Locomotive "William Crooks.". The locomotive "William Crooks" has the distinction of not only being the first steam locomotive to operate in the State of Minnesota, but also one of the last surviving Civil War era steam engines. Built in 1861 by the New Jersey Locomotive and Machine Works, this engine entered service a year later for the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, running between St. Paul and St. Anthony, which is today the City of Minneapolis. Named "William Crooks" for the line's Chief Mechanical Officer, this locomotive ran for nearly 50 years in passenger service across the northwestern US. Retired in 1897, it sat for nearly a decade, decommissioned in the Great Northern Yard in St. Paul. During its working life, it had been shopped a number of times and converted to a coal burner, so its appearance had changed a fair bit. Fortunately, the locomotive was rediscovered in 1908 by railway personnel who had worked with it over the years and recognized its significance. They had it restored to its original appearance as a wood-burner. Over the first half of the 20th century, the locomotive was maintained in operating condition and was exhibited by the Great Northern Railway at numerous rail fairs and special events. It's last operation under steam appears to have been about 1948.
The William Crooks was placed on display at the St. Paul Union Depot in June 1954. In June of 1962 the Great Northern transferred ownership of the engine to the Minnesota Historical Society, though the engine remained displayed in the depot. The St. Paul Union Depot closed to passenger traffic in 1971, but the engine remained there until 1975, when it was moved to the newly established Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, Minnesota, where she is on display today.