The Iron Exchange Building
1940 My father worked in the carshops and quickly became a welder. By being a welder for the NP, my father was excepted from being drafted into the Military during the second world war.
These two pictures were taken
in the shops on Sept 12, 1940.

Sprawling over dozens of acres photo: Aeral View of Shops in northeast Brainerd, the Northern Pacific Railroad car shops employed hundreds of workers in box car building and repair. At that time the Brainerd car shops must have seemed like a city unto itself. Workers and equipment were able to manipulate metal, create cars or repair them.

When the whistle blew, workers were expected to be on the job. Then the foreman walked the areas and if a worker was missing another man would be sent to fill the gap. I can remember that the whistle would blow for the start of work, noon and at end of work and also any time someone was injured on the Job.

photo: Tie Plant
The Tie plant just south of The Tie plant just south of the Westgate Mall on the Brainerd / Baxter border operated under both the Northern Pacific and Burlington Northern railroads, treating railroad ties with oil and creosote.

The Northern Pacific was called the Main Street of the Northwest. Hundreds of people worked at the shops. Passenger trains arrived daily from the East and West. Supply trains stopped at the storeroom picked up supplies and then went to the West Coast, dropping items off along the way. Trains had cars with cooks and bunks for the long haul.

Freight cars brought in any kind of orders from cigarettes to furniture. Anyone could order 25 cases of Campbell's soup if they wanted and it would have arrived with those freight cars. Then Dray drivers, first with horses and then with trucks, then hauled the order to the various businesses in town. The railroad back in those days was an interesting way of life and Brainerd was actually built around the railroad here.

We then moved to 518 G St. NE, Mother and Dad wanted to buy this house, but it wasn't for sale. I attended kindergarten at Lowell School.

1942 My Sister Mary Ann Grace was born January 21.
1943 Home

Mom and Dad bought the house at 715 7th Ave. NE. The house had one bedroom and no bath. We had an outhouse. Mother set up a large tub in the kitchen for a bath on saturdays.

Frank and Helen Jensen, lived across the street from us at 710 7th Ave NE.. They had two sons Dick and Bob.

In September of 1943, I went to kindergarten at Lowell School in northeast, the school was about five blocks from my home.

1944 Anyone starting to work for the railroad in 1944 was paid 58 cents an hour and could expect to see a raise every six months and could be up to $1 an hour by 1947. Every apprentice had to learn to do anything a carman could do. Work records of occupation, dates and pay rates were kept by the railroad on index cards. Even the time that a person spent in the service, counted as far as the railroad logs.
1946 My father and Grandfather Joe added one bedroom and a bath room. So my sisters could have their own bedroom. They redid the back porch to make a bedroom for me.

My sister Jean Carol was born Feb 14.


Dad sold the house and we moved out to Gull Lake, we lived in Grandma and Grandpa Ramsey 's home

photo: Depot
Depot and Water Tower

1953 Home

In Feb Dad and Mom bought the house at 511 4th Ave NE, which was only a block and a half way from Lowell School.
1954 In November the layoffs started. First the younger men with less seniority left. Nobody knew how long it was going to be. Nearly 200 men were laid-off. A small group caught on with railroad jobs in the Twin Cities. Dad was not affected by the layoffs'
1955 In June I graduated from Washington High School (My web site for the Class of 1955))
1956 In August went into the Army ( See my web site of military assignments)   As of today I have not moved back to My Brainerd. I have gotten closer, as I lived in Sauk Rapids from 2002 to 2005. Now Im back in St Paul. Well I ever move back to Brainerd ? My heart tells me too. But who knows?
1970 The railroads declined after the big mergers kept coming. The NP & BN merged on March 2. It was really sad to see them go downhill the way they did. When the taxes changed from gross tons to property taxes for railroads, the buildings started to come down. Roundhouses were lost, as well as depots. One of the worst things to see go was the Brainerd depot. Some of the ones they preserved couldn't hold a candle to that one in Brainerd. Later the items like the 750-ton press would also be removed.

Later during a visiting trip from railroad big shots confirmed what people inside knew. The biggest mistake we made was to close the shops because there was no other shop on the railroad that was like this one.


Other Towns and Places

[Baxter] [Sylvan Township] [Pillager] [Gull River] [Madden's] [Breezy Point]

History of

[Minnesota] [Crow Wing] [NP Railroad]

[Railroad Posters] [NP Equipment] [Joes' Train]

Last Updated 26 May 2012