The Great Northern Railway train shown here was in for a long wait. It was stuck in the snow at Pillsbury, N.D., north of Valley City, from March 3 to March 9, 1966.

The snow developed in a blizzard which pretty much shut down the region for several days.

A Great Northern Railway crew was snowed in March 3 to 9, 1966, at Pillsbury, N.D. Special to The Forum
A Great Northern Railway crew was snowed in March 3 to 9, 1966, at Pillsbury, N.D. Special to The Forum

This picture was sent to Neighbors by Karen Mueller, Melrose, Minn. She’s very conscious about trains dealing with storms because her father, Lowell Kolbe, who now lives in Breckenridge, Minn., was a crew member of a train that, too, was stuck in the snow from that storm. She doesn’t know where his train was, but she says it was snowed in so long the crew ran out of food.

Arden Lemley, West Fargo, also writes about that train stuck in Pillsbury.

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“The trees on both sides of the tracks made the ultimate ‘snow fence,’ and the train was covered. It took bulldozers and rotary plows many days to free it,” Arden says.

A massive March blizzard in 1966 killed 16 people in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Special to The Forum
A massive March blizzard in 1966 killed 16 people in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Special to The Forum

Concerning that ’66 blizzard, Kirby Brandhagen, Cavalier, N.D., writes that the theater his parents owned in Cavalier couldn’t get the film it planned to show that weekend delivered. But “Swede” Bartlett, owner of the Roxy Theater in Langdon, N.D., had a movie he had shown that the Brandhagens could have if they could get to Langdon.

“So my dad and I drove to Langdon,” Kirby writes. “I remember Highway 5 as a canyon of snow; there was hardly room for two cars to pass.”

They made it, though, and the Cavalier theater showed the movie, “War Gods of the Deep,” that weekend.

“Critics call it a terrible movie,” Kirby says, “but we were just happy to have something to put on the screen. And to me, it was one of the best movies ever. And driving through the snow to get it gives me a great memory of my dad.”

Duane Midboe, now of Climax, Minn., but of rural Inkster, N.D., in 1966, writes that during that blizzard, “I had to go to the barn, and I was worried about going off-course and freezing to death.

“I could not tend to my sheep because they were too difficult to find.

“Barn roofs collapsed under the weight of the snow and animals died inside.

“Animals fortunate enough to be inside a steel shed, like we had built in the summer of 1965, huddled together and actually created ‘sweat.’ I remember using a scoop shovel to dig a path to the door. The cattle heard us coming and were wild, waiting to get out and get some water. They were overheated and it was a dangerous situation. All the wells and the watering hole were frozen over. So the cattle ate snow.”

The view 3 miles west of Pillsbury, N.D., on March 9, 1966. Special to The Forum
The view 3 miles west of Pillsbury, N.D., on March 9, 1966. Special to The Forum

More storm stories

Wes Anderson, Valley City, curator for the Barnes County Historical Society, sends Neighbors more information about that blizzard, which struck 53 years ago this week.

Much of Valley City was virtually at a standstill after the blizzard struck Wednesday, March 2, Wes says. Most streets were completely blocked with huge drifts, although portions of some streets were clear due to the northeast wind, which ranged from 30 to 50 mph.

Telephone lines were downed, making communications impossible in some areas.

The timing was especially bad for Valley City, because its North Dakota Winter Show was scheduled to be held that week.

The North Dakota Highway Department reported zero visibility and snow-blocked roads throughout the southern two-thirds and the northeastern quarter of North Dakota.

On Friday, snowplows were out in Valley City despite the storm so the residents could get to stores and the hospital and industrial employees could get to work. But stores closed as darkness approached so their employees could get home safely.

A Chicago-to-Seattle bus was forced to leave its 19 passengers at the Char-Mac Hotel, although some of them took up offers of Valley City residents to stay in their homes.

The Winter Show was postponed until the weather cleared.

The eastbound North Coast Limited passenger train was stalled at Glen Ullin, N.D.

North Dakota Gov. William Guy was on vacation in Phoenix. Lt. Gov. Charles Tighe, Bismarck, kept him informed of the situation after telephone lines were opened.

The storm lasted into Saturday, but that morning the snows had lifted and sunshine prevailed.

By Monday, March 7, much of Valley City’s business district had been cleared. But the city was having trouble finding a place to dump snow.

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That Monday, 28 passengers from a Northern Pacific train stalled 3 miles west of Valley City were picked up by National Guard units and school buses and brought into town. The train had become stalled the Friday before when it became stuck in a drift that covered five of the train’s six cars. The passengers had used mail bags taken from the mail car as blankets.

The first fatality from the storm was reported. She was a 13-year-old girl from a Woodworth, N.D., farm family.

At Tower City, N.D., 81 travelers spent Wednesday until Monday at the Tower View Cafe. The cafe had enough food for everyone, with one exception: bread. The employees had to make sandwiches from crusts, which was OK with the snowed-in people; it was better than nothing. Meanwhile, trucks donated cases of fruit salad and apples to augment supplies.

One of the cafe’s cooks, Shirley Behm, of Fingal, N.D., stayed at the Tower View from Wednesday to Sunday.

Cass County Electric Cooperative employees spent most of the weekend restoring power in rural Valley City.

By Sunday, much of the power troubles were considered minor. The exceptions were Cuba, Kathryn, Rogers, Leal, Dazey and Sanborn, which still had power difficulties.

Eighty purebred cattle on the Christ Bollinger farm, Monango, N.D., died when a pole barn collapsed.

The estimated pheasant loss in southeast North Dakota was 40 to 50 percent.

Instead of the planned running of the Winter Show March 4-11, it was held March 11-18.

In Buchanan, N.D., where the power was out, Ralph Cebula and his wife stuffed rags soaked in rubbing alcohol, lit them and used them to heat milk for their 10-month-old twins.

After the storm ended, farmers used their tractors and scoops to help clear out the 20-foot snow drifts in Dazey.

The death toll from that ’66 blizzard: six people in South Dakota, and five each in North Dakota and Minnesota.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.