1999 Grand Forks
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1999 GNRHS Convention - Grand Forks, ND

The 1999 GNRHS convention was held July 11-14 at the Holiday Inn in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  For additional convention photos and accompanying text, click the buttons to the left.  A convention summary from the March 1999 "Goat" is described below:

Special thanks to GNRHS President Dr. James Larson for providing Grand Forks 1999 pictures and text.

Clear the Track to Grand Forks, ND

The 1999 GNRHS Convention will occur July 11-14 in Grand Forks, ND. The host facility will be the Holiday Inn, near the intersection of I-29 and US Hwy 2. The GNRHS attendees will have almost exclusive use of the facility during that time. The Holiday Inn management has been most cooperative and wants to make your stay there during the convention an enjoyable one.

"Clear the Track" has maintenance-of-way (MOW) roots. When a railroad line was ready to be put into service, the supervisor in charge would bellow out that instruction to the construction crew. When everyone was in the clear, the first train would be allowed to pass on through the construction zone. I hope you will agree that the Grand Forks convention committee has constructed a great program for your enjoyment. Your appetite for more GN personal history and modeling subjects, which had high responses in Dr. James Larson's recent survey, should be appeased with the activities, presentations and handouts that will be forthcoming during the convention.

Grand Forks served as the headquarters of the GN's Dakota Division. According to an article in the Grand Forks Herald, reported by Roger J. Plattes, back in the mid-1950's, "Divisional tentacles span two states (MN & ND) and 1,707.47 miles of owned and operated track. The Dakota can be classed as the greatest single division of any railway in the United States. Dakota Division trackage comprises approximately 22 percent of the miles owned and operated on nine divisions. (Grain) Elevator storage on the division borders on the phenomenal, too, considering the North Dakota State Mill facilities can handle in excess of three million bushels of grain."

Following the construction of a wooden bridge across the Red River, Grand Forks began its life as a vital rail community in January 1880. With a link from Crookston, MN and the original route to Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada via the St. Vincent line, James J. Hill's Red River Steamship Line flourished. Grand Forks was the center of his steamship operation. But Mr. Hill was intent on expanding his railroad into a transcontinental route. Construction pushed westward from Grand Forks, reaching the communities of Devils Lake in 1883 (at the same time as the Northern Pacific Railway reached the Puget Sound at Tacoma, WA) and Minot in 1885. 

Except for the Minnesota land grants that were previously given to the railroad he acquired, Mr. Hill followed a different philosophy in developing his railroad. Instead of seeking land grants, he purchased the land for his right-of-way and quickly built feeder lines to bring dependable traffic volumes to his railroad. The agricultural riches of the Red River Valley and the prairies to Minot kept his railroad financially solvent. He was very astute in protecting his railroad, usually staying one step ahead of his competitors. He built the Hillsboro, ND line from Fargo to keep the Milwaukee Road from penetrating further north along the Red River. He commissioned Cass Gilbert, a St. Paul architect who later designed and contracted the entire construction of the Minnesota Capitol Building, to design a massive stone depot specifically for Grand Forks. 

After Amtrak built a new station on the west leg of the wye, the GN depot was sold by the BN for redevelopment. You will get to tour this building on Wednesday, and learn how the depot housed the GN's Dakota Division offices. With the merger inception of the Burlington Northern in 1970, Fargo was designated the headquarters for the revamped Dakota Division. Regardless, you will still find that Grand Forks is a dynamic rail community.

The convention committee's track warrant states, "Renewing friendships and sharing memories are a big part of our conventions. The content of the program for our Society members will, again, be memorable, educational and enjoyable." This is the promise made by the Society to the membership. I am very confident that the Grand Forks volunteer committee has upheld that pledge.

The format will closely follow the blueprint of previous conventions. The registration table will operate Sunday from 2PM until 6PM, and Monday from 8AM until 11AM. After that, please leave a message at the Holiday Inn's front desk for subsequent registration. Rail Fair vendor setup begins at 4:30PM. The Rail Fair will be open only to GNRHS members and their families from 6-9PM Sunday, and 8:30-11AM Monday. The Holiday Inn staff will convert the room into theater seating for the presentations starting at 1PM.

All model/display contest entries should be submitted to the committee volunteer in the secluded area at the Rail Fair by 8PM Sunday evening or by 10AM Monday morning. This secluded contest area will be left intact and supervised for viewing only when we are using the room. The membership will have a popular vote from 10AM Monday until the Tuesday evening session is over. The room will be locked when the contest area is not supervised. The contest models and displays must be removed by the owner at the end of Tuesday's business meeting. During the day on Wednesday, the Holiday Inn staff will be setting up the room for our evening banquet. The contest awards will be issued at the banquet.

Except for the lunches which will be provided as part of the Tuesday and Wednesday excursions and the Wednesday banquet, all other meals are on your own. The Holiday Inn's dining room will offer a breakfast buffet from Monday through Wednesday. The Wednesday banquet will be buffet style with chicken and hand-carved roast beef.

Within our membership, I will refer to the men and women who worked on the GN as "Rocky's Rails." Starting at 6:30PM Tuesday, there will be a series of panel discussions by Rocky's Rails that worked on the Dakota Division.  Hear the tales by Rocky's Rails in half-hour segments covering (1) the divisional offices and REA at the depot complex, (2) the roundhouse and mechanical services, (3) MOW, and (4) operations. Following a 15 minute break, we will have the annual business meeting.

Tuesday's daytime activity will be an excursion following the rail line over to Devils Lake. There is an enormous amount of history that will be related about this segment of the GN. What happened near the communities of Larimore, Michigan and Crary? Where is the infamous Hutch caboose? Hopefully, some special news regarding this tour will be forthcoming in the June 1999 "Goat".

The daytime tour on Wednesday will describe GN's rail operations on both sides of the Red River in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, MN. Would you want to model the ND State Mill or the American Crystal Sugar Plant? Beets me! Lunch will be available at the Heritage Center, where a local model railroad club is building an HO layout. A 5:30 social hour will precede the 6:30 banquet.