July 31, 1884: First Ore from Vermilion Range

On this day in 1884, the Duluth and Iron Range Railway’s first locomotive, the Three Spot, delivered the first load of ore from the Soudan Mine on Charlemagne Tower’s Vermilion Iron Range to a new ore dock at Agate bay (later Two Harbors). The locomotive pulled just ten cars carrying 220 tons of iron ore on the sixty-eight mile road from Soudan to Agate Bay that day, but it marked the opening of iron exportation in the state of Minnesota. On board was Tower himself and Duluth pioneer William C. Sargent. In Tower, Minnesota, more than 100 Ojibwe donned “paint and feathers, to witness the advent of the iron horse into the region.” The Three Spot was built by the Baldwin Locomotive works of Philadelphia and shipped to Duluth by rail. The locomotive was then placed on a scow and towed by a tugboat to Agate Bay. The Three Spot was sold for scrap in 1920, but the D&IR’s Thirty Year Veterans Club purchased the engine before it was destroyed and put it on display in 1923. It is currently next to the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railway’s engine 229 at the depot in Two Harbors.

A “linen” lithographic postcard of the locomotive Three Spot made ca. 1930. (Image: Zenith City Press)