The American-News welcomes letters of opinion from our readers. Letters regarding current local and national news items are encouraged. All letters are subject to editing for length and style. Letters containing potentially libelous or obscene statements will not be published. Letters must contain name, address and phone number for verification and in case of questions. E-mail letters to: Letters may also be mailed to: Editor, Montevideo Publishing, P.O. Box 99, Montevideo, MN 56265

The American-News welcomes letters of opinion from our readers. Letters regarding current local and national news items are encouraged. All letters are subject to editing for length and style. Letters containing potentially libelous or obscene statements will not be published. Letters must contain name, address and phone number for verification and in case of questions. E-mail letters to: Letters may also be mailed to:  Editor, Montevideo Publishing, P.O. Box 99, Montevideo, MN 56265



Dreamers have a history here

Put up or shut up! This was usually a remark heard from the local schoolyard bully. This is a quote taken from Kevin Wald’s letter to the editor last week. Was it really necessary?


In the mid 1960s, the word was out that a bunch of old fools and misguided dreamers had conned the city council into letting them drag a bunch of old shacks into a very lucrative intersection of two highways in Montevideo. People complained about junk, weeds and the condition of these dirty old shacks. People nicknamed this place “Ressurection City.”


One day, a rather distinguished elderly gentleman dropped in and explained how this group of historic minded people had plans for developing a replica of a small town dating back to the early 1900s. This guy who some thought of as a stupid old fool was calling the place “Pioneer Village.” His name was J. O. Hembre.


J. O. Hembre and his associates have long been gone but the “Pioneer Village” which they started is now called Historic Chippewa City. It has grown into a major tourist attraction and the headquarters of the Chippewa County Historical Society. At that time, the city fathers had the confidence and foresight to work with this group.


Our city fathers are again being called upon to save and preserve the Milwaukee Historical Park. One can draw many parallels between the developments of Chippwea City and the Railroad yard with one exception. Ordinary handymen and volunteer labor can achieve much at Chippewa City. At the rail yard, heavy equipment and major labor must be used to make much progress. Funds must be raised and grants be given. Much time and money can be spent with little visible progress. Among the weeds and junk there is a master plan and

progress being made.


Instead of saying there is a lakc of progress, a better approach would be to consider the progress this group has made in the last 20 years. This progress has been recognized by the Minnesota Historical Society, the National Milwaukee Road Association and the Chippewa County Historical Society.


Lastly, Mr. Wald seems to have some vendetta against our economic development director. Jobs move for many other reasons than lack of attention from city staff.


I personally would like to compliment city staff and the council for the attention given to the Milwaukee issue at the last work session and council meeting. If Kevin Wald would have shown up and listened he would have learned a lot. He should remember the story of the three little pigs. He is trying to blow the Milwaukee Road house down, but the sand house is made of bricks and has funds from the Minnesota Historical Society invested in it, and it will take more to destroy this irreplaceable treasure.

            —Robert Christensen



Save the Heritage Center

Reading the article in the Montevideo American-News last week, one might think the Milwaukee Road Heritage Center asked Kevin Wald and Ritalka Inc. to come to the group's aid.


Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Wald came to the MRHC to see if there was a possibility of co-locating his business on the property we lease from the city of Montevideo. Mr. Wald told me that he wanted to build an 80-foot-by-120-foot building on the extreme north side of the property and install his own switches and rail to allow him access to the Twin Cites & Western Railroad.


His talk of rehabilitating our track and turntable sounded promising until he and I started walking through the yard with his engineers, who began talking about using the roundhouse and turntable. They talked about altering the size of the historic roundhouse and digging up the concrete foundation we had just poured a few years ago so as to make way for the building Mr. Wald wanted to build.


He had apparently abandoned the 80-foot-by-120-foot building he had originally proposed to build well away from our historical buildings.


Mr. Wald also decided he could use the existing corrugated metal engine house and lengthen it to save money. I told him this was not acceptable and that is when his seemingly benign request for space apparently turned into something different.


Mr. Wald isn't as interested in history as he said in his letter to the editor last week. He preserved those buildings on our main street to suit his needs for office space in Montevideo. He does not seem to understand that the history of the Milwaukee Road is worth preserving.


There are few rail facilities and historic structures remaining along the former Milwaukee Road route to the Pacific Northwest, but communities such as Deer Lodge, Mont., and Cle Elum, Wash., are working to preserve what they have because of their historical significance. Just as the MRHC is working to preserve them here in Montevideo.


The turntable, one of only three of its type remaining on the former Milwaukee Road system, needs to remain here in the yard, unaltered, as does a roundhouse rebuilt to its original appearance. Not only will it house some of the hundreds of items in storage now that should be on display, but it will also be available for civic and private functions.


The railroad helped build Montevideo. It brought people and goods to the area, and provided a means for farmers and business people to market their goods and products to the outside world.


So the MRHC has chosen to stand its ground to protect itself and the history it has worked so hard for the past 21 years to preserve. We hope Mr. Wald will build his business on one of the other four locations available locally and leave the preservation of history to the MRHC.

                 —James Ruether



A lot to consider

Having moved from the Montevideo area almost three years ago, I still read and listen to the news from my hometown each week. I have read with deep concern the difficult decision that the city council faces with the future of the Montevideo Rail Yard property. I doubt if anyone would argue with business and employment growth in the Montevideo area.


It is a positive sign to have a business want to invest time and money into the community. The problem is at what cost does expansion come? From my years at Montevideo Publishing I saw first hand the commitment of time and money that members of the Milwaukee Road Heritage Center group have given to keep an important part of Montevideo history available for young and old to enjoy the memories of the railroad history.


I remember as a child the old Opera house that I was able to see before it was demolished. To this day I am sure many people would have enjoyed seeing that part of Montevideo history along with several other historic sites now gone. As I said above, the council has a tough choice to make, but weigh hard what the city will gain and what will be lost forever.   


                        —Kurt Dahl

                          Algona, Iowa


Involvement and improvement for the community

That is the political correct way to emphasize the importance of keeping the MRHC Railroad museum and attractions on the property it currently occupies.


This is a crucial integration of History for the city of Montevideo and surrounding communities. To let another individual  acquire this parcel for his own prosperity would be a dishonor to those individuals who have unselfishly donated their time and talents to construct and preserve an integral part of this community.


Please take time to express your concerns over this potential transformation of removing a functional part of your community and support the city to keep the History alive

For those generations both present and future.     

                       —Debra Morton

                            Otsego, MN

It’s too bad

How sad that a potentially symbiotic relationship between the Milwaukee Road Heritage Center and Ritalka Inc. has become an adversarial relationship as a result of Ritalka wanting the city to terminate the MRHC lease on the railroad yard downtown so the company can expand. With Ritalka’s expertise in building and repairing railroad equipment, collaboration with the MRHC to preserve rail cars, locomotives and other historical railroad equipment would have been a win-win for both entities as well as for the city of Montevideo.


The Milwaukee Road, which went out of existence in 1986, had a major presence in Montevideo dating back to the late 1880s when the railroad located a locomotive terminal and repair shops in Montevideo rather than Sacred Heart or Milbank. Located on the railroad’s mainline from Chicago to Seattle/Tacoma, Montevideo once had the 10th largest roundhouse on the Milwaukee Road. Not bad considering the railroad served 14 states and had more than 11,000 miles of track. The roundhouse is gone now, as are the coal dock that fed coal into steam locomotives, the powerhouse that supplied power to the roundhouse and other buildings, and the water treatment plant that took water from the Chippewa River and made it useable in the steam locomotives. But their concrete foundations are still there, as is the concrete cinder pit where the steam locomotives dumped the ashes from their firebox. The brick sand house, which was built in 1889, still stands and has been rebuilt by the MRHC. It houses a nice collection of historic railroad tools.


Is Montevideo willing to throw this history away, never to be able to regain it in the future? The Minnesota Historical Society recently informed the MRHC board that the society is very interested in conducting an archaeological survey of the site.  


I have no problem with economic development and I would like to see Ritalka expand in Montevideo, but I object to Ritalka CEO Kevin Wald’s arguments as to why the city should  destroy this historic treasure when there are other suitable parcels of land available in Montevideo for him to use. The destruction of a historic site such as our rail yard is not economic development, it is economic vandalism.


I strongly urge the city council to turn down Mr. Wald’s request to destroy the rail yard and negate all the time, effort and money expended on it by the MRHC and its supporters. Surely there is some way the city and the economic development organizations in Montevideo can find a viable spot for Ritalka to expand other than the MRHC’s historic railroad park.          

                        —John Givan



Keep history alive

I’m writing in regards to the possible end of the Milwaukee Railroad Heritage Center & Museum. For some, they can drive by the depot and think nothing of the history and how crucial the railroad was to the City of Montevideo, but for my family and I, it’s one of the many memories we hold onto in our hearts. We have a long list of family members who worked long hours not only in the past when the railroad was active, but now as active MRHC members who volunteer their time to keep the heritage alive!


It saddens me to think that any “developer” could come in and demolish all the hard hours put into keeping the history of Montevideo alive just because they refuse to go with other options that are available. Please consider not only all the hours volunteered but all the memories not only that our family holds dear but the countless men and women who worked in the past to help make Montevideo what it is today.


The future looks bright with the vision of the men and women who continue to volunteer their time to carry on with improvements to the museum. How can we throw away the 20 plus years of sweat and tears?


I urge the council members and all the people of Montevideo to keep the history alive by keeping the museum going.

 —Jennie (Moe) Kragenbring

                          Becker, MN


MRHC brings value

I recently heard and read an article that the Milwaukee Road Heritage Center (MRHC) located in Montevideo was being considered by Ritalka Co. as property it wants to acquire.


As a former Montevideo City Councilmember I want to express my support in maintaining the MRHC in Montevideo.  I understand that sometimes “economic” reasoning will be used to make decisions and in this case I’m sure that the property value and property tax revenue looks attractive in selling the property.


However I’m sure you’re aware that there is also value in the preservation of community, regional, state, and even national landmarks and heritage that cannot be immediately realized in revenues.


The MRHC brings value through the volunteerism of the organization members and non-members, the sense of pride in the community, and the history of Montevideo’s significance in the early rail transportation era.  Additionally the MRHC is supported by other organizations such as the Minnesota Historical Society and they have raised most of their own improvement costs through fund raising activities.


Ask yourself and your council, would we ever consider selling Pioneer Village or Smith Park or any other of the properties of heritage or recreation? I think you would all find yourselves answering that question with an overwhelming “NO”.  Why would the answer be NO?  Because you know that these properties are of community value and bring others to the community to visit and use - which in many ways provides revenue, as does the Milwaukee Road Heritage Center.


While a councilmember I had the opportunity and pleasure of working with Mr. Arnold Anderson and the MRHC in many of their endeavors.  The efforts that this organization has put into preserving the important heritage of the Milwaukee Railroad has gone well beyond that of similar organizations.  I’m pretty sure I supported every initiative and issue the MRHC brought before the council because of their relevance to the community.  I ask you continue this support.

                         —Erik R. Arne

      Little Falls, MN