Lake Superior Railroad Museum celebrates 50 years

[anvplayer video=”5170605″ station=”998130″]

The rail industry has been around much longer, but the museum tracking its history is celebrating 50 years in 2023.

The Lake Superior Railroad Museum has vastly expanded since its inception in 1973.

“Back in the 1970s, there was something that happened that changed everything: Amtrak came along in 1971,” Lake Superior Railroad Museum Executive Director Ken Buehler said. “And after that, you could drop a passenger train anywhere you wanted to because now the federal government was doing it instead of the railroads.”

Buehler says five people conceived of the idea to take the depot in Duluth and turn it into an arts, culture, and history center.

“I think what makes this special is the stories that get told. Any museum is just really a collection of stuff,” he said. “And until somebody tells somebody else their train story, that’s when it all comes alive.”

The first piece in the LSRM collection is a Mallet steam locomotive. It was retired in 1960, and one of the museum’s founders, Don Shank, had the foresight to hold onto it.

“He had no place to put it, he had no plan on how to do it, but he knew it was going to happen. So he took this, he parked it in the roundhouse up in Proctor, and wrote on the side of it with chalk, ‘Save,'” Buehler said. “And it became one of the first pieces in the collection of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and today is one of the most popular.”

The locomotive’s wheels turn and museum visitors can hear what it sounded like on its last trip in 1959.

The newest exhibit in the Lake Superior Railroad Museum showcases advances in technology.

“It tells the story of how the advancement of electronic signaling made railroads that much safer, not only for the people that work on them but also for the public as well that lives around them. So this has been a multiple year effort that is now just coming to fruition,” Buehler said.

Saturday, April 1, will be a Family Free Day at the museum. People can visit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for free.