A Short History of the Railroad in Blue County and how it affected the Area

Rich Forseth

The first Railroads came to Mankato in 1868 replacing the steamboat as the primary source of trade and travel.  Once the Railway arrived shorter local lines were built to serve smaller areas and meet at larger stations down the line with freight and travelers. One such line was build by the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul line from Good Thunder to Mankato in 1874. This track was built in only 5 months.

This short track helped Good Thunder into socially modern times. At first there were so many people that wanted to ride the train some people almost didn’t get to go. They could go to Mankato in the morning and return in the afternoon or go to show at 7 and return at 11. It allowed children to go to Mankato for music lesson or mothers to go shopping. This had to be a very exciting event to be able to take a train trip that would take a few minute rather then a horse or buggy ride that may take hours.

Everything was not without danger on the railroad there were many things that were not safe. Getting trapped under the train and being crushed was common.  Many times it was Hobos trying to jump the train. Sometimes there were collisions like the one near Minneopa Park. Two trains were going fast on the same track from opposite directions and collided head on. Some people were killed and there was a lot of other damage done as well.

Since the 1930s when the railroad was at its peak at of 9300 miles of track the lines have dropped to around 5000 in the 1990s. Large stretches of track went through ‘abandonment proceeds’ which is the legal proceeding involved allowing railroad land to be used for other purposes. The railroad right of way is 100 ft. wide or 12 acres per mile. Some of the abandon land was reintroduced as farm land there still large tracks made available for recreation like walking and biking trails.