On this date in 1940, one of the last North Dakota railroad pioneers died. Andrew Munson, who was 75 years old, helped build the main line of the Soo Line railroad in the state. Mr. Munson was born in 1865 in Norway. He came to the United States in 1887 and settled in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The following year he was hired by the Soo Line.
The Soo Line was the nickname for the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway Company. The name Soo, spelled S-O-O, was the phonetic spelling for the first part of Sault Ste. Marie, which was spelled S-A-U-L-T. The Soo Line was incorporated in 1888 and was a consolidation of many different railroad lines that stretched from the upper peninsula of Michigan to Dakota Territory.
Mr. Munson’s first job with the Soo Line was as a section laborer in Whitetail, Michigan. In 1890 he was promoted to section foreman. This was when he helped build the main line from Cathay to Portal, North Dakota. The Soo Line reached Portal in 1904. Munson was then promoted to roadmaster, and he moved to Bismarck when the Soo Line acquired the Bismarck, Washburn and Great Falls Railway.
Munson worked for the Soo Line for nearly 50 years, retiring in 1937. Over 100 Soo Line employees attended his retirement party.
Mr. Munson was an active and well respected citizen of Bismarck – a member of the Sons of Norway, the Elks, Modern Woodmen, and the McCabe Methodist Church. He had six children with his wife Annie. His son, Carl, made front page news when he met President Woodrow Wilson during his triumphant trip to Brest, France in 1919 after World War I.
As one of the last pioneer railroad builders, Mr. Munson’s obituary made front page news, next to articles about World War II.
The Soo Line, which is now a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway, still runs through Portal, the line Mr. Munson helped build nearly 120 years ago.
Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa
“Munson, Pioneer in Railroading, Dies in Hospital Here,” The Bismarck Tribune. October 23, 1940, pg. 1.
“Munson Ends His Railroading Years,” The Bismarck Tribune. August 25, 1937, pg. 5.
“Elks to Remember Departed Brothers,” The Bismarck Tribune. November 26, 1940, pg. 1.
“Nubs of News,” The Bismarck Tribune. May 29, 1936, pg. 2.
“Soo Line Railroad Company: An Inventory of Its Company Records,” Minnesota Historical Society. http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00343.xml