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Railroad exhibit opens at Nobles County Historical Society

WORTHINGTON -- All aboard ... the Nobles County Historical Society is honoring the local railroad scene inside its museum in the lower level of the War Memorial Building in downtown Worthington.

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A railroad exhibit featuring a collection of more than 40 model train cars and locomotives assembled by John Galstad opens Thursday at the Nobles County Historical Society museum. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- All aboard … the Nobles County Historical Society is honoring the local railroad scene inside its museum in the lower level of the War Memorial Building in downtown Worthington.

The exhibit, which opens Thursday, features photographs of all of the railroad depots in Nobles County, a display of railroad artifacts and a special display of model trains created by Worthington resident John Galstad.

Galstad, who began making train kits 45 years ago, brought 44 of his pieces into the museum to add to the railroad exhibit.

“I could never remember not being interested in trains,” Galstad said. “When Montgomery Ward and Sears Christmas catalogs came out, I would cut the pictures out and play with them.”

A native of rural Tracy, he recalls lying in bed as a child at night with the windows open and listening to train cars being shuffled around with a 251 Alco (American Locomotive Company) diesel engine.

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It wasn’t until after he moved to Worthington that Galstad began photographing trains. In 1972, he purchased his first train kits and began assembling what would soon grow into a collection.

“They started as a kit and I would rework them -- strip them down and add parts and pieces to make them model-specific,” Galstad explained. He painted them and added decals -- either commercially developed or homemade.

Galstad’s model building experience is centered on diesel locomotives that operated In the 1950s through today. His collection includes representatives from many of the railroad companies now a part of American history.

Among some of Galstad’s favorite trains included in the museum display are a Chicago & Northwestern “Green Dip,” a piece he said models one of only four or five the railroad company painted in that color scheme. He also has a model Alco RS-11, a Chicago & Northwestern locomotive commonly seen on the rail line between Huron, S.D., and Waseca.

“I saw that in Tracy many times,” Galstad said, adding that his particular RS-11 model was “extensively modified and rebuilt” using several locomotives to create the piece.

Visitors to the display will also want to look for the Rock Island E-7, a red and silver unit in which Galstad decorated with lettering and decals created entirely of scraps because he couldn’t find a commercial decal set available.

Galstad said the pieces he chose for the museum display are locomotives and rail cars people would have typically seen in Nobles County -- pieces that were part of the Chicago & Northwestern and Rock Island railroads.

His exhibit ties in with the Oct. 1 open house and release of a book about Nobles County railroads penned by local historian Ray Crippen prior to his death last December. The Nobles County Historical Society received a grant to publish the book.

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Throughout the month of September and October, the public is invited to stop in at the museum, 407 12th St., to view the railroad exhibit. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The local railroad scene will also be the focus of the September Lunch at the Museum, planned from noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 22. Galstad will be the featured speaker, offering a slideshow presentation on the last 45 years of railroading in Nobles County. People are invited to bring along a sack lunch -- beverages will be provided -- and learn more about the iron horses that have passed through this particular corner of southwest Minnesota.

“You will be surprised at what we have happening in terms of railroading in Worthington,” Galstad said.

The Nobles County Historical Society is looking for collections from Nobles County residents who may be willing to loan them for exhibits at the museum. To speak with museum staff, call 376-4431.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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