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:
THE SKALLY GETS CONTROL (p37)
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.
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.)