BNSF remembers James J. Hill in Superior, Wis.

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Sunday, November 26, 2017

The quote about “all who wander are not lost” was on my mind over the holiday. My family and I were in Duluth, Minn., to visit family and friends. Normally, this is a cold, snowy place this time of year. We, however, were blessed with warm temperatures and no precipitation. There was snow on the ground to make it look like late fall in the Northwoods. So, that gave us opportunities to train and ship watch in this fascinating Midwestern port city.

Last spring, we were here for BNSF’s employee appreciation train, and we got to take a ride a few miles out of town on ex-Great Northern tracks. The train left from the BNSF Yard in Superior, Wis., and as we were driving to the boarding site I was so busy looking for the special that I neglected to see something unusual next to the railroad’s offices: A giant bronze bust of GN founder James J. Hill atop a granite base. The BNSF and U.S. flags flanked the bust, which faces north on 28th Street, which crosses the yard. Small plaques decorate the base. It is quite impressive.

On Thanksgiving weekend, as we were wrapping up a few photos of the almost empty yard and the bust, we marveled at this monument to one of the most famous founders of American railroad history. As we were wrapping up, a local resident on bicycle stopped to tell us that until a few years ago the statue stood at a local high school and that a twin statute is also located in Seattle. I found a little online about the bust being moved to railroad property in 2003, and a story or two about the bust in Seattle. They do appear to be twins, but I don’t have confirmation.

While two yard switchers at Superior were of interest in a burst of late afternoon sun on a mostly cloudy day, the bust was the real find.  Not many railroad companies today have a statue of one of their founding fathers out in the field where the business of railroading is actually done and the sound of couplers locking and prime movers revving up fills the air.

I am glad we wandered over to the yard at Superior, kept our eyes open, and found this tribute to James J. Hill. 

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