There’s an old saying that North Dakota was built by wheat and railroads, and there is a significant amount of truth to it. By 1887, two transcontinental railroads had completed their tracks across what is now North Dakota. Minot, Mandan, Grand Forks and Fargo served as railroad hubs, with products flowing through them from east to west. However, these main lines were often too distant for farmers to easily haul their grain, wool, eggs and other produce to the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific Railheads. Consequently, smaller commercial ventures attempted to meet the need.
In 1887, the Minneapolis and Pacific Railroad completed its line to Lidgerwood, later expanding its tracks onward to Oakes. But there were three additional railroads attempting to construct lines through Minnesota to North Dakota in an attempt to fill the gaps. The Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie & Atlantic Railroad, along with the Minneapolis & St. Croix Railroad, and the Aberdeen, Bismarck & Northwestern railroad were all experiencing financial difficulties. Aid came from the Canadian Pacific Railroad, looking to find a shorter route to markets in the United States, but the Canadian Pacific mandated that the four railroads become one larger efficient railroad.
The combined railroad, the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie, became better known as the Soo Line. It quickly expanded across North Dakota and to Winnipeg. On this date in 1905, officials of the Soo Line announced that the line from Red Lake County in Minnesota to Ward County in North Dakota was now complete, with the final section of track laid at Mylo. But what was astonishing is that the section of line was completed in one hundred and four days – more than three hundred miles of track laid at the rate of 4.2 miles per day. Over four million, five hundred thousand yards of earth were moved, thirty-one new railroad stations were completed and ready for occupancy, and another four stations were under construction. And there were one hundred and twenty-two elevators now available to handle the huge crops produced in 1905.
The speed of construction was one of the remarkable feats in American Railroading at the time. But more importantly, the new line helped open markets for a new wave of immigrants seeking homesteads in the first decade of the 20th Century.
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
The Omemee Herald November 24, 1905
The Soo Line by Patrick Dorin Superior Publishing 1979
Dakota Datebook September 16, 2012 “Magnificent Wheat Country” by Sarah Walker