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Dakota Depot: 1940

Dakota Depot: 1940

October 1940. "Rail depot in Burlington, North Dakota." The station last glimpsed here. Acetate negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Who would have ever thought?

Back in the early '90s I worked with a guy in Milwaukee who started his railroad career as an operator/telegrapher working vacation relief in just about all of the Soo Line stations between Harvey and Portal, North Dakota. The probability is high Stu worked the Burlington office on occasion. I recall complaining about the winter weather in Milwaukee once, and my buddy just gave me a look over the top of his glasses and didn’t say a word.

The look said, let me tell you about bad winter weather. Even as recently as the late 1950s these remote stations were heated with potbelly stoves, light was provided with kerosene, and bodily relief was facilitated outdoors. Communication was by telegraph key or block phone, and occasionally by telephone if the local feed store was blessed with one. Train movements were controlled by means of handwritten train orders. Now it’s all done in an air conditioned office a thousand miles away with a keyboard and state of the art radios. Who would have ever thought in 1956?

No Depot

There is no train depot in Burlington now. The two buildings to the right are also gone. But train depots of that era were usually near downtown and today there is still only one road in downtown Burlington that crosses the railroad tracks. So I started there and looked at the terrain in the 1940 photo. The red line starts where I believe John Vachon was standing when he faced east (I rotated the map) and took his photograph. In the top right of my photo below you can see the coal mines jsmakbkr referenced.

Hopper Come a Cropper

This Vachon photograph evokes an Edward Hopper painting.

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