Coon Rapids tracks part of railroading history

For author Steve Glischinski, his heart embraced the romance of the railroad when he was just a young boy. Although he grew up within whistle-shot of the trains in St. Paul, the romance of the rails eventually led him to Coon Rapids where he discovered twin rails winding through town.

Author Steve Glischinski includes some of Coon Rapids’ own rail history in his new book, “Minnesota Railroads: A Photographic History, 1940-2012.” Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Press

Author Steve Glischinski includes some of Coon Rapids’ own rail history in his new book, “Minnesota Railroads: A Photographic History, 1940-2012.” Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Press

Glischinski soon became intrigued with the unusual management and maintenance of those lines – one track built and owned by Great Northern Railroad, the other built and owned by Northern Pacific Railroad.

“That was unusual: a joint track that each owned, each used, but one maintained,” Glischinski said, describing the unique set-up of the Coon Rapids track before the merger of the two railroads back in the 1970s.

Another, more contemporary characteristic of Coon Rapids’ rail lines was the fact that the new Northstar Commuter Rail line goes through town.

“That’s newsworthy. That’s worth noting,” Glischinski said.

And so he did.

Glischinski included Coon Rapids railroad history in his just-released book, “Minnesota Railroads: A Photographic History, 1940-2012.”

“The author covers how Coon Rapids is a station on the Northstar Commuter Rail line and on the main line of BNSF (Burlington-Northern Sante Fe) Railroad. It also includes a color photo of a Northstar commuter train in the snow,” said Heather Skinner, publicist and assistant marketing manager for University of Minnesota Press, publisher of “Minnesota Railroads.”

Yes, Coon Rapids’ historic landscape and the rails that run through it are included in Glischinski’s latest book.

While “Minnesota Railroads” illustrates the history of train travel in the state, the book also gives readers a richly textured picture of railroading’s past and future and its impact on life all across Minnesota.

“Steam trains came through Coon Rapids in the ‘40s and early ‘50s. Now the Northstar comes through town, so Coon Rapids has lots of railroad history and I was glad to include it in the book,” Glischinski said, and talked about the enduring value of the train.

“I’ve been in love with trains since I was just a small boy,” he said. “These huge machines that transport freight and coal, move people across the country. These are the machines that built America and most major lines are still there. They’ve traversed through mountains, across rivers, through history … You wonder where they’re going, what they’re hauling … There’s such intrigue there.”

The book offers a look at Minnesota railroads from near the end of the romantic era of steam locomotives and luxury passenger lines to the re-emergence of railroads as one of the few profitable transportation industries.

Thousands of photos were reviewed for inclusion in “Minnesota Railroads” and Glischinski painstakingly chose photos from every region of the state to include in his latest book – including the picture of the Northstar Commuter Rail train passing through Coon Rapids on a snowy afternoon.

Those photographs illustrate how the railroad was an integral part of everyday life.

“Trains are magnificent and many people share that fascination. It’s been around since the first tracks were built,” said Glischinski, the author and train aficionado.

“Minnesota Railroads” is Glischinski’s seventh book on railroading and this one illustrates how railroads are just as vital today as they were in the past.

In addition to writing books about railroading, Glischinski, a resident of Shoreview, is a correspondent for “Trains Magazine” and organizes railroad photography charter trips and the Railfan Weekend at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth.

To meet Glischinski, stop by the Jackson Street Roundhouse, 193 Pennsylvania Ave. E., St. Paul, Saturday, Nov. 3 during a “Minnesota Railroads” book-signing event planned from 10:30 a.m. to noon that day.

Admission fee (which includes access to the book event, as well as the Jackson Street Roundhouse exhibits, restoration shop tour and caboose ride) is $10 (adults), $8 (seniors and students five-15 years old), $5 (children two-four years old. Children under two years of age are admitted free of charge.

“Minnesota Railroads” will be available for purchase at the book signing, or you can go to www.upress.umn.edu, or look for it at www.BarnesAndNoble.com or amazon.com.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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