‘St. Paul Union Depot’ brings back a world of travel as relaxation
When John W. Diers was a youngster in the 1940s and '50s, he loved streetcars, and convinced his family to take him out to the trollies most every weekend. He is pretty certain he managed to travel on every working line in Minneapolis and St. Paul before the age of the streetcar came to an end in the 1950s. So when he realized, as a young adult, that the same fate was about to befall the passenger railroads, he hit the rails.
“I knew it was going to go away, and I wanted to see it all before that happened. I scraped together money for tickets, and when I was in college at the U of M, between quarters, I would take these amazing train trips all over the country. I got to see it all before it was too late, and I have some wonderful memories of those trip,” he says.
His unique fixation on transportation never went away, and Diers ultimately spent his career working in transit, including 25 years with the Twin Cities Metropolitan Transit Commission. The author, with Aaron Issacs, of “Twin Cities Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul,” he writes a regular column for the Prior Lake American and contributes to train magazines. His latest book, “St. Paul Union Depot” (University of Minnesota Press), commemorates one part of local transit history that has been given a remarkable second chance.