Thanks to volunteers who love locomotives, excursion trains live on.
These days, trains also are rolling entertainment venues, offering murder mysteries and beer tasting in addition to barbecue, pizza, brunch, happy hour and holiday trains.
In autumn, there are pumpkin trains and fall-color excursions, including one on the Milwaukee Road 261 steam locomotive, which often make a run from Minneapolis to Duluth.
Once, a wind-whipped sand spit was not the most desirable address in Duluth.
Today, people lust after a beach cottage on Park Point, just beyond the Aerial Lift Bridge. But the Ojibwe preferred the calmer estuary of the St. Louis River, which flows into Lake Superior at what today is Duluth-Superior Harbor.
The French explorer Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, for whom the city was named, didnt waste much time on the lakefront when he arrived in 1679.
Once, passenger trains crisscrossed the state, and lighthouses guided sailors on the Great Lakes.
Trains and lighthouses are beloved relics now, symbols of a simpler past. In the digital age, they seem antique, like Grandpa's buggy or Grandma's butter churn.
But don't relegate them to history's dustbin just yet.
Their glory days are long gone, but trains will never die.
Thanks to the almost evangelical zeal of their devotees, the locomotives, coaches and cabooses of the 20th century still are serving passengers today on excursions and as overnight lodging, if not for transportation.
Noisy, smelly and outmoded, these trains still are marvelously evocative of a more romantic era, and those who love them are legion.