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.