Holding On To History: Do Ghost Trains Haunt Northland Woods?

Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 10:21 PM CDT
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MOOSE LAKE, MN. (Northern News Now) - In November 1911, newspapers from Minneapolis to New York reported on a train that had sunk seven feet in a swamp near Blackhoof on the Soo Line between Moose Lake and the Twin Ports. Some folks in Moose Lake say the engine is still out there. However, these people at the Moose Lake Historical Society say they’ve never heard that rumor.

“I never have heard that story, no.” said Ray Pesavent, a docent at the Moose Lake Area Historical Society.

“What do you think the odds are that it’s actually true?” asked reporter Dave Anderson.

“Well, it’s always possible, unfortunately nobody documented it properly, so we don’t know the facts.” said Pesavent.

Ken Beuhler of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum has heard many variations of the sunken locomotive theme. Beuhler says the subjects of those rumors are called ghost trains. He tells us some tales of abandoned logging engines have an origin in fact like the Split Rock Logging Railroad.

“They left the engine at the end of the line and there it sits today rusting away in a field or maybe in a swamp.” said Beuhler.

Ken reports those ghost trains were eventually cut up and salvaged. Some stories about ghosts turn out to not even be trains at all. Divers have proven that the wreck poking up out of Hoist Bay on Basswood Lake in the Boundary Waters is not a railroad relic.

“It wasn’t a lost steam locomotive but a steam powered barge that pulled logs across the lake.” said Beuhler.

A similar logging story comes from the Poplar area.

“What it really was was a steam tractor that had treads on it so it could pull logs in the winter.” said Beuhler.

One ghost story that is true involves Canadian Pacific Locomotive 694. It fell into Lake Superior near Marathon Ontario in 1910. Northlander Tom Crossman found the wreck in 230 feet of water in 2016.

“Just like they found the Titanic, they went up and found this steam locomotive that had fallen off the rails and into Lake Superior.” said Beuhler.

Maybe someone else in the future will find the Soo Line ghost between Superior and Moose Lake. Holding On to History in Moose Lake, Dave Anderson, Northern News Now.

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