Today was pretty much a transit day along US 2 from North Dakota to Minnesota. It rained most of the day and thankfully the wipers worked when we needed them. The segment of US 2 that we covered today was pretty boring from a terrain standpoint. It runs through the northern plains that stretch as far as you can, but hills are few and far between. As we head east in Minnesota we’re getting into the lakes region of the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
In Michigan, ND we were directed into town to see a historical marker that memorializes the worst train wreck in the history of the state. It happened in 1945 and involved the Empire Builder. The first section of a Great Northern passenger train had to make an emergency stop because of a damaged wheel bearing, and the engine of a second following train plowed into it from behind. The two Empire Builders were traveling to the West Coast as a pair. The first contained Pullman sleeper cars, with 237 people aboard, and the second train carried between 600 and 700 people in coach cars. The passengers were almost all military men and women as World War II was winding down and would end within a week. 34 were either killed instantly or overcome by steam escaping from the engine underneath the Pullman car. Roughly two-thirds of the dead were military while the rest were primarily women, with several small children. Only one person was found alive, but unfortunately she died on the way to the hospital. Michigan residents and some of the military passengers worked heroically to rescue people from the wreckage, tend to wounded, and provide food and drinks to all involved. A tombstone-like marble marker sits in front of a Veterans Memorial near the point on the railroad tracks where the crash happened to commemorate the tragedy. The names of the individuals killed are on the front and the story of the event is on the back.
We pulled into a KOA in Bemidji, MN late this afternoon. We didn’t get as far as I wanted today because we made a grocery stop at a brand new (30 days) Wal-Mart in Grand Forks. I’m hoping the sun comes out for the drive tomorrow so the pictures are brighter.