Monday, November 28, 2005

St. Vincent Round House

My grandmother Elizabeth Fitzpatrick sometimes mentioned a 'round house' as I was growing up. It was long gone by the time my mother was born, let alone me. But it had been a significant feature of the town at one time.

Due to managerial judgement calls made my railroad men in smoke-filled back rooms somewhere in St. Paul, the St. Vincent Round House would fade into history...

Round House Of St. Vincent
by Bobbi Jo Schulte
[A historical essay by an area student]

Mr. Ed Krues, a resident of St. Vincent, would walk to work every day. What was this man's job and what made it so significant?

Perhaps this man's job began with the starting of railroads, or you could say, it started with a man's dream. A man's dream of railroads in the north which developed, and they called this railroad line, The Great Northern.

In was James J. Hill's dream. His dream was to put railroads through and through they came. Through to St. Vincent, through to Emerson, and right into Winnipeg the Flyer would go.

The Great Northern owners had big dreams for the railroad. When the road reached St. Vincent, they planned to build over the Red River coming from the West. The Northern Pacific was to meet them on the North Dakota side. Together, these railroads would build a bridge over the Red River.

Among the great plans for the railroad was the inclusion of a round house, to be located at St. Vincent, Minnesota, where the engines could be repaired.

The men who built this round house made it of wood and iron beams. This was done so that the building wouldn't burn. Fortunately, there were no fires that happened while the railroad operated the round house. A turning table was included in the round house which was used to turn the trains around.

Mr. Krues's job would begin when the trains would come in. The trains come in from the east so that the engines would face west. The engine of the train would be left here.

In order to keep the trains running, an employee of the railroad was stationed at the round house. Mr. Krues was this man who had to keep these engines going. He and the other man, Bill Buckly, would feed the engines with coal during the night so that the fires wouldn't die out during this time.

Mr. Bill Gooselaw can remember when he was a child, that he and some other children would ride on the "cow catcher" to the round house. There they would get off and walk back home. They weren't supposed to be doing it, but it sure was fun.
In front of the trains there is a piece of iron that is shaped in a "r" It got its name from the purpose it was to serve, the cow catcher. If the cows were on the track, it would shoo them off. In the process of shooing them off, it would usually break the cows leg or injure it in some way.

The Great Northern trains would usually come north from Crookston and stop at the round house in St. Vincent for a new crew and a new engine. The men of this crew would stay in St. Vincent at different homes that would take them in.

Before this time, there was a Great Northern Hotel in St. Vincent. But by the time that the round house was built, this hotel had been torn down all except the kitchen. The residents of St. Vincent called this kitchen the "Great Kitchen" because of its size. A few of the men, however, would stay there in this kitchen.

The Flyer would go to Winnipeg and then get another fresh crew and come back to St. Vincent. Here the crew that they left would go on and the "Canadian" crew that was on it would stay at St. Vincent. They also traded engines again.

The engines in the round house would be turned around until it faced the east. In front of the St. Vincent elevator at this time there was a "y" track. After the engines were faced to the east, they would be driven on the "y" track and then would go north up to Winnipeg or south to Crookston.

Unfortunately, the Great Northern plans didn't work out as had been planned. The Central Pacific and Great Northern never joined together to build this line over the Red River. Because of this, there was no more need for the round house. In the year of 1902, the round house of St. Vincent was torn down. What could have been a great railroad round house is no more, and now the Great Northern train goes through St. Vincent [ed. note: actually the edge of town, by the 'junction'; and it's the Burlington Northern now...] without even a stop until it reaches Winnipeg.

Bibliography: Gooselaw, Eli - Interview, January 23, 1971