August 22, 1870: the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad begins daily service

On this day in 1870, the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad began daily passenger service between the newly minted Zenith City and St. Paul, with LS&M president William Banning hosting dignitaries in a specially outfitted train on the trip from the state capital to the Zenith City. That same year the LS&M had finished construction on Duluth’s first railroad freight depot at 300 East Michigan Street, right next to its grain Elevator A and the breakwater that protected it—also onboard the train was the first load of grain sent to Duluth, 11,500 bushels of wheat that would head down the lakes on, appropriately enough, the steamer St. Paul. The next year the LS&M built a five-stall roundhouse on Rice’s Point east of Garfield Avenue. The first Union Depot , a passenger station serving LS&M and NP, went up along Fifth Avenue West behind Michigan Street during this time. The two-story building had just two rooms on the main floor and was likely built in 1870. Cooke’s continued investment in NP stretched his already drained finances, and the great Philadelphia financier went broke in 1873, the same year the NP reached Bismarck, North Dakota. The LS&M managed to hang on without Jay Cooke’s money, even adding ten stalls to its roundhouse in 1876. But the railroad failed the next year, reorganizing as the St. Paul & Duluth Railroad (SP&D). Read much more about the history of railroads in Duluth here.

A locomotive waits outside the Lake Superior & Mississippi freight depot at the foot of Third Avenue East along the Lake Superior Shore, photographed ca. 1870. The large structure in the background is Grain Elevator A. (Image: Lake Superior Railroad Museum)