve had quite a bit of snow; according to the data there is officially 35cm of snow on the ground, but some areas are reporting upwards of 80cm. I’d say my house is somewhere in between, probably around 60cm. I’m getting rather tired of cleaning snow, but I decided to live here right?

Winter snowfall, January 2020.

Winter snowfall, January 2020.

Winter snowfall, January 2020.

Alright, so what’s going on with this book Dave? Well, a lot actually…thanks for asking. When we last left off, I mentioned that I would be starting to write again soon. And write I did, maybe not necessarily by word count, but certainly in reorganization and revising. When I started this project back in 2014, never in a million years did I think I’d be at it 6 years later (and counting). This was supposed to be a short paper, like my first published work on the ghost town of Leeblain. Boy did it ever blow up! The scary thing is that I’m just supposed to be writing, not digging up new information. However, since I’ve never done this before, I have no idea of how it works.

If you’re wondering why I’m still gleaning the interwebs for information, it has come out of the fact that I’ve had to re-jiggle my chapters slightly and add to what I wanted to discuss in the book. I must admit I’m not really sad or upset about this; I love doing research. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt and testing my ability to find new material. It can be very frustrating, tedious and expensive. I’ve requested documents from the Minnesota Historical Society, and Library and Archives Canada, plus from the Wisconsin Historical Society if they can turn anything up. I have no idea what I’ve spent on this project in these six years, but it’s now in the thousands. Ya, I know, I’m crazy.

Piles of documents, January 2020.

Now speaking of expenses, I still have two trips (or more) that I need to undertake to finish this odyssey. The first is to Toronto, where I will need to visit the Archives of Ontario to find information about timber licenses and the incorporation of a company, the Arrow River & Tributaries Boom & Slide. My wife has bought tickets to see Bon Jovi on July 10th, so it will be somewhere around that time. Thankfully my brother lives in Toronto, so we have a place to stay while we’re there. Hopefully I can find all the material I need.

My second trip is one that I’ve discussed several times in the past and was actually supposed to happen in October. If you read my last post, I always travel to Gunflint for Canadian Thanksgiving with the boys. One of the big goals for the trip, one which I was very excited for, was the planned visit to Camp 8 with USFS archaeologist Greg Heide. Unfortunately, it snowed that weekend, which forced us to postpone until this spring. May cannot come soon enough! It is so important to the book to get some professional exploration of the site, which has already and might continue to provide a treasure trove of information. Hopefully the weather cooperates this time!

Anyway, I better get moving; there are always a million things to do around here. I’ll be back as soon as I can with the latest updates. Until then…

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2020 in History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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GTP-Lake Superior Branch MP 169.8

Video of the former Grand Trunk Pacific Railway-Lake Superior Branch at Kaministiqua, ON.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2020 in Hiking, History, Railway, Video

 

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GTP-Lake Superior Branch MP 169.6

Video of the former Grand Trunk Pacific Railway-Lake Superior Branch at Kaministiqua, ON.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2020 in Hiking, History, Railway, Video

 

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