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William Crooks was the first steam locomotive to run in the state of Minnesota

David Goran

William Crooks, named after the Colonel of the Minnesota Volunteers’ Sixth Regiment during the American Civil War (and later Chief Mechanical Engineer for the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad), is a 4-4-0 steam locomotive that was the first locomotive to operate in the U.S. state of Minnesota. The locomotive was constructed in 1861 by Smith and Jackson of the New Jersey Locomotive and Machine Company of Paterson, NJ.

William Crooks in Chicago enroute to the 1939 New York World's Fair. Source

William Crooks in Chicago en route to the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Source

On September 9, 1861, the William Crooks arrived in St. Paul by steamboat and on June 28, 1862, the locomotive hauled the historic first trainload of passengers in Minnesota a distance of 10 miles between St. Paul and St. Anthony (now Minneapolis). Regular service between St. Paul and St. Anthony began on July 2, 1862.

Mr. William Crooks was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, and the line’s first locomotive was named in his honor. Source

Mr. William Crooks was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, and the line’s first locomotive was named in his honor. Source

 

Controls and a driving wheel. Source

Controls and a driving wheel. Source

 

Builder's Plate. Source

Builder’s Plate. Source

The locomotive was originally a wood-burner with a tender that held just two cords of wood. Often, the tender’s wood was used before the train could reach a wood pile, forcing the crew to make use of the wooden right-of-way fences to keep the train moving. Later the locomotive was converted into a coal-burner.

The locomotive’s headlamp, now converted to an electric bulb, originally burned kerosene. Source

The locomotive’s headlamp, now converted to an electric bulb, originally burned kerosene. Source

 

The tender carried the water and wood required to operate the “Crooks.” Source

The tender carried the water and wood required to operate the “Crooks.” Source

 

Top of Boiler. Source

Top of Boiler. Source

 

One of the locomotive’s leading wheels. Source

One of the locomotive’s leading wheels. Source

As built, the engine had a straight boiler, the balloon stack typical of wood burning engines, and three domes, the center of which was for sanding the rails to improve traction when needed. It weighs 28 tons (51 tons with tender) and is 50 feet, 8 ¼ inches in length. As the engine aged and parts replaced, its appearance changed. The engine received a diamond stack for burning coal, its boiler replaced with a tapered design and was reduced to a two dome configuration.

Nascent railroads often numbered their locomotives in simple sequential order, making the “Crooks” engine #1 on the St. Paul & Pacific. Older, bigger railroads numbered their engines based on type and size. Source

Nascent railroads often numbered their locomotives in simple sequential order, making the “Crooks” engine #1 on the St. Paul & Pacific. Older, bigger railroads numbered their engines based on type and size. Source

 

Steam moves from the boiler into this chest, and then into the cylinder where it forces a piston back and forth. The piston moves the side rod which, in turn, rotates the driving wheels. Source

Steam moves from the boiler into this chest, and then into the cylinder where it forces a piston back and forth. The piston moves the side rod which, in turn, rotates the driving wheels. Source

The old locomotive had served almost 50 years and had eventually been assigned to runs in Montana and Washington. The William Crooks was in passenger service until September 30, 1897, after which it was retired and by the turn of the century, was sitting decommissioned in a corner of the Great Northern yard in St. Paul.

William Crooks being placed on display at the Saint Paul Union Depot. Source

William Crooks being placed on display at the Saint Paul Union Depot. Source

 

William Crooks being dismantled in preparation for its move to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in 1975. Source

William Crooks being dismantled in preparation for its move to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in 1975. Source

It was placed on display at the Saint Paul Union Depot in June 1954. Today, the locomotive is owned by the Minnesota Historical Society and on display at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, Minnesota.