The Northern Pacific Railroad

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The Northern Pacific Freight Train near Helena, Montana 1944.

The Northern Pacific Railroad freight cars carried goods for a growing Nation, also many people looking for a ride during hard times. It had to be awful cold heading for the West Coast in the fall and winter in an empty box car. About the coldest place on the Earth. Many people rode in empty boxcars when the doors were left open. I think they were left open for that reason during the days of the Great Depression. For many, it was the only way to look for greener pastures, to seek work during hard times. There is a good book describing some of those years it is titled “Brother-can-you-spare-a-dime You Spare A Dime.” book

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Northern Pacific Railway
Headquarters Saint Paul, Minnesota
The Northern Pacific Railway (reporting mark NP) was a transcontinental railroad that operated across the northern tier of the western United States, from Minnesota to the Pacific Northwest. It was approved by Congress in 1864 and given nearly forty million acres (62,000 sq mi; 160,000 km2) of land grants, which it used to raise money in Europe for construction. Northern




Get inspired by Andrea Jarrell’s post “A Roar for the Ages,” and tell a broad story using a series of short, focused scenes.



The three Olson boys, left to right are Leland, Corky and Harlan. We grew up on a small farm in eastern South Dakota. It was located in northern Brookings County right near Lake Poinsett. This was shortly after the dirty thirties, the dust bowl, times were still hard, we were poor, but we had lots of love.


The attack on Pearl Harbor happened on December 7, 1941. Almost everyone’s sons were drafted and sent off to war, many daughters joined the women’s Army Corp, or the Navy or Marines to serve their country. Six of my uncles were in the Second World War as it spread to become a World War. Patriotism was never higher, my mother got these hats for us and made us uniforms too.


We grew up with a hunting, fishing and trapping heritage. In this picture my brother Corky holds his first gun with pride, a single shot 22 rifle. When times were bad you might say we lived partly off the land. Somebody hunted or fished most of the time. Wild furs became an income supliment many winters.


This picture of my parents and brother Corky was taken at Bovey, Minnesota in 1949. They got divorced in 1950. My dad had been beating my mother for years. She finally could not take it anymore. The farm was sold, she moved us boys to Watertown, South Dakota in 1951. My brother Corky was accidentally shot and died in 1952.

The following picture is of my brother Harlan in his Marine uniform in 1960 with my mother at Watertown. Harlan passed away on March 8, 2016 after undergoing a quadruple heart by-pass operation. He is gone but many fond memories remain.