August 1, 1870: Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad completed

On this day in 1870 in Thompson, Minnesota, at eleven minutes past 8 p.m., the last spike was driven into the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad. Hundreds of laborers on hand for the event broke into cheers—they had been working double shifts to meet the August 1 deadline. At 11:30 that same evening, the first train from St. Paul to Duluth arrived in the Zenith City at 11:30 p.m., having left St. Paul at 7 p.m. that evening. As late as it was, a crowd formed at the newly built Union Depot to greet the train. Pulled by locomotive No. 8, the train consisted of a baggage car, two passenger cars, and two freight cars. Many of the railroad’s officials were on board for the historic journey, including chief engineer and superintendent William Wallace Hungerford. The next day railroad president William Banning arrived in Duluth, along with other dignitaries from St. Paul and Duluth, on a train pulled by a locomotive named for him. Read more about Duluth’s railroad history here.

The Lake Superior & Mississippi’s first freight depot, which stood at the base of Third Avenue East at Lake Superior. (Image: Minnesota Historical Society)