August 1, 1870: Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad completed

On this day in 1870 in Thomson, 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 a.m. that morning. As late as it was, a crowd formed at the LS&M freight Depot at the foot of Third Avenue East along Lake Superior 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.

A Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad locomotive crosses a bridge over the St. Louis River, some time between 1870 and 1875. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)