Riding the Iron Range’s urban rail service of yore

Many are surprised to learn that the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota once boasted an interurban rail service called the Mesaba Railway.

Hourly trains between Hibbing and Gilbert served the St. Louis County side of the Mesabi Iron Range, a row of towns that follow a rich iron formation that gives the region its name. The fact that the train stopped in Hibbing is why the western Mesabi in Itasca County is often forgotten as an important part of the region’s mining might.

The train ran from 1912 to 1927, a time of enormous growth and sociopolitical turbulence on the Range. The railway actually fell into receivership and was picked up by the company that would later join the confederation of companies known as the Greyhound Bus Company.

Anyway, this train enthused computer animator made a short movie of some of the trains you’d see on the railway of that time. I enjoyed seeing this:

The animator claims not to know anything about the region; only a love for the particular trains that served this area. So the animations are highly focused on accurate train images and sounds, and sometimes comically inaccurate about the towns themselves or the time these trains ran. (There is a circus, a Ferris wheel and a zeppelin flying over Hibbing, for instance). But if you’ve been to the Iron Range of today, you might have your mind blown by the look and sound of these trolleys, one of which you can still ride over at the Minnesota Discovery Center.

Anyway, this is pretty much what my dreams look like, if anyone is curious about that.

UPDATE: For more on the history of the Mesabi Railway, see this story from the Hometown Focus in Virginia.
(h/t Robert Thiel)

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