CMO (Omaha Road) Passenger Station

The Omaha Road Passenger Station ca. 1946, photographer unknown . [Image: Dale Johnson]

200 Fifth Ave. W. | Architect: Unknown | Built: 1897 | Lost: 1965

Organized in 1880 through the merger of several other railroads, the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway (CMO)—known as the Omaha Road—eventually served Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. In 1883 the railroad built a direct line connecting Superior, Wisconsin, with Chicago. Before 1885, when the Northern Pacific Railroad (NP) built the St. Louis River Bridge between Superior’s Connor’s Point with Duluth’s Rice’s Point, those who wanted to travel between Duluth and Superior had to take a ferry boat or, in winter, cross the frozen bay by sleigh or foot. Once the bridge was complete, the Omaha Road stood first in line to lease the rights to use it and set up business in the Zenith City.

Before it built its own line in Duluth, the Omaha Road rolled along the NP line the length of Rice’s Point, turning north until it reached NP’s freight depot across Fifth Avenue West from the Union Depot. The Omaha Road built a small passenger depot was built south of the NP facility at 232 South Fifth Avenue West. That building became a freight depot in 1897 when a new passenger depot at 200 Fifth Avenue West, described by the Duluth News Tribune as “superb” and “handsome.” (The CMO also operated another freight depot located at the foot of Eighth Avenue West.)

The new 160-by-30-foot English Revival building sat on a foundation made of Fond du Lac brownstone while its exterior walls were faced with brownstone from Port Wing, Wisconsin. Waiting passengers stood on platforms made of blue Bedford limestone quarried in Indiana, and slate covered its roof and that of an adjacent 250-foot-long passenger shed. Inside, steam heat and two fireplaces, one at either end, heated a 100-foot-long waiting room. Marble-lined restrooms, one for men and one for women, were also located at opposite ends of the space, and the ticket office sat in the middle. The building’s western portion also contained a large baggage room.

The Omaha Road and its depots served Duluth until the 1960s. The Chicago & North Western Railway (C&NW) began leasing the CMO in 1957; fifteen years later it completely absorbed it. The Omaha Road’s Northern Division main line to Duluth was abandoned by 1965, the year both Fifth Avenue depots were demolished for the expansion of Interstate 35 through downtown Duluth.