PHOTO: Our FIRST depot, built in 1871, on the site of the present-day concrete water tower.

Below are the many railways to call Brainerd home, or part of their system over the years. See the sub-page at the left "Acknowledgements" for a compendium of photos or articles I have used for research on this subject.


-BRAINERD STREET RAILWAY COMPANY, 1887-1888: Owned by Charles F. Kindred, this horse-drawn railway was originally built to provide transportation from the then main business corner in town, at Main St. (now Washington) and Sixth St., where it had its turn-table, to Kindred's proposed dam (near the present paper mill) and next industrial center. This corner consisted only of the Villard Hotel, NW, and the NP Depot, SE. The line ran a block north past Kindred's house on the SE corner of North Sixth and Kingwood Sts. (presently a parking lot), then eastward on Kingwood. The city's wagon bridge was used to traverse the ravine (now "the fill") over to Kindred St. (now also Washington St.) in east Brainerd. His horses were restricted on the bridge to a 5 MPH gait! The horse barn was on the corner of Ash and Third Ave.. In just one year the dam to be called the Mississippi Water Power and Boom Company never materialized, and the Villard burned in June of 1887, hence there was nowhere to move passengers to, and barely from...sort of having the cart before the horse I would say!

-LAKE BRANCH RR: Rail Line (abandoned) leading to the sawmill and brewery. The 1883 map shows a less abrupt curve than could be accomplished following the shoreline around Boom Lake. I believe that the paved and striped hogsback used as a walking trail aroung Boom lake today was made as part of the rail bed to make the curve less abrupt, to accomodate a turning train. Starting at the main line from the shops, branching off diagonally at Bluff (now 11th. St.) it came through the alley east-westerly between Laurel and Maple, roughly through the present US Bank, and diagonally down present College Drive to the sawmill near the present fishing dock on the river. It then curved east around to the easternmost side of the lake to the brewery. I have not yet found evidence of the line actually being used to service the brewery, other than making that assumption based on the 1883 map.

-PARKER RAILWAY: See Narrow-Gauge Railways.

This line went north from the pulp mill, which was located on the west bank across from the present-day paper mill.

There were two separate railway operations here running on narrow-gauge, thin-rail track.
--HORSE-DRAWN: Brainerd Street Railway Company (see above).
--ELECTRIC: Parker Street Railway (see below).

Largely, Brainerd owes its existence to the NP. Had they not decided to cross the river here, first known as "The Crossing", instead of Barrows or Crow Wing, there may still be just fields or farms here.
The NP built the first hotel here and a fine depot (see photo above) in 1871, the latter being located where the old concrete water tower now sits. Most of the original car repair shops were completed on the north side of the tracks by 1872. See History below.


On the 1883 map, it shows this one entering the city from the south between 9th. and 10th. Sts. just south of Brook St. in the Howes and Spauldings addition. Water St. paralleled it from Sycamore to East Laurel Street.

See sub-page at the left for a related business, the Brainerd Tie Plant.

NPRR History, courtesy of Wikipedia:

The Northern Pacific Railway (AAR reporting marks NP) was a railway that operated in the north-central region of the United States. The railroad served a large area, including extensive trackage in the states of Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. The company was headquartered first in Brainerd, Minnesota, then in St. Paul,The Northern Pacific was chartered on July 2, 1864 as the first northern transcontinental railroad in the United States. It was granted some 47,000,000 acres (190,000 kmē) of land in exchange for building rail transportation to an undeveloped territory. Josiah Perham (for whom Perham, Minnesota is named) was elected its first president on December 7, 1864.

For the next six years, backers of the road struggled to find financing. Though John Gregory Smith succeeded Perham as president on January 5, 1866, groundbreaking did not take place until February 15, 1870, at Thompson Junction, Minnesota, 25 miles (40 km) west of Duluth, Minnesota. The backing and promotions of famed Civil War financier Jay Cooke in the summer of 1870 brought the first real momentum to the company.

Over the course of 1870, the Northern Pacific pushed westward from Minnesota into present-day North Dakota. It also began reaching from Kalama, Washington Territory, on the Columbia River outside of Portland, Oregon, towards Puget Sound. Four small construction engines were purchased, the Minnetonka, Itaska, Ottertail and St. Cloud, the first of which was shipped to Kalama by ship around Cape Horn. In Minnesota, the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad completed construction of its 155 mile (250 km) line stretching from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Lake Superior at Duluth in 1870. It was leased to the Northern Pacific the following year, and was eventually absorbed by the Northern Pacific.

In 1871, Northern Pacific completed some 230 miles (370 km) of railroad on the east end of its system, reaching out to Moorhead, Minnesota, on the North Dakota border. In the west, the track extended 25 miles north from Kalama. Surveys were carried out in North Dakota protected by 600 troops from General Winfield Scott Hancock. Headquarters and shops were established in Brainerd, Minnesota, a town named for the President John Gregory Smith's wife Anna Elizabeth Brainerd.