The Trains of Choo Choo Bay
The South West Bay of Coon Lake recently became known as Choo Choo Bay. In honor of Harry Johnson who started a model steam engine train and track on the west side of this bay.
Maybe you have heard the whistles on a calm day. The train does not run, now but used to run every Sunday in the past.
Harry Johnson was born in 1900 and had an interest in steam engines since he was 10 years old, when he helped his father rebuild and repair steam engines in 1930s. At the age of 34 in 1934 he built his first steam engine model train in 1/2 inch scale and ran it on a 2 1/2 wide track. In 1939 he ran a model steam engine at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. He always wanted a place of his own and purchased property on what is now Oakland Drive on the west side of Coon Lake in 1947.
The first trains to run at the Birchwood Picnic Grounds of Coon Lake were a 1 inch scale model which ran on a 5 inch track. By 1949 after a lot of back breaking work he had laid over 600 feet of track through the woods, through a tunnel and over a bridge.
By 1956 at the age of 56 Harry had built engines that ran on 12 inch track. He tore up all the 5 inch track, removed the bridge and tunnel and began running trains on the current track of today which runs about 1/5 of a mile. The setting is complete with a train ticketing office and water barrels for filling the steam engines.
The first big engine the M&H also ran at Taylors Falls and the Western Frontier Town in East Bethel. The M&H ran at Coon Lake until 2007 when it was sold.
Harry built over 15 engines that ran on the Coon Lake Tracks. Today there is a bigger one and two smaller ones still on site. Harry built over 40 steam engines over his life time of 100 years old.
Today Harry's son Don Johnson and Harry's grandson Pete Brescancini have choosen to stop running the trains for now.
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