Friday, June 3, 2011

William Crooks - First Locomotive in Minnesota

The postcard above shows the William Crooks locomotive when it was on display in the St. Paul Union Depot. The locomotive was on display there from 1954 until the depot closed in 1971. Since 1975 the the William Crooks has been in Duluth, Minnesota's Historic Union Depot in the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.

The photo below is from the Minnesota Historical Society Visual Resources Database. It shows The William Crooks alongside Great Northern Railway locomotive 2030, circa 1925.

The William Crooks was the first steam locomotive to run in Minnesota and is one of the few Civil War era locomotives still in existence. The locomotive was constructed in 1861 and eventually became part of the Great Northern Railway. It was named for William Crooks, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Great Northern's predecessor line), and Colonel of the Sixth Regiment, MN Volunteers, in the Civil War. The engine arrived in St. Paul by Mississippi riverboat in 1861. On June 28, 1862, it made its maiden run over the first ten miles of Minnesota railroad, from St. Paul to St. Anthony (now Minneapolis).

Here is some information from the Lake Superior Railroad Museum website. More information can be found here.
Most of the early steam locomotives had cowcatchers on the front of them. This is because there were open ranges at the time, and cows and other animals wandered all over. If an animal got on the tracks and refused to move after bells were rung and whistles blown, the locomotive would use the cowcatcher to push the animal off the tracks. It might get hurt or even killed, but the cowcatcher prevented the animal from getting underneath the wheels of the train and derailing it. The headlight is a kerosene lantern, and the dome marked #1 is a sand dome. If the rails were slippery, the engineer pulled a lever and sand went down the tube and was dropped off in front of the drive wheel, providing better traction for the locomotive. A screen covers the top of the smokestack to curtail the sparks created from burning wood. These sparks might otherwise start fires along the tracks. The boiler is the long green part and was filled with water. A hot fire was built in the firebox of the locomotive cab. It heated all of the water in the boiler and turned it into steam. The steam went into the pistons and made the side rods go back and forth, which made the wheels go around. This is basically how a steam engine works. All of the extra water and fuel (in this case, wood) were kept in the tender until needed.
The William Crooks was retired from active service around the turn of the century. Its last trip under steam was to the Chicago Railroad Fair in 1948. The video shows it as "The Pioneer Train" en route to the New York World's Fair in 1939.

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  1. I always expected to see trains like the William Crooks on America's railroads. But all I have seen in practice is 'ugly' freight trains. Your postcard set the scene for an entertaing post.

  2. Oh my what a great post for Sepia Saturday about Minnesota, and trains....we sure had a fabulous beginning..if only trains could have stayed more in today's world....Amtak is fun to daughter and I just went to Chicago not too long ago....From St Paul and I've gone on it twice once to White Fish Montana and then to Portland, OR! ...and our Light Rail has it's advantages too!

  3. Those early locomotives certainly were handsome beasts

  4. For simple grandeur, those old trains are hard to beat. I wonder why the funnels on American trains were so enormous, compared with English trains, or is that my imagination?

  5. The train in the top postcard is so beautiful. I just now remembered that rich people used to have their own railroad cars that they would hook up to passenger trains to take them from place to place.

    Thanks for all the interesting info today. I enjoyed the video, especially the three guys standing on the caboose and the "Jesus is Lord!" part. They all made me smile.

    Thanks so much for stopping by to visit, and I hope that you have a wonderful weekend.

    Kathy M.

  6. I totally missed those last words...

  7. The card is nice, but your historical background is superb! (as always)

  8. Thanks for the background. Those trains were works of art.

  9. What a stunning engine. Looks like the type you'd see pulling a circus train. I wish trains weren't so utilitarian these days. They're such magnificent "animals."

    let's do that again!!
    my only sorrow was that the vid was silent... i even muted the tv, but no sound... sniff!!
    oh well!!
    i can still hear the trains as they go by a couple of streets from where i live...

    i swear, i must have a past life involving trains of some kind.

  11. beautiful postcard and I what an awesome video! How proud everyone was of that handsome train.

  12. William Crooks locomotive was a beautiful machine1 Why did they have to take the Magic out of train travel?

  13. That postcard is great, so beautifully coloured. What a pity the video had no sound.

  14. Excellent post! What a beautiful train - and the information about the sand dome! I had no idea that was part of the train's workings. I enjoyed the video too - thanks!


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