January 17, 1958: The last of the Northern Pacific’s steam locomotives

On this day in Duluth in 1958 at 7:15 p.m., Engine 1713 of the Northern Pacific Railroad became the railroad’s last steam-powered locomotives to operate out of Duluth—and on the entire Northern Pacific Line. According to the Duluth News Tribune, NP had been replacing steam trains with diesel-powered trains for some time, and the Lake Superior section was “the last division in the system to complete its dieselization.” The target date was actually set for the following Monday, but since the Duluth-Superior yards had not run steam engines on weekends for some time, the end came two days earlier. Manning the train on its final yard transfer run from Duluth to Superior were conductor Frank H. Wilson, engineer L. V. Johnson, fireman Robert Kratz, and brakemen Henry J. Slack and J. T. Skomers. Steam powered trains began operating out of the Zenith City in 1870, when the Lake Superior & Mississippi first connected the head of the lakes to St. Paul. The 1713 wasn’t the last steam locomotive to operate in Duluth. According to railroad historian Jeffrey Lemke,  special steam trains ran on the Missabe Road out of the Duluth Union Depot and on the Duluth & Northeastern Railroad out of the Soo Line Depot between 1958 and 1962. And today the North Shore Scenic Railway offers excursions to Two Harbors from the Union Depot’s Lake Superior railroad Museum on the historic steam locomotive SOO #2719. Read more about Duluth’s railroad history here.

Northen Pacific Locomotive 1713 and her last crew photographed January 25, 1958. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History)