Courtesy of John Loffelmacher, Fairfax, Minnesota
The unfamiliar shriek of a locomotive whistle on the sunny summer afternoon of June 28, 1862, heralded a momentous event in Minnesota history. It was a day of mounting excitement in the pioneer town of St. Paul, on the banks of the Mississippi. Just that morning the steamer 'Key City' had docked at the lower levee with an unusual cargo the first two passenger cars for the fledgling St. Paul & Pacific Railroad. Now a colorful locomotive named the William Crooks chuffed out of St. Paul and across the prairie to the Village of St. Anthony. The historic 10-mile run not only marked the beginning of railroad service in Minnesota but paced a vigorous new era of growth and prosperity in the vast Northwest.
One hundred years later, in a program at 11 a.m., June 28, in St. Paul's Union Depot, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Great Northern Railway will join in commemorating the first run of the William Crooks. The famous pioneer locomotive is on permanent display in the depot, just a stone's throw from where the first run began.
The occasion also marks the Centennial of the Great Northern, which grew from the early-day St. Paul & Pacific Railroad.