Flatcar, Duluth & Iron Range, 1897
The Duluth & Iron Range constructed wooden flatcar #5537 at its own shops in 1897. A flat car is a utilitarian car capable of hauling bulky items that would not otherwise fit in a boxcar, hopper, or other closed car. #5537’s value was apparent for the railroad rebuilt the car in 1936 with a steel center sill to strengthen its frame. It most likely received its modern AB air brake system at the same time. Two years later, the car was transferred to the Duluth Missabi & Iron Range through merger, but retained its original number which it still wears today. In 1965, #5537 was purchased by Mid-Continent and moved to North Freedom. The car was restored in the 1980’s, retaining its 1930’s paint and lettering scheme and is used in the museum’s freight train at special events.
The Duluth & Iron Range was chartered in 1874 to tap newly discovered iron ore deposits at Babbitt in northeastern Minnesota. Ten years later, the first train was operated to the new ore docks on the shore of Lake Superior at Agate Bay (later called Two Harbors). Additional branches were later built to Duluth and another mine at Ely. The railroad soon came under the ownership of a parade of steel companies that used the iron ore from the Mesabi Range. In 1901, U.S. Steel acquired the D&IR and its neighbor Duluth Missabe & Northern. The two roads continued to operate separately, but consolidation was inevitable. On January 1, 1930, DM&N leased the D&IR and the two roads were quickly merged to increase efficiency. Duplicate facilities were eliminated and equipment was jointly used. In 1938, the merger was completed when D&MN’s successor Duluth Missabe & Iron Range acquired the D&IR outright. From that point on, both railroads were known as the latter. DM&IR continues to haul iron ore to the port of Duluth to this day.