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Annandale Depot & Train Wrecks
Presentation to the Annandale History Club
March 7, 2011
Carol Weir


Carol Weir has been a Pioneer Park volunteer since 1981.  This is Carol’s third presentation to the Annandale History Club.  The other presentations were a Tour of Pioneer Park in 2009 and the History of Pioneer Park in 2008.

Annandale Depot

The Minneapolis & Pacific Railroad, predecessor of the Soo Line, built the Annandale Depot in November and December of 1886 using their standard 20 x 48 foot depot plan.  The same depot plan was built at Maple Lake, South Haven and Kimball.  The Annandale depot was at the present location of Lyman Lumber on Highway 55.  The original depot was situated on wood blocks with wooden planks and featured the following:

            20’ x 16’ waiting room with three windows and a door with transom.

            20’ x 9’ 1” office with a bay window and business counter opening to the waiting room.

            20’ x 22’ 11” freight room with sliding doors on three sides.

The construction cost for the 20 x 48 foot depot was about $1,250, material and labor.  The first station agent was E.J. McConnell (January-April 1887). W. L. Haggerty was station agent from 1891 to 1893 and 1895 until his death in 1921.

In 1908 the depot was lengthened by 24 feet to provide for an additional 20 x 16 foot waiting room.  One waiting room was for women and children and the other for men, because the men’s spittoons and smoking and chewing were very disagreeable to women.  The freight room was also lengthened.  The enlarged depot was 20 x 72 feet.  There was an outdoor toilet.  The depot was wired for electricity in 1916.

In 1949 the Annandale depot was badly damaged by poles that released from a passing train, and

temporary repairs were made.  At that time the village of Annandale requested that the Soo Line

construct a modern station to comply with the village ordinance that no outside toilets are

permitted in Annandale.  In 1950 the Soo Line complied with the ordinance and provided

modern toilet and water facilities consisting of one toilet located off the men’s waiting room.

Also in 1950 the depot was sided with Insul-Brick, a brick-look asphalt material, to help curb heat loss.  The decorative roof brackets were removed.  $5,326 was authorized for the work.  

 

The last passenger train to stop for passengers in Annandale was on May 2, 1959, and on March 25, 1967, the last passenger train passed through Annandale.   The Annandale depot closed in 1971.  In 1972 the depot was moved down Highway 55 to Pioneer Park.  The brick-look siding was removed and the depot was painted its original colors.

 

Annandale Train Wrecks

 

Carol recounted several Annandale train wrecks as reported in newspapers.  In 1922 there was a major train crash where 10 people died and 32 were injured.

 

Annandale Advocate, August 7, 2002 (Excerpts) -  By Chuck Sterling:  “The worst disaster in Annandale history occurred  in a few moments of mayhem at a railroad crossing 80 years ago.  Twelve people died and 35 were injured (Note: These numbers were from an early report and later revised to ten dead and 32 injured) on August 12, 1922, when a Soo Line passenger train slammed into an oil truck at what is now the South Myrtle Drive crossing just east of downtown.

 

“Soo Line No. 107 out of Minneapolis was enroute to the West Coast about 2:30 that Saturday

afternoon when an oil truck driven by Fred Lamar of Maple Lake drove in front of it.  He had

apparently been watching an eastbound freight on the siding and didn’t see the passenger train

coming the other way.  The train threw the truck into the switch stand, tearing it loose and

opening the switch.  The locomotive and mail car continued on the main line, but the baggage

and smoker cars and a day coach ran onto the siding and smashed into the freight engine.  The

impact knocked it on its side in the ditch with the baggage car on top of it.  The wooden smoker

car was hit by coaches from behind, and one of them plowed through the side.  Several other

coaches derailed, one box car was demolished and several others were badly damaged.

 

“The dead and seriously injured passengers, all men, were found in the smoker, which carried

about 40 people.  Another 140 or more passengers on the train were unhurt, according to a story

in the Buffalo Journal.  The truck driver and a passenger, who had hitched a ride, were killed. So

was the freight engineer, who was scalded by the steam from his boiler.

 

“Mrs. Harry Kurz, who lived near the crossing, saw the crash and immediately phoned two

Annandale doctors, A. M. Ridgway and George H. Norris, and the fire department, the Journal

story said.  ‘It was the latter that saved the loss of many lives,’ the Journal said, ‘as the

wreckage of the smoker caught fire almost immediately, and the fire department was soon on the

scene and quenched the flames.’

 

“The wreckage attracted thousands of onlookers.  ‘All day Sunday, from early morning until late

at night, every road leading to Annandale flowed with automobiles and pedestrians coming to

view the wreckage’ the Advocate said.”

 

Annandale Advocate, August 17, 1922 (Excerpts) – Firefighters E. Sykes, Fred Hart, Amazel

Bently, George Kurz, Carl Lundeen, Oscar Kurz, Neil Bahr, Ed Dunton, Walter Lundeen, and

Chet Sparks worked with blow torches to recover the injured and the dead.

 

As soon as word was received in Minneapolis, a relief train, doctors and nurses and a wrecker

were rushed to the scene.  Injured people were taken to the Cleveland, Kurz, and Towle homes

and when the relief train came were sent to city hospitals. 

 

Buffalo Journal, August 17, 1922 (Excerpts) – “Appeals for help were sent to every village nearby and as soon as possible physicians and nurses were rushing to Annandale from all over the county.”  The following physicians who responded were listed in the Journal article:

 

Dr. J. J. Catlin, Soo Line surgeon in Buffalo

Dr. B. F. Swezey of Buffalo

Dr. John Warner of South Haven

Dr. V. M. Rousseau of Maple Lake

Dr. George Sherwood of Kimball Prairie

Dr. J. H. Rischmiller, chief surgeon of the Soo Line

Dr. Rose Valley of Fairview Hospital, Minneapolis, who was a passenger on the train.

 

Persis Taylor, a graduate nurse, motoring to Tuelle’s Resort, arrived at the scene about one hour

after it happened.  She reported to the physicians and assisted in caring for most of the serious

cases.

 

Dr. A. G. Moffatt of Howard Lake, coroner of Wright County, was one of the earliest

professional men on the scene from a distance.  He arranged for the use of a business place for a

morgue and made every effort to identify the dead as rapidly as possible.  The injured were cared

for in homes of generous Annandale folk until it was possible to get a train to carry most of them

to Minneapolis for hospital care.   The train brought additional doctors and nurses from

Minneapolis.

 

Those who lost their lives in the wreck:

 

Fred Lamer, 34, Maple Lake, oil truck driver

Christian Wallace, 52, Minneapolis, freight train engineer

Robert Becker, 44, St. Paul, baggage man on passenger train

Arne Thompson, 72, Cambridge, passenger in oil truck

Emil Myllykangas, 19, Annandale

Bert Clark, 36, St. Paul, Salesman

Albert Zollner, 64, Adrian, Farmer

Raymond Ulrich, 20, Horicon, Wisconsin, going to the N.D. harvest fields

Edmund Ulrich, 18, Horicon, Wisconsin (brother of Raymond)

Unidentified man, clothes completely torn off, no means of identification

 

Among the 32 injured were Robert Norris, Annandale, Dr. Norris’ son, and the following Soo

Line employees:

 

Charles H. Mathews, Minneapolis, conductor of passenger train No. 107

Chadwick Hulton, St. Paul, assistant baggage man on passenger train

L. W. Johnson, Minneapolis, fireman on freight train

E. L. Palmer, Minneapolis, brakeman on passenger train

J. B. Mauer, St. Paul, brakeman on passenger train

 

Annandale Train Derailments

 

St. Cloud Daily Times, August 28, 1980 – Mayor Wally Houle was going for his morning

coffee Wednesday when he saw a large freight train buckle and fold ‘like a match box.’  At

8 a.m. a Soo Line Freight train bound from Glenwood to the Twin Cities flipped off the track

crashing into itself and spilling its cargo near a grain elevator at the center of Annandale.  During

the derailment seven grain cars, two cars of potash and two carloads of lumber went off the

center track, which runs along Minnesota Highway 55.

 

Minneapolis Star & Tribune, Friday, August 22, 1986 – A Twin Cities-bound Soo Line train,

carrying lumber, paper and container products, derailed Wednesday evening from tracks along

Highway 55, east of Annandale.  No one was injured when 15 cars near the back of the train left

the tracks, said John Bergene, a Soo Line spokesman.  Equipment used to clear debris broke a

telephone cable and severed long distance calling for about 6,000 Lakedale Telephone Co.

customers.  Bergene said a preliminary investigation showed that the derailment was caused by a

broken coupling mechanism that connects the train cars.

 

Buffalo Journal Press, March 24, 1988 – It all began about 7:40 a.m., Saturday, March 19.  An eastbound freight train was rumbling through Annandale.  Suddenly a car in the middle of the train jumped the rails.  Twenty-eight box cars and tankers toppled over and slid toward the business places along the tracks.  The Homestead Family Restaurant building, temporarily out of business, was hit.  Cars folded together like an accordion.  Those that struck the restaurant smashed some electrical equipment.  The whole place was destroyed by fire.  A short distance away, volatile methanol was leaking from a tanker.  Another tanker contained potentially deadly sulfur dioxide gas.  Still other tankers were reportedly holding anhydrous ammonia. 

 

A fireman told Mel Niewind, a produce manager who had opened Perry’s Jack and Jill that morning at 7, about the leaks in the tankers and said he better clear the store.  Electricity went out throughout most of Annandale for much of the day.  Police and firemen moved in very quickly.  They had streets blocked off in a matter of minutes.  The firemen set to work on the restaurant and the tankers near the fire.  The sheriff’s department called in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (PCA) hazardous materials (HAZMAT) specialty team.

 

The decision to evacuate the city was made at a little after 11.  The task was completed about noon. (Note:  Bendix Elementary was an evacuation site and moved to Maple Lake High School when Annandale was evacuated.  The local chapter of the Red Cross helped at the evacuation sites.  The evacuation was called off at 6 p.m.)     

 

Lt. Don Hozempa of the Wright County Sheriff’s Department would not even hazard a guess as to how big an explosion might have been if the methanol tankers had been set off by the fire.  He added, the Soo Line was “much impressed” with the emergency actions, especially considering the accident was potentially the most dangerous in Soo Line history.

 

Annandale Advocate, March 1, 1998

 

March 19, 1988.  It was 7:35 a.m.  Soo Line train No. 940, a general service freight train, approached Annandale from the west at 39 mph.  The train consisted of two locomotives and 85 cars.  It weighed 9,592 tons.  The two locomotives rolled smoothly past the Homestead Restaurant, Peery’s Jack and Jill Store, and then the engineer experienced a strange sensation, a lurching.  He radioed the Soo Line that his brakes had gone into their emergency mode.  The train slowly screeched to a halt.  Something was wrong.  Everything was quiet.  Twenty-eight of the train’s cars had derailed…  Three of the derailed cars were carrying methanol.  One tanker was carrying fuel oil, and one of the largest concerns was for a severely damaged tanker car that was carrying sulfer dioxide…  Each tanker contained about 20,000 gallons of material and some of it was leaking.  In addition to the derailed cars carrying chemicals, some cars were carrying lumber and started on fire along with the blaze from the Homestead.     

 

Help cleaning up – Volunteers worked a 43 hour shift over the course of the weekend.  Fire fighters from South Haven, Maple Lake and Buffalo pitched in to help, along with emergency rescue crews from Clearwater and Cokato.  The Wright County Sheriff’s Department had about 30 deputies on hand throughout the weekend representing 23 on-duty squad cars.  The State Patrol dispatched 11 troopers to the scene at different times over the course of the weekend.  Seven Department of Natural Resources officers helped to evacuate the town and helped secure it after it was empty.  They also provided night shift relief at the road blocks leading into town.

 

In addition to the fire fighters, law enforcement officers and rescue crews from the area, special hazardous materials clean-up crews came from as far away as California, Ohio, Nebraska, Canada and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to help in the effort… 

 

Aftermath – After the fires were out, the methanol leak had been plugged, and verification was received that the sulfur dioxide tank wasn’t leaking, the people of Annandale were allowed to return to their homes.  Officials estimated that the wreck caused about $400,000 in damage to the 28 cars that derailed and that there was another $30,000 in track damage. 

 

Lateral pressure on the rails is said to have been the probable cause of the accident.  The rail on the north side of the track was most likely pushed out slightly by the force of the train as it passed, just slightly, but enough to cause the wheels of that 33rd car to jump the track and derail the train.  The track had been inspected by a rail inspector on March 18, the day before the derailment.  That inspection found the track to be in compliance in every respect.

 

Looking back – Looking back on the event, there were many reasons for residents of Annandale to consider themselves lucky.

 

The wreck happened early enough in the morning that very few people were in the grocery store’s parking lot.  If the accident had happened later in the day, it could have been cars and people buried by the wreckage rather than just dirt and pavement.

 

The wreck, when it jumped the tracks, missed the Lamplighter Motel, missed the trailer where Henry Lundeen was sleeping, and struck the only building in the vicinity that was unoccupied, the Homestead Restaurant.

 

The fire, when it started, did not ignite the highly flammable methanol that was leaking from the damaged tanker cars.  There was no explosion, no escape of toxic gas, and no deaths or significant injuries.

 

 Notes by Annandale History Club Secretary

 

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