Tower & Soudan Street Railway Company
For a short time before the turn of the 20th century, Tower and Soudan had a streetcar. The streetcar ran from Mill Point, through Tower along Main Street, to Soudan along Main Street past the former mine office and hospital, right below the Soudan Mine.
The Tower & Soudan Street Railway Company came to be in December of 1889, filing its articles of incorporation. Frank Barrett, M. O. Brooks, James S. Blachaller and G. J. Atkins, of Lancaster, Ohio; C. W. Boyd, of Rysted, Ohio; and Fred Barrett of Tower were the incorporators. It was given $6,000 in capital from a city bond and was contracted to run for 20 years.
It seems that there were some struggles with securing the proposed route – a blurb from the Duluth Herald mentioned that the company will tunnel through to its destination if it needs to. After months of deliberation, the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad agreed to let the streetcar’s tracks cross theirs.
An early power plant, and also the streetcar garage, was built along its track to the northwest of Tower. According to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company’s maps, it was directly west from North Third Street. LakeVermilion.net is searching for more information about this power plant – whether it was for the streetcar only, or if it generated power for Tower too.
Legal issues beset the company throughout its short lifetime. A man named Aaron Wickstrom sustained an injury upon being thrown from a rail car, insisting he was damaged to the tune of $13,000 in what appears to be a case of insurance fraud. The case was active in the courts for two years, and eventually Wickstrom was awarded $1500. Finally, in 1896, the city of Tower sued to have the company’s franchise terminated and to decide the fate of the remaining assets. LakeVermilion.net has found documents related to the court case in the CaseLaw Access Project, referenced below.
The streetcar railway ran northwest to southeast at this point, away from the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad track. To the northwest was the sawmill and box factory on Mill Point. The track ran southeast and turned east onto Main Street, then out on 3rd St North on the east end of town, behind where St. Martin’s Catholic Church now stands. It then followed along the current Highway 1 route on the north side, then south for a bit along the Junction Road’s railroad grade, and then up into Soudan between the former hospital and the Soudan Mine, where the depot was originally located according to early Sanborn Fire Insurance Company maps.
In this current map, the railway is visible as a sharp tree line running northwest from the marked point, on the north edge of the low swamp that resembles a field. The railway hooks to the north and meets the Hoodoo Point road near where the old city dump road runs.
Sanborn Fire Insurance map showing the route of the Tower & Soudan Street Railway. The broad map shows an inset of the Tower Electric Light Plant and Tower & Soudan Street Railway engine house. LakeVermilion.net is currently trying to locate the ruins of the garage and power plant, if any still exist. According to the map, it was located 800 feet north of the old Sawmill No. 2; the map places its location due west of North Third Street in Tower.
St. Louis County Land Explorer rendering of the extent of the Tower & Soudan Street Railway route. These photos were taken between 1937 and 1941, and already there is little trace left of the route. The shipping rail route from Tower to Mill Point was highly active at the time these photos were taken; the street railway route is a faint trace of a track between the shipping rail and the Hoodoo Point road of that time, crossing the road into the field before turning sharply west toward the lake, on the north side of Mill Point.
After the company was dissolved, a section of the route between Tower and the Soudan Mine was absorbed by the Tower Junction and Soudan Mine railroad operations. The rest of the route was left to be reclaimed by nature.
Section of what remains of the Tower & Soudan Street Railway track, between Tower and Hoodoo Point, facing southeast toward Tower. All that remains of the track is the raised roadbed running through the swamp.
A panorama of the former city dump site, along the former track. The dump site has been cleaned up.
An old fence post from the fence around the former city dump site.
Some other photos taken around the former city dump site.
What appears to be an old leather firefighter’s bucket was found in the woods along the Tower & Soudan Street Railway track.
St. Paul daily globe, Vol 11, No 365 – December 31, 1889
Two New concerns.
The Tower & Soudan Street Railway company filed articles of incorporation with the secretary of state yesterday.
The capital is $20,000 and the incorporators are: Frank Barrett, M. O. Brooks, James S. Blachaller and G. J. Atkins, of Lancaster, O.; C. W. Boyd, of Rysted, O., and Fred Barrett, of Tower, Minn.
Duluth evening herald, Vol 8, No 37 – May 21, 1890
It is stated that the Tower & Soudan Street Railway company will tunnel through to its proposed destination if the proposed right of way cannot be secured.
Duluth evening herald, Vol 8, No 107 – August 22, 1890
The Tower Railway.
Next Sunday the Tower & Soudan Street Railway company will lay its rails across the Duluth & Iron Range track at Tower, and by Sept. cars will he regularly running.
Duluth evening herald, Vol 9, No 38 – May 21, 1891
This afternoon the personal damage suit of Aaron Wickstrom vs. The Tower & Soudan Street Railway company is on trial. The plaintiff asks for $13,000 for being ejected from a car, whereby he was thrown to the ground and had his hand cut. It is believed that the case will be finished by tomorrow noon, whereupon court will probably adjourn.
Duluth evening herald, Tenth Year – May 14, 1892
The personal damage case of Aaron Wickstrom against the Tower & Soudan Street Railway company is still on trial in the United States court today and will go to the jury this afternoon. The testimony is all in. The plaintiff has attempted to prove that he sustained severe personal injuries by being ejected from a street car. He fell on the street and insists that he was damaged to the extent of $13,000. The defense set up the fact that the plaintiff was drunk and refused to pay his fare and became abusive to the conductor. Thereupon he was ejected as quietly as possible under the circumstances. The arguments before the jury began immediately upon the opening of court this afternoon.
Duluth evening herald, Tenth Year – May 16, 1892
He Secured a Verdict.
Aaron Wickstrom Was Given $1500 by the Jury.
Before Judge Nelson in the United states circuit court this morning the verdict rendered by the jury in the case of Aaron Wickstrom vs. the Tower & Soudan Street Railway companv was opened and found to be $1500 for Wickstrom.
Duluth evening herald, Eleventh Year – February 24, 1894
Judge Ensign conducted the special term today and there were about twenty five cases on the calendar. Aaron Wickstrom made application for the appointment of a receiver for the Tower & Soudan Street Railway company and his prayer was granted. The court will name a receiver.
Duluth evening herald, Twelfth Year – June 30, 1894
Further Time Asked
J. P. Johnson Resigns the Receivership of the Tower & Soudan Street Railway – Other Matters.
Some months ago J. P. Johnson was appointed receiver of the Tower & Soudan railway on petition of Aaron Wickstrom, who alleged that the company was insolvent. Mr. Johnson when he surveyed the ground, found it very much so, as he observed in a petition to the court at the time. With a very large list of liabilities, he finds but $92.18 in assets. He tendered his resignation to the court this morning and A. H. Crassweller was appointed in his place with bonds of $2000.
Duluth evening herald, Fourteenth Year – July 14, 1896
The city of Tower yesterday afternoon began suit against the Tower & Soudan Street Railway company, A. H. Crassweller, its receiver, and the American Loan and Trust company, to annul the railway’s franchise. The road was given a franchise in March, 1890, and it received also the city’s bond for $6000, the consideration for both of which was that the road should run for twenty years. It ran spasmodically until March 4. 1894. when it expired, and it is now one of the deadest roads in the country.
The city claims that the franchise and bond and in fact the road itself is forfeit, and it wants the court to annul the franchise and give it all there is left of the road, 6333 yards of steel rails, worth $1200. The American Loan and Trust company claims some title to the rails by virtue of bonds of the road, but the city claims that its claim is prior. The right-of-way of the road has lapsed to the original owner long ago. W. G. Bonham is the attorney.
CaseLaw Access Project: City of Tower v. Tower & Soudan Street-Railway Co., 68 Minn. 500 (1897)