The dismantling of a grand vision that never fully materialized has been evident to drivers on Highway 55 between Waverly and Maple Lake over the past several weeks. Crews have been busy removing historic steam engines, train cars of various types and other railroad equipment from the property formerly owned by Donald Lind, who passed away at 77 in November of 2013.
Lind had dubbed his collection the Minnesota and Western Railroad Museum. Though much of the equipment fell into disrepair over the years and the museum never became much of an attraction, Lind’s efforts were not entirely unfruitful. He collected two steam engines and the body of a diesel engine, and owned three wood passenger cars, four steel mail cars, box cars and more – between 15 and 20 cars in all. That rolling stock was positioned around the property on about 3,000 feet of various track spurs, most of which Lind built himself.
“It was always a work in progress. His plans were to get the steam engines running and give people rides around the property,” said Pat Hiniker of Mankato, Lind’s nephew who is overseeing the cleanup of the property. “When he first started he had people come out and did some tours – just showed people around. It was never really anything orchestrated. It was just a matter of people stopping by and asking if they could see something.”
Lind’s love of railroads started early. “His dad bought him a train set when he was about 5 years old and it just escalated from there,” said Hiniker. After growing up in Minneapolis Lind graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1959 with a degree in engineering. In 1970 he took over the model train exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair, an attraction that eventually covered an area 58-by-20 feet in size and sometimes included up to nine trains running simultaneously.
Lind purchased the 36-acre plot of land two miles east of Annandale in 1969 to set up the Minnesota and Western Railroad Museum. His vision for the site included a track around the property with tunnels through the hillside – his own private railroad where he could share his love of trains with visitors. His dreams weren’t limited to his own property either.
“He had plans to run some rail up toward Annandale to the other museum up there (Minnesota Pioneer Park),” said Hiniker. “Whether they ever agreed with him or not I don’t know. That was just something on his end he would have liked to do, run back and forth up there.
“He also thought about trying to hook onto the main line out here and give rides down the main line too, but the company that owned it, Soo Line owned it at the time, they really didn’t want him to. They gave him an outrageous price on hooking up and switching everything.”