ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — When St. Paul gets light rail service in 2014, both downtowns will have passenger trains back.
There used to be a lot of rail traffic in both areas, not only carrying passengers but also grain from the mills, ore from the Iron Range and other freight.
“In fact, the fastest trains in the world from 1936 to 1972 ran between St. Paul and Chicago,” said Paul Gruetzman, a volunteer at the Twin City Model Railroad Museum.
The museum has smaller versions of those trains, still chugging along six days a week, through scale versions of the Stone Arch Bridge and other landmarks.
“It pretty much is the Minneapolis skyline as it was in the 50s when the Foshay Tower was the tallest building in Minneapolis,” said Gruetzman.
Volunteers run the museum, many of them without any connections to the railroad industry. They simply enjoy model building and storytelling.
“I like the history aspect,” said Gruetzman. “I like the stories. I like to tell people about what we’ve recreated here.”
They’ve recreated a time period from the 40s and 50s when diesel and steam engines shared the tracks and streetcars still rolled down the Third Avenue bridge.
The museum got its start in 1934 in St. Paul. It has spent the past 28 years at Bandana Square, which used to be locomotive repair shops.
The volunteers enjoy hearing from visitors.
“They’ll bring up stories of how they worked on the railroad,” said another volunteer, Lloyd Crary, “or when they were kids, they remember the railroad going by.”
Gruetzman added, “One of my favorites is you get three generations down here and the grandparents will say ‘I remember that train. That’s the one I proposed to your grandma on.'”
It’s those younger generations they really hope to impress, so this colorful era won’t soon be forgotten.