Each week we sit down and go over the calendar looking at upcoming events with an eye for possible story ideas. We also get calls with story suggestions and ideas too and we toss those around too. On top of that almost every week something unexpected seems to blow in the door and causes us to shift gears a bit.
This happened recently when something in our own newspaper took us by surprise. A couple of weeks ago there was a normal looking classified ad that offered the Minnesota Falls Township Hall for sale I’m sure I did a double take and maybe even gasped a bit. The Minneota Falls Town Hall? The old Lorne School? For sale? Really?
Yes, there it was, in black ink on white paper. The little landmark building along Highway 23 between Granite and Hanley Falls was for sale, to be moved. We figured there must be a story that was begging to be told.
Scott Tedrick got ahold of township clerk Ryan Fromm and then town board chairman, Wesley Erickson, and his story appears in this week’s newspaper.
The tidy-looking little building has been there since 1911, long before there was a highway. The railroad track was the reason for the establishment of a post office and station that grew into the settlement known on the railroad and locally as Lorne. Much like Wegdahl, Asbury or Normania, it was never an official city, but rather just an unincorporated settlement.
The very reason that Lorne existed, namely the distance between Granite Falls and Hanley Falls, and the resulting long haul by horse and buggy to one town or the other, was the same reason that in a short time, it ceased to exist. Those long ten miles between the towns became shorter as cars and tucks came into being and roads were built.
Before long, the post office closed and several of the buildings were removed from Lorne to new locations and, in time, little was left at the settlement except remnants fo the old grain elevator, the little school house and a ball field where the 4-H kids played “kitten ball” or baseball.
By then, the school had closed, too, and the building began a long stint as the meeting hall for the township. Ironically, the township itself had been named for another long lost city, one that once existed along the Minnesota River southeast of Granite Falls.
The little settlement of Lorne had all but faded away, except for the railroad, which maintained a passing track and an elevator track and a small depot that was later moved away, too.
Page 2 of 2 - The two sidetracks were removed sometime in the 1960s and then even the railroad station named Lorne ceased to exist.
The ballfield where those 4-H kids played was located between the old school and the railroad and was eaten up when Highway 23 was graded in 1978 and 1979. That removed even more of what had once been Lorne.
However, the railroad, in 1997, used a small portion of the railroad from the old Lorne sidetrack, added another 9,000 feet to the south and built a nearly two-mile long passing track that has high-speed switches that are remotely controlled and computer-monitored from a train dispatching office in Ft. Worth, Texas. That’s some very high tech hardware guiding all those trains. and quite a leap into the future for a rural setting.
Interestingly, the railroad, in 1997, chose a less than modern name for the newly established long passing track when they called on history and named it Lorne. Today the new Lorne is the site of many freight trains and is like a dormant tree that has come back to life.
Maybe the little school/town hall will find a new life, too.