Welcome to 2024!
While the world will no-doubt be focused on war and the U.S. presidential election, we here at Zenith City Press are focused on completing a project we’ve been working on (with many interruptions!) since about 2015: Twin Ports Trains: The Railroad History of Duluth and Superior, 1870–2020. My coauthor on the project is Jeff Lemke, an actual former railroad worker who actually operated locomotives and, moreover, perhaps the most knowledgeable railroad historian to ever turn his attention to the Twin Ports.
Yes, longtime followers will note that Jeff and I have made this promise before—but things like life and Covid got in the way. But this very day we are sending the first seven of ten chapters to our intrepid copy editor, Scott Pearson—tucked inside his writing shed in the heart of Carlton County, where the Northern Pacific Railroad was born. In the past few weeks I have spent dozens of hours in three local archives—UMD’s Martin Library Archives and Special Collections, the UWS Jim Dan Hill Library’s Lake Superior Maritime Collection, and the Lake Superior Railroad Museum archives inside the old Duluth Union Depot—gathering photos to illustrate the book. Along with Jeff’s incredible collection of local railroad photos (over 8,000!) we’re going to have a tough time deciding which to include.
Unlike other railroad history books, which focus on a single railroad and provide endless details designed to appeal to die-hard railroad enthusiasts, Jeff and I are taking a different approach. While we cover well over a dozen railroads, we focus on how and why they came to the Twin Ports, what services they provided here, how they interfaced with local industries, and ultimately how they shaped the growth of both Duluth and Superior, affecting the population, economy, and—quite literally—the landscape. So it’s not just a railroad book. It’s also a history of Duluth and Superior as seen through the rise and fall of the railroads that served both cities.
Our goal is to release the book on August 1, the anniversary of the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad’s first train from St. Paul to Duluth in 1870—the very first train to serve the Twin Ports. We plan to launch at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth. Until then, we’ll be using our Monday updates to provide sneak peeks at the book’s contents.
Happy New Year—hope to see you at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum on August 1!