Those forgotten places along the tracksPublished 8:56am Friday, February 25, 2011
Column: Between the Corn Rows
Last week’s column about a nearly forgotten place next to the railroad tracks on Albert Lea’s south side named Curtis reminded me that there are several other similar locations of the past and even present in the area.
For example, about two miles south of Curtis on what’s now the Union Pacific tracks was once a railroad location known as Murtaugh. This place, next to the tracks on 170th Street, according to one city map, was named for a pioneer family.
Incidentally, both Curtis and Murtaugh are listed as places on a 1922 state map without populations.
Another railside location featured in a column last year is Baroda. This place between Alden and Wells and next to state Highway 109 is nearly a half mile into Faribault County.
About a century ago several railroad construction projects were created with wild ideas and goals. One was “The Alphabet Line.” It’s original name was the Duluth, St. Cloud, Glencoe & Mankato Railroad. The intention was to have a railroad going from Duluth through Albert Lea all the way south to the Gulf of Mexico.
In reality, none of the towns listed in the original title were ever a part of the intended route. Instead, this railroad actually ran from the north side of Graceland Cemetery to Freeborn, Matawan, Waldorf and Pemberton to a place once known as Cream to St. Clair by 1907. Plans to at least have this rail line go on to Mankato never worked out.
In 1910 the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (also known as the Milwaukee Road) took over this line and operated it as a branch route. And up to its abandonment in 1973 this railroad was known as the “Bug Line.”
There are two obscure locations on this former branch line. One is Matawan, a barely there village a mile or two into Waseca County. The other is Cream, where there’s now no there to be barely about up in Blue Earth County.
To the east of Albert Lea and Hayward near the corner of County Road 45 and 840th Avenue is a railroad location known as Hollandale Junction. This place to the north of the KOA Kampground is where the Milwaukee Railroad started a branch line to Hollandale and Maple Island in 1926.
The branch line ceased operations in the 1970s. However, about two miles of the trackage still exists to serve the Peavey Grain Co. Elevator. Unlike the snow-covered rails between Curtis and Hartland, this particular branch line is certainly being used.
One of the area railroad locations with a rather unusual history is named Ramsey. This place, which is actually on the state map in very tiny type, is situated between Austin and Lansing.
The Southern Minnesota Railroad started in La Crosse, Wis., and came west in 1869 and 1870. For some now unknown reason this railroad decided to “sidestep” Austin and made a crossing connection with the north-south Minnesota Central line at Ramsey.
In 1977 the trackage between Ramsey and La Crosse was abandoned. However, the rail line from Ramsey through Albert Lea, Wells, Fairmont to Jackson, now part of the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern system, is still operating. The Iowa, Chicago & Eastern is the same railroad as the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern, and both are subsidiaries of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.
There might be some confusion about the place over in Mower County named Ramsey. After all, St. Paul is also the seat of Ramsey County. Also, between Anoka and Andover and Elk River north of the Twin Cities is the community of Ramsey, which happens to be a little larger than Albert Lea.
This roundup of obscure railroad locations of the past and present will end with a focus on the Emmons area.
Years ago the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad had a branch line going from Albert Lea to Twin Lakes, Emmons and on to Lake Mills, Iowa, and localities to the south.
Yet, during all the years this railroad ran through the Minnesota part of Emmons, the community never had a depot. The depot for the Emmons area was at Norman, Iowa, a locality that still has a few homes about a mile south of the state line there on U.S. Highway 69. Finally, this depot building was moved up to, but not across, the state line and designated for both Emmons, Iowa, and Emmons, Minn.
To really get all the details of this depot deal of the past, there’s a fine booklet written in 1995 by former Tribune staff writer Robin Throne that’s available for research at the Freeborn County Historical Museum Library.
Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.