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Proposed Luce Line Railroad

 Proposed North-South Luce Line Railroad through French Lake.

 Starting in 1913, there were plans for a north-south rail line to be built through French Lake and South Haven, a few miles west of Annandale.

The Luce Line Railroad built a line westward from Minneapolis.  The owners, William L. Luce and his son Eric D. Luce, also planned a north-south route from Winsted to Howard Lake, Cokato, Knapp, French Lake, South Haven and to Starbuck.  This line was never built, although the Luces promoted the line and accepted money from investors.  French Lake citizens in particular held on to their hopes for the Luce Line and lost their investments.

The Luce Line Electric Short Line Railroad was plagued with financial difficulties and nearly went bankrupt twice. Since the Luces couldn’t raise enough money to complete the east-west line, one wonders if their plans for a north-south line were realistic or just a scam to raise money to complete the east-west line.  (Someone brought an original Luce Line stock certificate to a railroad presentation at the Kimball Area Historical Society.)

Brief History of the Luce Line Railroad:

1908:  William L. Luce and his son, Eric D. Luce, incorporated the Electric Short Line Railroad with plans to build a line from Minneapolis to Brookings, South Dakota, connecting communities without rail service.  1909:  Construction began.  1913:  To Parkers Lake, Glenwood Junction, Stubs Bay, Watertown 1915: Winsted, Sherman Station, and Silver Lake. 1916:  Reached Hutchinson.  1923: Cosmos and Lake Lillian 1924:  Financial difficulties.  Reorganized as Minnesota Western.  1927:  To Gluek.  The Luces sold their interests to Minnesota, Northfield and Southern Railway.  Construction ceased because no new funding was available.  Gluek, east of Montivideo, became the western terminus of the “Luce Line,” far short of the goal of Brookings. 1942:  Passenger service discontinued.  1958:  Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway purchased the Minnesota Western from the Cargill Company.  1960:  The Minneapolis & St. Louis renamed the Minnesota Western Railroad the Minnesota Industrial Railway.  The Chicago Northwestern purchased the Minneapolis St. Louis in 1960.  1967:  Petitioned to abandon the segment of railway from Hutchinson to Gluek and removed the tracks.  1968: Abandoned railroad from Hutchinson to Plymouth.  1972:   Line from Plymouth to Minneapolis became part of the Union Pacific railroad.  1995:  Most of the remaining right of way west of Plymouth became a public recreational trail.        

Luce Line Railroad Plans for a North-South Line (Articles are from the “100 Years Ago” section of local newspapers.)

Cokato Enterprise, October 9, 1913:  Electric railroad to pass through town:  That Cokato will have another railroad – and that an electric one – is only a matter of a few months, if everything works smoothly and harmoniously.  The line, if constructed, will be a branch from Winsted on the main line from Minneapolis to Watertown, SD, and will pass through Cokato, thence to Knapp, Kingston, and Forest City, terminating in Starbuck.

Dassel Anchor, October 30, 1913:  Electric line for Kingston:  Magnus Johnson was in Kimball Tuesday and informed the writer that they were going to have a big mass meeting at Kingston that evening to consider the prospects of the new railroad.

Mr. Luce, one of the officers of the company building electric lines throughout the state and who is back of this move, would be present to address the meeting.  There is no doubt but what the proposed line will be built if enough stock can be sold in the towns benefitted.

We have learned that at the meeting Tuesday night, Mr. Luce asked the Kingston people to take stock to the amount of $15,000, and the road would be built in two years.  No payment was required on the stock until the road was completed.

Cokato Enterprise, November 6, 1913:  Much interest is shown here for the contemplated electric rail line, and a large crowd attended the meeting held Tuesday evening to boost it.

Cokato Enterprise, November 13, 1913:  French Lake Newslets:  The farmers are all smiles on account of the electric railroad line, which is promised to come through here next summer.

East Knapp:  The news is very scarce, but wait until the Electric Short Line comes through, then . . .

Cokato Enterprise, November 27, 1913:  The promoters of the Luce Electric Lines are making an effort to get Howard Lake interested in the construction of the line north from Winsted, so as to go through there, crossing the Great Northern right of way.

Cokato Enterprise, December 4, 1913:  Another meeting was held at Kingston to complete the subscription for the new electric railway.  The meeting was largely attended, and $3,000 was raised, which completes the $15,000, the amount asked by the promoters.  The speakers of the evening were Col. Luce, a representative of the company, and Magnus Johnson.  Mr. Luce stated that the new road would be in Kingston within 18 months.  Kimball Kodak

Cokato Enterprise, December 25, 1913:  According to the South Haven Leader, the Luce Line engineers are busy making surveys in Kingston.

Annandale Advocate, March 5, 1914:  The surveyors are surveying the route of the Luce Line west of the corners (French Lake Corners).  We will all go to the State Fair next year via the electric railroad.

Annandale Advocate, March 14, 1914 (reprinted from the Buffalo Journal) – The South Haven Leader reports the Luce Line people are flirting with them.  It is proposed to run the line from Winsted and Howard Lake to South Haven.  This is the third line on the list and others being the Potter line from Monticello and Corcoran, Hanover and Buffalo line.  If South Haven can buy three trolley lines, it must have plenty of cash, and if it can get a line without buying it, we should like them to put us wise.

Cokato Enterprise, May 21, 1914:  The Luce Line promoters are going along in South Haven as though it is their intention to construct a branch through that village.  Already $6,000 worth of stock has been subscribed and a preliminary survey made.

February 5, 1914:  The Electric Short Line will go through Howard Lake.  At any rate, says the Litchfield Review, the Short Line people have accepted the subscription of the people of Howard Lake in the stock of the line, which had been held in escrow.  From Howard Lake the line is to run to French Lake, and thence west through Meeker County via Kingston, Forest City, and Manannah villages.

August 20, 1914:  In anticipation of the problematic building of the Luce Line, several Howard Lake and French Lake citizens have established a bank at the latter point.  Carl and G.C. Luhman, John Zech, H.W. Vogel and C.N. Anderson of Howard Lake, and N.A. Hillman and L.C. Thompson of French Lake are named as incorporators.

Note:  A plat was drawn for French Lake Corners in anticipation of the Luce Line.  The town was platted on the west side of the present Wright County Road 3.  When the rail line failed to materialize, the plat was not filed and French Lake remained unincorporated.  According to Chris Lantto, his grandfather, Abraham Lantto, made a large investment in the Luce Line and lost the money.

Cokato Enterprise, October 1, 1914 –Some of the French Lakers picnicked near the Luce electric line at Winsted Sunday.

Cokato Enterprise, November 19, 1914:  Forty cars of steel rails for the Luce Electric Short Line are due in Minneapolis this month, and it is expected that the line will be open and operating to Winsted by Christmas Day.

Cokato Enterprise, February 4, 1915:  Winsted soon will have the Luce Line at its doors.  The rails are now laid in sight of the town.

Cokato Enterprise, February 15, 1915:  Luce Line operating:  The Luce Line is now operating three trains daily between Minneapolis and Winsted, and expects to carry the extension work in three directions from Winsted this spring.

Cokato Enterprise, March 18, 1915:  A Winsted farmer sold six acres of land to the Luce Line for $250 an acre last week.

East Knapp - Somebody is already sawing ties for the Luce Line.  It will come, now or never.

Cokato Enterprise, May 20, 1915:  The Luce Line will be started to Silver Lake, it is reported, within 10 days, if $6,500 worth of stock will be subscribed for in that village.

Cokato Enterprise, May 2, 1915:  The mayor of Winsted said to the Luce Line party, that the citizens of Winsted make and enforce their own laws, and do not bother much about those enacted by the legislature. Visitors to that lively town have thought so for some time, especially when Cokato’s bunch of hoodlums come here to tank up.  -- Winsted Examiner

Enterprise, June 1, 1915:  Luce Line officials say it will cost $6,000 a mile to complete their lines from Winsted, and are asking more money from towns they expect to reach “within a reasonable length of time.”

Enterprise, September 2, 1915:  Four hundred men and 200 teams began last week the grading on the Luce Line between Winsted and Silver Lake.  The crew will try to reach as far as Hutchinson this fall.

Enterprise, September 15, 1915:  Five Hundred men are working on grading the route between Silver Lake and Hutchinson in preparation of the coming of the Luce Line, which is expected to reach Hutchinson by Jan. 1.

Cokato Enterprise, October 7,1915:  Luce Line officials state that the line will be completed as far as Silver Lake within 60 days and to Hutchinson within 90 days.  One thing seems certain, and that is that the line will not come through Howard Lake and French Lake within a short time.

Enterprise, January 27, 1916:  Luce Line reaches Hutch:  The Electric Short Line Railway, familiarly known as the Luce Line, has reached the Hutchinson city limits, and good progress is being made in laying the rails.  It is expected that freight and passenger traffic will be handled between Hutchinson and Minneapolis within a few weeks.

Enterprise, February 17, 1916:  Several young people took advantage of the free ride to Minneapolis on the opening day of the Soo (sic) Line near Hutchinson Tuesday.  Note:  Should be Luce Line.

Enterprise, February 24, 1916:  French Lake:  This spring-like weather revives our hankering to see the Luce Line run through here this summer.  Guess we will have to take up Christian Science.

Enterprise, March 1, 1916:  Luce Line runs to Hutch: The Luce Line has started passenger service between Minneapolis and Hutchinson, with four trains making the trip each way daily.

Enterprise, April 27, 1916:  Conductors on the Luce Line trains have been instructed not to allow drunken individuals to ride on that system.

Enterprise, May 4, 1916:  French Lake:  The band boys are working hard, so as to furnish the music for the dedication of the Luce Line depot when it is built here.

Enterprise, May 18, 1916:  The Luce Line announces a 70-mile extension planned for next year, to cost $100,000, and to run from Hutchinson to Montevideo by way of Clara City.  Work has already started on the grading.

Enterprise, October 19, 1916:  French Lake – The Luce Line has negotiated a $10,000,000 mortgage with the Minnesota Loan & Trust Co., and we have reason to expect them to do considerable railroad building next summer.  Who knows, but what we someday may have a railroad.

Enterprise, April 5, 1917:  J.A. Dokken, the merchant at Sherman on the Luce Line, is determined to get every egg in the county and has started a contest with prizes to the five bringing in the most eggs within a certain time limit.

Enterprise, May 3, 1917:  Fourteen young men from Hutchinson passed through Watertown on the Luce Line train enroute for Minneapolis to enlist.

Enterprise, June 28, 1917:  French Lake Corners -- A delegation from here attended the Luce Line meeting in Minneapolis Wednesday. 

Enterprise, July 12, 1917:  French Lake -- There will be a Luce Line stockholders’ meeting in the town hall Saturday evening for the purpose of nominating a director to serve on the Luce Line Board of Directors.  Stockholders should attend.

Some time later, exact date unknown, French Lake citizens gave up their dream of an North-South railroad and realized they had lost their investments.


Compiled by Annandale History Club Secretary