Seventy-five years ago on this day, May 27, 1931, an F3 tornado collided with the Great Northern Railway’s passenger train, The Empire Builder, east of Fargo. It was late in the afternoon; severe thunderstorms raged through Clay County, Minnesota. Suddenly the clouds twisted and spun into a tornado that rushed northeastward. The Empire Builder, eastbound and just outside of Moorhead was traveling nearly 60 miles an hour when the tornado hit the train at a right angle. The force lifted five of the 70-ton passenger cars from the rails; another car was thrown 80 feet from the tracks; the remaining coaches were derailed. Only the 136-ton locomotive and a 94-ton tender remained on the track. A rescue train quickly transported the passengers to Fargo for medical treatment. Of the117 passengers, 57 were injured and one killed.
Written by Christina Campbell