From the Soo to Sioux City, Published 3 February 1944Here we are at the Michigan Soo. Whereas most American cities are bigger and brighter and better than their Canadian counterpart, this one definitely takes second place to its Canadian opposition. The town seems to have slipped for sure, and it is far from the brisk place it was when I first saw it, years ago, replete with street cars. There are two interesting things there, one a wolf statue, the other a Japanese shrine emblem. Both were the gifts of a former governor. I understand he brought the wooden shrine arch back from Japan. There it stands today, on the canal grounds, guarded faithfully by a drawling soldier from Louisiana. Of course he was guarding the canal too, but the Nipponese ornament went along with it. Further up the street is wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. You remember the founders of Rome were supposed to have survived, thanks to a kindly female wolf.
So we leave the Soo without too much regret, riding the Soo Line's No. 7, behind Soo engine 736. Up ahead was the gaudy Milwaukee Road's sleeper Lisbon, loaded with folks, Chicago-bound. We had a Soo Line sleeper. Formerly, these all began with "B" as for Bowbells, but now the Soo Line just gives them numbers. At the back of our sleeper was a tiny diner, created out of a former drawing room.
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We moved deliberately through the snowy wastes till we got to Trout Lake. Here for sure is a cartoon junction, with the Duluth South Shore and Atlantic railroad tracks crossing the Soo's. A little one storey restaurant stood adjacent to the station, and and on another siding were a Soo and a D.S.S. & A. train. Up the line stood another South Shore local, held up because we lay athwart their tracks. Seemingly we waited till everybody got fed, then we pushed on.
Travel might be brisk elsewhere, but I noticed the daycoach ahead was almost empty, and it was Saturday night too. Even war cannot revive this Lake Superior shore of Michigan state, apparently.
I could not see there was much to do, and so went to bed at Gladstone, which was the 8.30 stop. That probably would account for the fact that I did not seem to want to sleep after 6.30 in the morning. At breakfast, I got an unfamiliar accent, and had to listen acutely before I detected the Swede talk. I had forgotten that we were in Minnesota, kingdom of the Swedes in America. I got their odd inflections all through breakfast, also some strong cheap cigar smoke.
I had written ahead to the great Red MacKelvey, now Dr. John MacKelvey, professor in the medical school in the University of Minnesota, hoping that he could come and meet me, and he did, with his wife, the former Ruth MacKinnon of Hanover, Ontario, and Queen's. We went up to the hotel, had breakfast, then proceeded to play over a few of the great football games when Queen's was in its heydcy, and went unbeaten for four seasons. We finally got around to that last game, fought out on a snow-covered field at Lansdowne Park, in November, 1925. when the Tricolor, after 26 successive victories a record never equalled in Canada before or after) succumbed to Ottawa Rough Riders.
Anyway, in the air-cooled coffee shop, over our orange juice, we rolled back the calendar, like oldsters tend to do, and then it was time to catch my train.
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To me the station at St. Paul is always a thrill, because of the railways that go through it. There'll be the North Coast limited of the Northern Pacific, sometimes known as the Baked Potato Route. You'll glimpse the yellow and red coaches of the Milwaukee Road's Olympian, and a mountain goat will ride by, stencilled on the Great Northern. The maroon of the Soo Line coaches will contrast with the conventional Great Western, noted only for the low numbers of its coaches. 40, 25, 16, etc. I always thrill at the aluminum sleekness of the Burlington Zephyrs, and relish the green and yellow of the Northwestern' "The 400." Then if I am lucky. I may see the mousy little Minneapolis and St. Louis. So my eyes had a field day till I crawlpd aboard the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Line. 51 per cent of whose stock is held by the C & N.W.
When I went aboard "the Omaha" as it is called locally, I was disappointed. Gone was the luxurious limousine lounge car, and in its place was a runty little chair car. bounded on one end by a half-size dining chamber, and with no observation phase whatever on the other end. "They, took it off" said the porter when I asked about the advertised car. and that was that. Later, the conductor said the car was too small to do anything with. I had seat 13.
This train goes through what I shall call the Mayo Brothers country, although it does miss Rochester. Minnesota. But as we headed southwest from St. Paul, this is about the best general description I can give you of the country. Mid-January, there was no snow, and the landscape was most dreary. This country was meant to be covered with snow in winter, and the ghastly greyish shade the countryside assumed would depress he most buoyant.
Meanwhile, as it headed away from the banks of the Mississippi, toward the banks of the Missouri, our Omaha train, known as the North American limited, made all the whistle stops and hustled 50 miles an hour in between. It took a long time for the 277 miles to pass, but finally the bluffs of the Missouri swelled up on the west, and we arrived in Sioux City, believe it or not. 15 minutes early. A strange railroad, the Omaha.
In our next, a visit to Sioux City.