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Remember the 'Peanut Line?'

The old crew of the Peanut Line is pictured in this June, 1960, photo. Pictured from left to right are Bob Dodge, Jack Godfrey, Buzz Peterson and Frank Quitter. The Hastings Gazette

They called it “the friendliest train ride in the world.”

As far back as 1882, the Hastings and Stillwater Railroad, affectionately nicknamed “the peanut line,” carried goods and people between Hastings and Stillwater. The 25-mile route started in Hastings at the depot downtown and ran five nights a week through Point Douglas, Afton, St. Mary’s Point and St. Croix Beach; into the Lakeland, Hudson and Bayport area, where the train got most of its cargo; and into Stillwater.

Over it’s century-long run, the Peanut Line primarily carried cargo. Anderson Windows in Hudson was a major source of cargo, and there are accounts of it hauling large loads of ice that was used to refrigerate meat cars in South St. Paul.

It also carried passengers, starting in 1982. While the official passenger service would later die down, the train was known to stop and give people a lift to the next town if they needed. The train ride from Hastings to Stillwater and back again was 16 hours, starting around 6 p.m. every weekday. But that was quick compared to the alternative. A trip from Hastings to Stillwater by horse and buggy took two days.

What makes the Peanut Line special wasn’t its cargo or its makeup. What made it special was the people.

Throughout its use, the line was operated by just a handful of people. In the early days it was Wes Kelley, Chuck Nolan, Louie Dodge, Bob Dodge and Buzz Peterson. Later, Dodge and Peterson had Jack Godfrey and Frank Quitter on the crew. When the Peanut Line made its last run in 1978, it was train master William DeGidioi, brakeman Stee Seleski, conductor John Godfrey, engineer N.C. Schnell and brakeman Ken Lindala that said goodbye to the local legacy.

All along the route, residents knew the trainmen. A June 1960 newspaper article reads, “Once St. Croix Beach woman has never failed to greet the crewmen while another has never missed flashing her porch light in acknowledgement.”

In “City on Seven Hills – Columns of Oliver Towne” by Gareth Hiebert, the author writes that the railroad crew knew every foot of ground along the line and the names of all the people who lived on either side of the track.

The nickname “the Peanut Line” is said to have come from an old engineer who had the habit of wrapping peanuts and candy in newspaper and tossing the bundles to waiting children as the train passed by.

The railroad hasn’t run since Sept. 14, 1978. But some remnants of the line can still be found.

Part of the trail system in Afton State Park runs on the old railroad bed. Proposals have been made for a trail linking the Hastings bridge to the Prescott bridge, utilizing the abandoned Peanut Line route. It’s also a likely route for the proposed St. Croix Valley Regional Trail, which would link pedestrians and cyclists in Hastings to Afton and, eventually, Stillwater and possibly Superior.

The information for this article was gathered from old local newspaper clippings collected by the Hastings Pioneer Room.