Book examines Minnesota's rail history through photosYou’re driving through town, eyes on the road ahead of you and suddenly you see it — that red- and white-striped arm lowering slowly into your path as lights flash beside it.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
You’re driving through town, eyes on the road ahead of you and suddenly you see it — that red- and white-striped arm lowering slowly into your path as lights flash beside it.
It’s a scenario many people envision when they think about railroads.
“And that’s about the only thought they give to them,” said Steve Glischinski, a man eager to provide people with a different perspective.
Glischinski grew up the son of an airline pilot, but his dad’s hobbies stretched far beyond planes.
“He was always interested in general transportation. If it moved, he liked it,” Glischinski said, remembering the weekends he and his dad would watch trains go by just east of St. Paul.
As a result, Glischinski developed a love of railroads and started writing about them when he got older. Years later, he has released his sixth book, “Minnesota Railroads: A Photographic History, 1940-2012.”
The book offers a colorful history of the state’s railroads, ranging from the era of steam locomotives and luxury passenger lines to the re-emergence of railroads as a profitable transportation industry.
Glischinski said he has always wanted to put together a book about Minnesota and finally realized an opportunity when he discovered old photographs in the files of the Minnesota Historical Society.
“So it started as a project to get those photos seen,” he explained.
As it progressed, however, plans changed and more images were considered. Glischinski said he spent about two years reviewing thousands of pictures before narrowing down his selection of those to include in the book. The finished product features the work of nearly 30 different photographers.
“We ended up having more photos from outside the historical society collection,” Glischinski said.
Of all the photos included, several highlight Red Wing in particular. One of them looks down over a mail train from the top of Barn Bluff during the 1940s. Another, taken in the 1970s, shows a station agent inspecting a train as a caboose rolls by the Red Wing Depot — a memorable landmark along the rail.
“It was always an important station on the Milwaukee Road and you could tell that by virtue of the large station they built there,” Glischinski said.
“The double track main line of the Milwaukee Road was one of the larger railroads in the state … so I wanted to make sure I included Red Wing because of that.”
Alongside interesting images in Glischinski’s book are facts and figures that offer readers some insight on the highs and lows of Minnesota’s railroad history. According to Glischinski, the rail saw success in the 1940s and ‘50s. Those decades were followed up with two more that experienced rougher times.
“But starting in the 1980s railroads really came back to life,” Glischinski said, referring primarily to freight trains. “Today’s railroads are doing better than they ever have in their history.”
“Minnesota Railroads: A Photographic History, 1940-2012” can be purchased through the University of Minnesota Press, www.amazon.com or www.barnesandnoble.com.