“A special train was made up for a show at Annandale Tuesday evening and 60 to 70 of our citizens took advantage of the opportunity to see ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ The ride on the way up was very pleasant but on the return trip of nearly six and one-half miles the ride was made in eight minutes! Some of the boys are feeling rather faint over it yet. One of the leading citizens who was quite sick yesterday said that he felt very thankful on his arrival and that he was safe at home.”
One disadvantage of the train was the complaint of the irregularity of the Soo trains. In January of 1896 this statement was made, “What a surprise it would be if the Soo trains should happen to run on scheduled time for an entire day.” Occasionally the papers would report how late the trains were. On April 21, 1897, the eastbound train was due at 4:08 p. m. and did not arrive until 8 a. m. the next day. The following week the eastbound train was 13 hours late on Thursday and on Saturday about 71 hours late.
Despite the sometimes missed schedules, the railroad made vacations to far away places possible and for the first time made day trips to Minneapolis suppliers easy.
The railroad also made the life of the traveling salesperson possible and profitable. A new operation sprung up around these traveling salespersons, a business called “sample rooms.” A sample room was usually connected with a hotel or bar and provided a place for the traveling “Drummer” and his sample cases of new and modern goods and clothes to display in a hospitable setting to his clients. Goods were ordered from the displays and arrived soon by rail. In early Maple Lake there were two primary Sample Rooms, and they were associated with bars, Moore’s and Hamilton’s, and not with the hotels.
The railroad had an emotional side as well. Sometimes, the last time people saw a loved one was when he went to war, boarding at the station, or when people moved away by train. News of deaths, accidents, and other tragedies came through the Telegraph and the Depot. Conversely, reunions happened at the Depot.
As Maple Lake grew, sales of wood and grain to the Twin Cities were expanded to include potatoes to Cincinnati, Ohio, and livestock to be sent to the slaughterhouse.
World War II marked the end of the “glory” days for the Maple Lake Depot. The coming of safe commercial air travel and improved autos, trucks, and highways caused the decline of small rail stations.
Even the mail stopped using the trains for daily runs and with the loss of mail transport the last “local” made a stop in Maple Lake on May 2, 1959. The Depot, though abandoned, wasn’t torn down until the 1980s.