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The Tootin' Louie

The Tootin' Louie: A History of the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway

Don L. Hofsommer
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    The Tootin' Louie
    Book Description:

    In The Tootin' Louie, railroad historian Don L. Hofsommer offers a comprehensive biography of the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway and its Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and Illinois service areas. Incorporating primary research documents, including station records and dispatchers's reports, Hofsommer brings the M&StL to life by portraying the lives and times of the people involved in the railroad.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9603-1
    Subjects: Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Don L. Hofsommer
  4. Acronyms and Shortened Names
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Chapter 1 Expectancy
    (pp. 1-4)

    “We are a state of the Union,” boomed theSaint Paul Daily Minnesotanon May 14,1858. “No longer outside barbarians,” exclaimed the editor, “[we] have donned our freedom suit.” Indeed, predicted theDaily Minnesotan,the new state would shortly have a population of a half million persons and would post great advances in “wealth, manufacturers, agriculture, and the mechanic arts.” Typical Western boosterism, yes, but pardonable since the state did hold great potential. Yet the nasty panic of 1857 and a regional “Indian menace” had thrown a distressing pall over the region. Moreover, Minnesota, for the most part, remained a...

  6. Chapter 2 Lethargy, Euphoria, and Panic
    (pp. 5-12)

    During the years following the Civil War the United States was hard at the business of transforming itself from a decentralized agrarian republic into an urban and industrial nation. The value added by manufacture leapt by an astonishing 82 percent between 1869 and 1879. The modern factory concept, with large numbers of workers managed or supervised in central shops, was an essential element of the new order. Those factories needed at once a massive labor force and a massive body of consumers. Mass production, of course, required mass consumption, with railroads and the telegraph the twin maidens providing the essential...

  7. Chapter 3 Albert Lea at Last
    (pp. 13-21)

    Even as fiscal calamity rained down about him, W. D. Washburn boldly reasserted that the Minneapolis & St. Louis would be driven southward to meet the Central Railroad Company of Iowa and in that way realize his much-longed-for but sadly delayed Minneapolis—to—St. Louis dream. Yet the Iowa road itself remained without connection to the North Missouri road, and in truth was little more than an isolated vertical axis route across Iowa. It stumbled into receivership in mid-1874. Another attractive candidate, Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Minnesota, also stood beckoning at the Iowa border, and, in fact, had joined with...

  8. Chapter 4 Optimism and Realism
    (pp. 22-32)

    From the very beginning of the company back in 1870, the Minneapolis & St. Louis had been the tender handmaiden of the Minneapolis flour millers, the Washburns in particular and, by extension, those whose fortunes were tied in one way or another to those flour millers. There was a distinct symbiosis that all could see and understand. Flour millers needed a constant and reliable source of wheat, and they needed constant and reliable avenues along which to move flour to market near and far. Flour millers also needed favorable rates on both raw material and finished product. Indeed, favorable rates...

  9. Chapter 5 The Great Rock Island Route
    (pp. 33-43)

    In the 1860s and 1870s Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (CRI&P) had been slow, probably too slow, in extension of its lines, main arteries and feeders alike. Its management had chosen to err on the side of caution; its shareholders, after all, were not prone to speculation. As other roads moved to solidify service areas against “invasion,” however, Rock Island was forced to reassess what it saw as its “natural territory.” But again Rock Island chose a conservative path. Its alliance with Chicago, Burlington & Quincy in the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern matter was an apt application of the...

  10. Chapter 6 Independent Again
    (pp. 44-61)

    William Haynes Truesdale was one of the most able managers Minneapolis & St. Louis ever had. Bright, sagacious, and a born leader, Truesdale was well on his way to a distinguished career in the railroad industry. But at M&StL his considerable talent was constantly under test. No longer the local favorite in its home city, merely a part of the “Great Rock Island Route,” M&StL was rather viewed as just another of the oftdespised Chicago roads. Moreover, its principal owners were distant and distracted. Truesdale and M&StL usually had to fend for themselves. Growing government regulation was a constant vexation,...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Little Harriman
    (pp. 62-77)

    Edwin Hawley’s life was reminiscent of the popular Horatio Alger stories contemporary with his own time. The beginnings of Hawley, referred to as “the little Harriman” during the early twentieth century, were nevertheless humble. Born in 1850 at Chatham, New York, he left home at age seventeen and headed for New York City. He took the first job offered—as messenger boy for the Erie Railroad. Hawley subsequently moved to Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific as clerk and contracting agent. His personal characteristics took hard form: he worked, he watched, he studied, he learned, he kept silent. And he invested,...

  12. Chapter 8 The Newest and the Best
    (pp. 78-84)

    Even as Edwin Hawley and friends looked for new worlds to conquer, L F. Day had a railroad to run. And it was a larger, more complex operation in 1905 than it had been a decade earlier, when Minneapolis & St. Louis had operated only 370 route miles of line. It had grown to 662 miles after completion of the Southwestern to Storm Lake, and to 799 miles with lease of Des Moines & Fort Dodge.

    Minneapolis remained M&StL’s headquarters city, its operating hub, and because of the road’s well–known presence in the milling district, M&StL still played an...

  13. Chapter 9 It Will Be a Hummer
    (pp. 85-100)

    On Saturday, July 16, 1904, the crew of the Minneapolis & St. Louis “Passenger Extra 7 East” at Spencer must have exchanged expressions of mixed wonder, bemusement, and anticipation. They were in charge of Edwin Hawley’s inspection tour, had right over all other trains, and had been given two hours and forty-three minutes to get Hawley to Winthrop, 117 miles distant over mostly dirt-ballasted railroad, which would require speeds of nearly sixty miles an hour between some stations. Another crew at Winthrop would receive similar orders to whisk Hawley to Minneapolis for a connection there for Chicago and then home...

  14. Chapter 10 Everything from Caskets to Corsets
    (pp. 101-121)

    The United States Underwent Significant growth during the first decade of the twentieth century. The service area of Minneapolis & St. Louis—and the company itself—reflected at least some of this. South Dakota’s population grew from 401,570 to 583,888. Iowa’s population actually dropped, however, from 2.231 million to 2.224 million, the farm population receding as it had since 1880, but the population of Des Moines jumped to 86,368 citizens. Minnesota grew nicely, from 1.751 million to 2.75 million, and Minneapolis swelled to 301,408 residents by 1910. M&StL’s mileage in these three states rose from 597 in 1900 to 1,027...

  15. Chapter 11 Struggling among the Titans
    (pp. 122-133)

    THE NEW YEAR OF 1912 SEEMED AUSPICIOUS enough. The national economy was strong, the Dow Jones Industrial Average remained steady, and immigration to the United States continued apace. But not all news was good, sad to say. The country, and indeed the world, was stunned in April when the British linerTitanicwent down in the Atlantic with heavy casualties on its maiden run. Closer to home, M&StL experienced its own loss when Edwin Hawley died suddenly on February 1. In Minneapolis, W. G. Bierd ordered that all work at M&StL stop for three minutes at 1:00 p.m. on Febraury...

  16. Chapter 12 Sweet and Sour
    (pp. 134-146)

    GOOD CROPS AND A ROBUST NATIONAL ECONOMY spelled attractive numbers for Minneapolis & St. Louis in 1916 and 1917. Interline freight business grew nicely, the average length of haul increased to nearly 170 miles, and in 1917 revenue tons reached 6.6 million, the highest in company history to that time. The numbers of passengers carried and passenger miles were down slightly, but system revenues from all sources were the greatest yet achieved. M&StL’s operating ratio stood at 68.89, compared to 68.31, the average of all Class One railroads (those earning over $1 million in revenues per year). Substantial combination depots...

  17. Chapter 13 Hard Times in Good Times
    (pp. 147-156)

    “Failure To Participate In The Growth Of our national traffic is usually a sign of some serious trouble,” said a plainspoken analyst at Moody Investor’s Service in 1923. Such was the lot of M&StL. “Our financial difficulties have been brought about by general conditions affecting the northwest railroads,” William Bremner toldRailway Agewhen asked about the receivership. “In the last two or three years we have not shared in the prosperity which has accrued to the southern and eastern roads.” There was more to the story, of course, including a recalcitrant Interstate Commerce Commission and obdurate state regulatory bodies...

  18. Chapter 14 Soldiering On
    (pp. 157-167)

    The Marvelous “Bull Market” That Had Typified Wall Street trading since 1924 came crashing down on October 24, 1929, when sell orders exceeded the ability of the New York Stock Exchange to execute those orders. There had been earlier indicators of instability, and many stocks were selling wildly at odds with actual corporate assets, and some speculators shrewdly began to sell. In any event, a serious correction was a foregone conclusion; the only question had been when it would happen. Yet despite the crash in October, William H. Bremner made no mention of it in the company’s 1929 annual report,...

  19. Chapter 15 Mean and Ugly
    (pp. 168-179)

    Hoopla Surrounding The Fabulous Foshay Tower and its dedication on August 30,1929, in downtown Minneapolis had seemed an appropriate exclamation mark with which to end the “Prosperity Decade.” Minneapolis, now grown to a population of 464,356 and ranking fifteenth among American cities, rejoiced in the Foshay building, patterned after the Washington Monument, and Minneapolitans eagerly turned out to hearThe Foshay Tower Washington Memorial March,which had been composed by the famous John Phillip Sousa and was played by his equally famous band. In fact, however, the closing of Minnesota’s largest lumber mill at Virginia on October 9 was a...

  20. Chapter 16 Frey and Dismemberment
    (pp. 180-194)

    John Junell was a prominent and wealthy Minneapolis attorney and likely a friend of Judge Wilbur E. Booth, who was overseeing the receivership of Minneapolis & St. Louis. Born at Indiana, Michigan, in 1886, Junell graduated from the University of Michigan law school in 1907, and, except for service as a naval aviator in the Great War, had practiced in Minneapolis since 1911. His clients included several short-line railroads, and he represented Chicago Great Western in Minnesota. As M&StL’s co-receiver he was essentially window dressing, there to appease the Hawley interests and a bondholders’ group led by Edward Delafield.¹


  21. Chapter 17 Reason for Hope?
    (pp. 195-203)

    Near the end of August 1937, the stock market experienced a shudder and business across the country showed signs of slackening. By fall the market was demoralized; prices would not bottom out until April 1938, and then only after losing about two-thirds of the gains registered since their nadir in early 1933. Business dropped over the same precipice. Industrial production fell by one-third in only nine months, showing no symptoms of recovery until May 1938. Several small railroads entered receivership in 1937, and larger ones including Erie and Soo Line followed in 1938. Mild optimism that had been creeping across...

  22. Chapter 18 Free at Last
    (pp. 204-211)

    The year 1940 proved a watershed. In Europe, Hitler gobbled up and occupied a huge expanse from Norway through France, while a monumental air war raged over England. Instincts of isolation tugged mightily on American heartstrings, but President Franklin Roosevelt did all he could to prepare the country for a war he thought inevitable. Congress grudgingly concurred, enacting the first peacetime draft, nodding in approval when Roosevelt called the National Guard to federal service, and authorizing major military appropriations. At the same time, calls for increased industrial and agricultural production surged across the long rusty marketplace. The iron grip of...

  23. Chapter 19 Don’t You Know There’s a War On?
    (pp. 212-221)

    The war experience of 1941–45 had a profound impact on the United States. Production numbers were stupendous as the economy roared into full gear. During the course of the war, factories and assembly plants churned out 80,000 landing craft, 100,000 tanks and armored cars, 300,000 aircraft, and 2.4 military trucks, consuming in the process 434 million tons of steel. From Pearl Harbor Day through 1944, American shipyards launched 4,500 cargo vessels in addition to heavy tonnage in destroyers, cruisers, battleships, and aircraft carriers. America was indeed the “arsenal of democracy,” as President Franklin Roosevelt so aptly noted.¹

    The agricultural...

  24. Chapter 20 Sprague and Prosperity
    (pp. 222-239)

    The heady euphoria of V-J Day passed quickly, giving way to confusion and frustration as America sorted through the ambiguous, fluid, and unpredictable postwar environment. The railroad industry mirrored the national mood—one of pride in wartime accomplishments, but tempered by hard memories of the 1930s and uncertainties about the future. Movement of grain continued at record levels following V-J Day, stimulated in part by programs designed to assist war-ravaged Europe. Rates on all commodities were essentially the same in 1945 as they had been at the beginning of the war; passenger rates, roughly 3 cents per mile, up slightly...

  25. Chapter 21 Sprague at the Throttle
    (pp. 240-246)

    As the clock ran down on the momentous decade of the 1940s, America had lost much of the exuberance and self-confidence that was abroad the national landscape onV-J Day and just after, wiped away in part by growing concerns over the spread of communism and by frustration with the awesome new responsibilities that came with being a world power. Domestic discord became widespread. Labor and management shouted at one another, racism was an evil blot on the country’s reputation, and another “Red Scare” was erupting. The economy wavered. Stock market averages edged upward, and the agricultural sector was strong, but...

  26. Chapter 22 The Ides of May
    (pp. 247-253)

    The news reached 111 East Franklin Avenue in midsummer 1953. Lucian C. Sprague was at first incredulous, then bemused, then irritated. The same was true of other senior managers and members of the Minneapolis & St. Louis board of directors, many of whom had been associated with the company since it had emerged from receivership in 1943 or even longer. They had seen the road through its darkest hours into the bright light of respect and prosperity. Sprague’s role had been pivotal, and it had earned him the title “Doctor of Sick Railroads.” M&StL’s nearly miraculous escape from death was...

  27. Chapter 23 Halting Steps
    (pp. 254-260)

    Ben W. Heineman was unlike any of those who previously had directed Minneapolis & St. Louis affairs. He was no William Drew Washburn, who had seen in M&StL a tool by which to advance the broad purposes of Minneapolis interests. He was no Ransom R. Cable, head of a larger railroad who had viewed M&StL as a valuable strategic appendage. He was not a bright and talented professional manager like William H. Truesdale. He was not of a mind with Edwin Hawley, who had played a lone hand, although there were vague similarities. He was not like attorney William H....

  28. Chapter 24 Days of Red and White
    (pp. 261-284)

    John W. Devins had hired out in 1912 and worked his way through the ranks; he was without formal education, and when Heineman ousted Lucian Sprague in 1954, Devins was sixty-five years of age. Short, husky, a quick thinker and close observer of M&StL’s operations and property, Devins was intolerant of poor performance, but he also had a ready wit and a merry twinkle in his eye. Mechanical Superintendent William W. Landmesser thought him “a typical Irish policeman,” recalling Devins’s insistence on truth: “If you ever lied to him, you were dead.” Chief Dispatcher Manford J. Reitan considered Devins a...

  29. Chapter 25 Valhalla
    (pp. 285-294)

    On Thursday morning, April 7, 1960, department heads and other key personnel were assembled in the president’s office at 111 East Franklin Street. Nervous banter belied a general feeling of apprehension. With good reason. Max Swiren and Albert Schroeder came directly to the point. Minneapolis & St. Louis, they announced bluntly, would become a part of Chicago & North Western if stockholders of the two companies and the Interstate Commerce Commission agreed. And, they affirmed, approval was likely. Swiren and Schroeder said that combination would not adversely affect employees and predicted that a much larger railroad would, in fact, present...

  30. Chapter 26 Under a Green and Yellow Flag
    (pp. 295-306)

    October 31, 1960, when the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway breathed its last, was Halloween, a night of goblins and ghosts. One is left to wonder if the spirits of Henry Titus Welles, William Drew Washburn, William H. Truesdale, Edwin Hawley, and William Hepburn Bremner were about that evening, and if so, if they communed with that of Lucian Charles Sprague (who had died recently in Minneapolis) as to M&StL’s fate. What might have been their line of conversation? They likely would have agreed that M&StL had fought the good fight, that the road had overcome great odds to survive...

  31. Appendix: List of M&StL Stations and Other Places Mentioned
    (pp. 307-310)
  32. Notes
    (pp. 311-360)
  33. Index
    (pp. 361-374)
  34. Back Matter
    (pp. 375-375)