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home : columns : dave fjeld May 27, 2016


3/26/2014 8:58:00 AM
Checking out The Depot
Believe it or not (I couldn't) but it's now been over five years ago since the Union Pacific Challenger No. 3985, an old steam locomotive, chugged through Mt. Lake, Bingham Lake and Windom, treating area residents to a sight that hasn't been seen in many years.
Those who were fortunate enough to slip away from work to watch the powerful locomotive pass through the communities got a peak at a bygone era.
If you like trains, that was a real treat to see the one-time primary mode of transportation make its way through town.
As far as I was concerned, that was the one and only time I would ever get that close to one of the original "Iron Horses."
Little did I know what treasure awaited me in Duluth.
Over the weekend, my wife and I visited our son, Tim, who is living and working in Duluth. While we enjoyed time just sitting and talking about what has been going on in each other's lives and, of course, going out for dinner, we also took the opportunity to see what other sites Duluth had to offer.
While we've seen many sights - we've been in Duluth for the tall ships festival (if you've never done it, do it; it's great) - there are still plenty of things to see and do that we haven't. Even Tim, who's lived in Duluth now for almost two years, hasn't seen all there is to see. And that included the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center "Depot."
I must admit, I was a bit skeptical as to what the Depot had to offer, but I figured it couldn't hurt to check out.
I'm glad we did.
Wow! What a treasure. While the Center offers four levels of sights, including art galleries, a military memorial display and a playhouse (Hairspray was showing while we were there), the real find is in the Depot's "Track Level."
As we made our way down from what was the Depot's original ticket lobby, we were transported back to 1910 Duluth when the primary means of cross-country, or even cross-state, travel was the railroad.
Indeed, "Depot Square" featured shops that one might find in a 1910 train depot. The shops displayed a variety of antiques which would be akin to the particular shop that was featured.
In one shop, women were even taking lessons on looms.
But the real treat was seeing actual restored trains from the late 1800s and early 1900s on six tracks within the Depot. On one of the trains, you could actually climb into the train engineer's compartment and see where they shoveled the coal to power the train.
You also could climb aboard the dining car and see fine China that was part of the table setting for the dining car. You also got a look at the mail car.
Unfortunately, another six inches of snow had fallen in Duluth the night before, so going outside to view more trains wasn't possible (that may be a summer or fall trip in the future). Still, for someone who is only mildly interested in the railroad, the Depot offered a great two- to three-hour lesson on yesteryear.
And it's a great sight for young and old alike. For young children whose attention span would wear thin in short order, the Depot had toy trains running around a community setting and there was actually an air-conditioned rail car set up with a variety of games and fun activities.
If you ever get to Duluth, you have to check out the Depot. It is well worth the price of admission. I look forward to going back some summer or fall day and spending a little more time indoors - and out.
Snow, snow and more snow
The calendar may say spring, but it's anything but in Duluth.
I was simply amazed at how much snow that area still has. We drove down streets that were barely wide enough for two cars and saw people blowing out driveways lined with eight-foot snowbanks.
We also saw the first freighter of the spring leaving the Duluth harbor. You could barely see the path that an icebreaker had carved through iced-over Lake Superior.
While I realize that snow melts fast at this time of the year, I have a feeling that residents of Duluth aren't expecting to see green grass any time soon - let alone open water on Lake Superior.
Maybe we don't have it quite so bad here in the state's great Southwest.









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