The story of the Paulson Mine, located in the western part of Cook County, Minnesota, has captivated people for many years. Touted as one of the great mining projects of the era, its failure in the early 1890s had a devastating impact on local economies spanning both sides of the border. For years afterwards, many attempts were made to restart the mine, all of which ended with the same result.
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!
This week’s episode of our YouTube tour of the G&LS covers the section of line near Camp 4 of the Pigeon River Lumber Company (MP 1). Here the railroad passed through a long cutting and skirted alongside the logging camp as it hugged the shore of the lake. Remnants of the telegraph line are also visible.
This week’s episode of our YouTube tour of the G&LS covers the section of line south of the International Boundary (MP 0.62). Here the railroad crosses a small creek on a crib bridge. Remains of the corduroyed grade, the bridge piles and cribs and even a hand brake are visible.
This week’s episode of our YouTube tour of the G&LS covers the section of line south of the International Boundary (MP 0.5). Here, as the railroad skirts the edge of Gunflint Lake, the grade sits on corduroyed logs and passes through a long rock cut.
This week’s episode of our YouTube tour of the G&LS covers the area around the former US Customs House, located metres from the International Boundary. Featured as well is the site of the agent’s house, perched on a hill immediately south of the Customs House.
This week’s episode of our YouTube tour of the G&LS covers the section of line where it crosses the International Boundary from Ontario to Minnesota. Telegraph wire, the former trestle crossing, spikes and pieces of rail are all featured.
This week’s episode of our YouTube tour of the PAD&W takes us to the end of the line, the Paulson Mine, MN (MP 91). After passing through yet another switchback, the line turns east and terminates at the site of this prospective iron mine. Unfortunately the company that owned the mine went bankrupt in 1893 and it closed without shipping any ore. Attempts were made to re-open it until the 1920s, but none were successful.
This week’s episode of our YouTube tour of the PAD&W takes us to the section of line near Round Lake, MN (MP 89.5). We return to the northern face of the ridge from the last episode, passing through the dark 300-foot rock cut again, before making our way along yet another cut, this one shorter, but cut directly into the side of the ridge. We view both sides of a 400-foot trestle, which towers nearly 100 feet above the adjacent valley. The views along the sheer cliffs are spectacular.