The other day I received an E-mail referencing a previous post about the Skally Line (St. Paul and Duluth Skally Line – April 15, 2009). The sender was asking how the line was named. Up until this week I had found info about that line to be scarce. However, this week, after his question intrigued me, I started running additional searches and found a theory about the naming in Google Books. The book referenced is Mileposts on the prairie: the story of the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway by Frank Pierce Donovan, 1950. Pgs 37-38. There are about 5 sections in the book pertaining to the Skally Line:


An odd name to be sure which came about in an odd manner. There are many stories concerning the nickname’s origin but the following has a ring of truth to it. In those days the construction and maintenance crews were predominantly Swedish. …. . A trainman would shout at a departing sectionman:

“Where you goin’, Ole?”

“Skally go hoot!” would be the clipped reply, at least that’s how it sounded to American ears. Actually it was, “Skall ga till Duluth,” meaning “I’m going to Duluth!” Constant repetition of this phrase made an impression on the railroaders until they began calling the Lake Superior & Mississippi and its successor the St Paul & Duluth the Skally. To this day older trainmen still refer to it as the Skally.

Read entire exerpt on Google Books

There are options through Google Books for finding the book in a library near you, I found 5 or so near me in Minnesota which means I’ll have to check it out some time. I love being able to revisit these questions because often new resources will emerge. Thanks for the E-mail!

(Post note 10/14/09: read the comments section for a clarification and additional reference. “Ja skall go till Duluth” = “I shall go to Duluth” is the english translation of the Swedish quote.)

About Chad Leigh Kluck

Originally from Nebraska, I am a history and railroad enthusiast currently living near Saint Paul, Minnesota. I enjoy trains, photography, and nostalgic memories, as well as the history of transportation, agriculture, eateries, breweries, and railroad towns. More...


  1. skallyguy
    Posted October 14, 2009 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    pretty close. As A swede, and family of Rails on the Skally since before it was NP in 1900, thru current operators.

    “Ja skall go till Duluth” = ‘I shall go to Duluth’ is the english translation of the Swedish quote. Substitute town for destination.

    Reference “Looking Back over 100 years in Northern Chisago County”, By Carl Sommer, Rush City 1958.

  2. Posted October 14, 2009 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    skallyguy, thanks for the clarification and the additional reference! I will continue to focus on the Skally as it seems to generate a lot of E-mail and blog comments. Let me know if you have anything else to share, I’d be happy to hear it.

  3. skallyguy
    Posted November 1, 2009 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    What would you like to learn about the “Skally Line” I’m slowly (due to disability) researching for a historical book on the line.


  4. Posted April 14, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ll help you out here, the Skally Line comes from the local geography. It is short for St.Croix Valley “Skally”. The St. Croix River is a large portion of the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota.

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