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October 5, 1949: Last trolley from Forbay to Fond du Lac

On this day in 1949, the trolley from Forbay to Fond du Lac made its final trip. Where the heck is Forbay, you ask? Forbay was a community located at the southernmost point of Thomson Township established by the Great Northern Power Company, predecessor to Minnesota Power, in 1905 for its hydro station workers and their families. According to Esko’s Corner: A History of Esko and Thomson Township, “The power company carried its workers and supplies from Fond du Lac by train. It also used a gas trolley car to tote residents and visitors to and from Fond du Lac over the old Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad route along the St. Louis River. The settlement, near the power station on the river, had seven single-family dwellings for the employees plus the superintendent’s house and a two-story wooden hotel. The hotel, which housed the single men and boarders, had a kitchen, eight double sleeping rooms, a sitting room and a dining room, and provided work for many Thomson Township women as cleaners and kitchen helpers. In the early 1960s Minnesota Power discontinued renting the homes to employees and sold the buildings. Some of the structures were moved to Fond du Lac and some were dismantled and rebuilt elsewhere….The gas trolley—Mack Rail Car No. 195—made its last run to Fond du Lac on October 5, 1949. Minnesota Power & Light sold the old car for $500 and bought a one-ton Dodge truck with a plow for use at Thomson Dam. In the spring breakup of 1950, a wall of water came cascading down river and washed out portions of the track, the climax of an era that had begun more than 40 years earlier.” Read more about Forbay here.

A Great Northern Power Company gas-powered passenger car followed the old Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad tracks along the St. Louis River between Forbay and Fond du Lac. Forbay was built by the power company in today’s Jay Cooke State Park in 1905. (Photo: Jon Severson)