April 5, 1974: The locomotive Wm. Crooks placed on the National Register of Historic Places

On this day in 1974, the steam locomotive Wm. Crooks was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Shortly thereafter a new home was created for it in Duluth when it was moved to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum located on the lower level of Duluth Union Depot in May, 1975. It resides there today—on indefinite custodial loan from the Minnesota Historical Society. The Wm. Crooks first arrived in Minnesota on September 9, 1861, when it was delivered to its new owner, the Minnesota & Pacific Railroad, founded in 1857 as the state’s first railroad. The original predecessor of the Great Northern Railway, the M&P began as a simple line connecting Stillwater, Minnesota, to St. Paul with aspirations to eventually run between St. Paul and the Red River Valley on up to the Canadian Provinces. The Wm. Crooks—a small, balloon-stacked 4-4-0 American-type steam locomotive—was built that same year by Smith & Jackson of Patterson, New Jersey. It was small by today’s standards; the combined length of engine and tender was just shy of 51 feet—shorter than one of today’s typical boxcars. It proudly carried the number 1 and went into service in 1862. It was named in honor of the railroad’s chief engineer, William Crooks, who had become a colonel in the Minnesota Volunteer’s Sixth Regiment during the Civil War. The Wm. Crooks would become an ambassador of the nation’s rail history, and you can read about that in a much more complete history of the locomotive here in a story by Jeff Lemke.

Here’s one of the earliest known images of the Wm. Crooks showing its original straight top boiler and triple domes before it was rebuild after the roundhouse fire of 1868. The logs in the tender are the fuel that fire the boiler of this wood-burning locomotive. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History)

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