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Author: Troy Larson

Tabor, MN

Tabor, MN

Tabor is about 20 miles northeast of East Grand Forks in Polk County and is considered part of the Grand Forks metropolitan survey area.  Tabor has never been home to a railroad, a rarity in the flat plains of this part of Minnesota.  Tabor was settled beginning in 1877, primarily by Czech farmers and their families.   This area was once the bottom of glacial Lake Agassiz and is some of the most fertile farm land in the world.  You can read a lot more about Tabor’s history here.

As it is, Tabor is a tiny town bisected by a two-lane highway with several abandoned structures on each side of the road.  The population of the township is around 120, and Tabor appeared to have perhaps 10 or 20 of those residents.

Tabor, Minnesota

Tabor, Minnesota

Tabor, Minnesota

Tabor, Minnesota

Tabor, Minnesota

Tabor, Minnesota

Tabor, Minnesota

We were a bit puzzled by this nursery, which looks as though someone had big plans, got it all set up with a couple hundred potted plants ready for sale, and abruptly gave it up.  All the plants still sit in their pots out in the front parking lot.  They must have been there for some time because some had weeds growing out of them, and the the greenhouses look like they may have fallen victim to a windstorm or something.  We’d love to hear the story if anybody knows…

Tabor, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC


Northcote, Minnesota

Northcote, Minnesota

Northcote, Minnesota is a tiny little roadside town along Highway 75 in Kittson County.  It was founded as a center of commerce for the surrounding farms and has slowly dwindled in population over the years.  Northcote was founded on the Hill Siding, a railroad siding named after railroad magnate James. J. Hill.  The largest of the farms in the area was also named after Mr. Hill.

Northcote, Minnesota

There is a nice page dedicated to Northcote on the Rootsweb site if you’d care to check it out.

Our visit to Northcote happened on a day when the sky was hazy with smoke from wildfires in Canada, lending an eerie quality to the sky.

Northcote, Minnesota

This depot was across the road from the railroad tracks which makes us think it’s been moved.

Northcote, Minnesota

Northcote, Minnesota

Northcote, Minnesota

Northcote, Minnesota

Northcote, Minnesota

This bell is dedicated to the memory of Peter MacFarlane

Northcote, Minnesota

Northcote, Minnesota

Northcote, Minnesota

Northcote, Minnesota

Northcote, Minnesota

Despite Highway 75 being a fairly major thoroughfare, there’s very little traffic this far north.

Northcote, Minnesota

Northcote, Minnesota


Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota is located in Kittson County, in the far northwestern corner of the state, not far from another town we’ve visited — Noyes.  It is just across the Red River from Pembina, North Dakota.  A visitor on our Facebook page has kept after us to visit St. Vincent and we’re happy to say we finally got around to it.

St. Vincent reportedly had a population of almost 120 in 2000, but dropped to just over 60 by 2010.  That’s a big population loss in just a single decade.

St. Vincent is quite spread out, and it was apparent within minutes of our arrival that a lot of structures from St. Vincent’s heyday are already gone.   St. Vincent is one of the better documented small towns in the state, with a website dedicated to it here, and some of the fires and other natural disasters that have taken a toll on St. Vincent are documented there.

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota

The St. Vincent school.

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota

St. Vincent, Minnesota

These steps seemed to be in an odd place out in the front yard.

St. Vincent, Minnesota

Is it a depot made into somebody’s house? Or is it somebody’s house made to look like a depot?

St. Vincent, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC


A Haunting Abandoned Port of Entry in Noyes, Minnesota

A Haunting Abandoned Port of Entry in Noyes, Minnesota

Noyes, Minnesota is the most northwestern settlement in Minnesota.  It sits right on the Canadian border, and just across the Red River from Pembina, North Dakota, two miles west.  Although there are inhabited farmsteads in the area, there are very few residents (we only saw two inhabited places) in the actual town, largely due to the closure of the former Port of Entry station from Emerson, Manitoba.

In 2003, the Canadian government closed the Emerson Port of Entry.  Three years later, the United States closed the Noyes station, shuttering this border crossing for good and moving operations west to Pembina.  Near the end of its life, this station handled three trucks, three trains, fifty vehicles, and 154 passengers per day.

Noyes, Minnesota

We’d be willing to bet that despite this border station being abandoned, those cameras are still feeding video.

Noyes, Minnesota

At the time of our visit in 2013, the building was for sale. UPDATE: In August of 2014, an unknown bidder purchased the property in a government auction with a high bid of $52,113.

Noyes, Minnesota

Within sixty seconds of our arrival at the border, a US Border Patrol truck showed up and checked us out. We don’t really know if it was just a coincidence, or if they’re really that vigilant.

Noyes, Minnesota

Looking south from the Canadian point-of-view. The hazy sky cast a kind of weird light on the scene.

Noyes, Minnesota

Noyes, Minnesota

Noyes, Minnesota

Whoever bought this got a sweet eight-stall garage.

Noyes, Minnesota

It’s not hard to imagine an episode of some science fiction show set in this place. An exhausted group of survivors stumbles upon this former port of entry, with burned-out cars stretching to the horizon. They wander between the lines of vehicles, forced to face the reality of families who were waiting here to cross the border when the final apocalypse came. In reality, this is the former Noyes, Minnesota border crossing, closed after a real-life apocalypse, 9/11, rendered the Port of Entry obsolete.

Noyes, Minnesota

This small stone obelisk marks the US/Canadian border.

Noyes, Minnesota

A locked gate blocks the road to Emerson and a closed Canadian port.

Noyes, Minnesota

Three steps through that gap and we would be illegally in Canada. Check out our video about this former port of entry.

Noyes, Minnesota

Fargo resident James Sprague explained these ‘tracks’ in the road to us: These tar covered lines in the pavement are likely from inductance sensing loops. They detect the changes in magnetic field caused by a vehicle, person or anything with iron/steel content crossing over them. Most common applications are ground loops for traffic control signals and perimeter monitoring in security systems.

Noyes, Minnesota

Noyes, Minnesota

This former roadside garden and flag pole is barely recognizable after only seven years of abandonment.

Noyes, Minnesota

Noyes, Minnesota



Noyes, Minnesota

In your mind’s eye, you can imagine the vehicles that once lined up on busy holiday weekends with their windows down and the radio playing, families heading to a favorite destination across the border… now only a memory.

Noyes, Minnesota

Noyes, Minnesota

Noyes, Minnesota

Noyes, Minnesota

Noyes, Minnesota

Noyes, Minnesota

Back in the day, this probably would have been your last chance to get gas before entering Canada and paying by the liter.

Noyes, Minnesota

Noyes, Minnesota

The Noyes depot is still in operation under the command of the Pembina Port of Entry staff. Trains coming from Canada are processed here.

We don’t really have an explanation for it, but we left with a jittery kind of uneasy feeling after visiting Noyes. It also reminded us of another closed border crossing we once visited — Northgate, North Dakota.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2013 Sonic Tremor Media

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Vintage View of Split Rock Lighthouse

Vintage View of Split Rock Lighthouse

I was hunting through a box of old photographs the other day and I found this — a vintage shot of Split Rock Lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Superior, a place we photographed in 2012.  This original print is a tiny photo — about 1-3/4″ by 3″.  I scanned it at high resolution and blew it up.  It is presented here in unrestored condition. I intend to digitally restore it in the future.

In the years following the construction of the Lake Superior International Highway (1924), tourists began visiting Split Rock more frequently. Based on some distinguishing characteristics I’ve detailed below, I believe this photo is from the 1925 to 1930 time-frame.  The photographer and the couple in the shot are unknown.

Split Rock Lighthouse

A man and a woman pose in front of the lighthouse.

Split Rock Lighthouse

The woman in this photo appears to be clutching a book or perhaps a handbag.  She appears to be dressed in twenties or thirties-period clothing… is she wearing a bonnet?

Split Rock Lighthouse

In 1936, the retaining wall on the right had a chain link fence installed across the top, but there’s no sign of the fence posts or the fence in this photo, so we know it’s pre-1936.  UPDATE: Lee Radzak, a representative from the Minnesota Historical Society and Site Manager for the lighthouse dates this photo between the late 20’s and mid-30’s.  Lee says: “This appears to be a tourist’s snapshot.  I would put the date at circa 1930.”

Split Rock Lighthouse

Interesting.  Although this lighthouse has a spiral staircase inside, there is a ladder propped up on the exterior in this shot. I don’t have an explanation for that. Perhaps they were painting the stairs inside? Please comment if you know.

To see photos from my trip to Split Rock in 2012, click here.

Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC



Downtown Moorhead

Downtown Moorhead

In 1965, downtown Moorhead still existed, as you can see from the postcard shown here — a view from the Center Avenue Bridge looking east.  But the popularity of West Acres Mall in Fargo instigated some developments that were of questionable judgement.  In the postcard shown here, you see dozens of buildings that no longer exist — the bulk of downtown Moorhead.  In an ill-advised urban renewal project, most of downtown Moorhead was razed to make way for the Moorhead Center Mall and the new Moorhead City Hall.  The new development was wholly inadequate to compete with West Acres and quickly declined into an urban ghost town.

Although the Moorhead Center Mall has been going through a mild resurgence over the last few years, there aren’t many who would defend its existence.  One block to the south, Main Avenue has gone through an extensive renovation in an attempt to recapture some of the history and downtown feel that was lost when this area was demolished.   In the postcard below, all the structures on the left side of the street, and a few on the right, are now gone.  The former FM Hotel is the primary remaining landmark.

Today, there are more neighborhoods on the fringe of downtown Moorhead which are suffering from blight and absentee landlords, and a vocal group of local residents are pushing to have the properties demolished.  Let’s hope cooler heads prevail.  Moorhead has already lost enough of their history.

center-ave-1965

The same scene in 2011 is shown below.

center-ave-2011

Original content copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Wee Town Outlaw Speedway

Wee Town Outlaw Speedway

This is what remains of Wee Town Outlaw Speedway (also known as Lake Region Speedway and West Central Speedway) northeast of Fergus Falls.  This was once a very cool place to watch stock cars and outlaws.  Fergus Falls Journal wrote an interesting story about this place back in 2007.

Wee Town Outlaw Speedway

Originally opened in 1962, the speedway went through multiple owners and several periods of inactivity over the years.  In 1986, high water began to become a problem at the speedway, and the track was closed from 1987 to 1989.  It reopened in 1990 before closing down for good in 1993.  What you see above is how it looked in 2012, nineteen years after it shut down.  The pits and a good portion of the track are completely flooded.

Racing at Wee Town Outlaw Speedway, 1990
Screenshot from Corey Litton’s video. Racing at Wee Town, 1990.

For an interesting contrast, I actually found a long-form video which features racing at the Weetown Outlaw Speedway when it reopened in 1990.  The first part of this video is recorded at the Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo.  Jump to the 1:35:00 mark (that’s one hour, thirty five minutes) to see racing action at the Wee Town Outlaw Speedway from 1990 courtesy Corey Litton.

Wee Town Outlaw Speedway



Wee Town Outlaw Speedway

The former water truck sits in about three feet of water on the track infield.

Wee Town Outlaw Speedway

Wee Town Outlaw Speedway

See Also: I94 Speedway

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

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Demolished: Abandoned I94 Speedway

Demolished: Abandoned I94 Speedway

This is the former I94 Speedway, also known as the I94 Raceway for a time.  It was right off Interstate 94, in Stearns County, about 40 miles northwest of St. Cloud, right outside of Sauk Centre.

There was some question as to whether this track might re-open after the final race on Sept 4, 2009, but the track has now fallen into such disrepair, it seems clear the track will never reopen.  It was a dirt track for four years, asphalt for about twelve years, and operated with a clay surface for the final season in 2009.

Update: This place has been demolished. I94 Speedway is no more.

I actually raced here once in a media race, in the summer of 1999.  I raced against five other media personalities from the region, and placed third out of six.  You can see some pictures of the track in it’s heyday here, and read the obit for the track here.

The track was wide open on the day I visited in 2012 — no gates or no trespassing signs.

speedway3

During construction of the CapX2020 transmission line, the land next to this track was temporarily used as storage for the power poles.

speedway4

speedway5



speedway6

speedway7

speedway8

speedway9

What do you know about the former I94 Speedway? Please leave a comment below.

speedway10

Photos by Troy Larson, Copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media



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Canal Park and Aerial Lift Bridge

Canal Park and Aerial Lift Bridge

Canal Park in Duluth is a very enjoyable place to spend some time if you love the outdoors, the water, and drinking and dining.  The main attraction is really the aerial lift bridge, but there is a ton to see and do.  We visited for three days and had a great time.

Pictured above are the two lighthouses at the tip of each pier at the entrance from Lake Superior to the Duluth-Superior Harbor.  The ships travel the channel in between the two piers, under the aerial lift bridge.

This is the aerial lift bridge.  It is an amazing sight.  It started out as an aerial transporter — or gondola — bridge.  It was one of only two transporter bridges ever constructed in the United States.  Originally, a gondola hung from the superstructure, and vehicles would be loaded onto the gondola, and then transported across the harbor — like a ferry suspended from the bridge.  In 1930, the gondola was replaced with the lift bridge road surface — a roadway that raises and lowers every half hour to allow ships to pass underneath.

This lighthouse resides on the north pier and is a popular tourist destination.  It’s is a stone’s throw from the Comfort Suites, right on the Lakewalk.

In the photo above, you can see the lift bridge going up on the right to allow our boat to pass underneath.  The traffic in canal park gets pretty hairy every time this bridge goes up.

This small bridge is actually a draw bridge which breaks open in the center and raises in two pieces.  It marks the entrance between the harbor and the marina.

We took a Lake Superior and Harbor cruise on this boat, the Vista Star.  The Vista Fleet is a very affordable and fun way to spend an afternoon in Canal Park, Duluth.

When we woke up on the second day of our trip, a fog had rolled in off Lake Superior.

Below is a bird’s eye view of Canal Park.  You can see the lift bridge left of center.  On the left is Lake Superior, and on the right is the Duluth Harbor.

Photos by Troy, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC


Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse and the state park of the same name are about 40 minutes northeast of Duluth, just down the highway from Two Harbors. It is a very enjoyable stop on the North Shore of Lake Superior, highly recommended if you’re in the area.

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

This is the former staff housing and restored lighthouse keeper’s residence.

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse



Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

This is the former Tramway cable house.  The concrete pillars to the left once supported a railroad track which ran all the way down to Lake Superior.  It was used to haul all the materials the keeper needed from ships on the lake up to the lighthouse.  In 1934, a road was finally built to the lighthouse, and the tramway fell out of use.  Today there is a very long wooden stairway which runs beside the old tramway, down to the beach.  It’s beautiful, and it’s also quite a workout.

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

See Also: Vintage View of Split Rock Lighthouse

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC