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Model of Portal
By Amanda Bjergaard Corey
This was Mike’s intention in creating the model, which he plans to donate to the City of Portal in hopes that others will continue to build on it and share Portal’s history.

“It takes the story and makes it real. I want the model to be a part of a living experience that people can contribute to and continue to work on,” explained Gustafson.

Built largely from original plans he received from the Soo Line Museum in Minot, Gustafson started the model in 2009.

It is currently the centerpiece of a room in the old Portal school that has been turned into a mini-museum for the reunion. The pictures, newspaper articles, books, and other materials that Gustafson has found during his research fill the walls and tables.

In the interest of finding a cheaper way to ship wheat from North Dakota fields to the mill in Minneapolis, the Soo Line Railroad came to Portal in 1893.

During that time, it boasted a 24 x 92’, two story depot that included two waiting rooms, offices, a freight room on the first floor, and 10 living rooms upstairs. It also had a 16 x 96’ freight depot, a living house for section foreman, a 20 x 36’ ice house, coal derrick, coal storage shed, and water tank.

The round house, which is prominent in Gustafson’s model, was built in 1898.

The decision to build the railroad through Portal has its own story, including a route that follows plans made in 1853 by the War Department and a feud between James “Jim” Hill (founder of the Great Northern Railroad) and Cornelius Van Horne (President of the Canadian Pacific Railway) that ultimately decided where the tracks were laid.

The first passenger trains through Portal arrived in the fall of 1893 and were crude, comparable to riding in a boxcar.

In 1907, the Soo-Spokane Train Deluxe changed the way passengers would travel to this part of the country and in 1923, the Mountaineer brought luxury amenities to railroad travel. It was also the inspiration for a painting by Larry Fisher entitled “Waiting for the Mountaineer.”

The railroad’s popularity caused Portal’s growth to surge.

The founder of Crosby, ND, Seth Orris Crosby, made his home in Portal.

(Next week, Bjergaard will delve into the history behind Seth Orris Crosby and other buildings in Portal.)

Portal Reunion
Saturday, Aug. 2
Saturday is chuck full of activities starting with registration for the 5K walk/run at the city park from 8:30-9:00 a.m. The run starts at 9:00.

Railroad memorabilia can be viewed at the community center from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. with coffee offered from 10:00-10:30 a.m.

Gustafson will give a second presentation from 10:30-11:00 a.m.

A second tour of the US Customs will be from 11:30 a.m.-12:00 noon.

To satisfy one’s hunger, a barbecue lunch will be at the community center from 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m. The meal is covered by registration, but is also open to the public for $10.

Get ready for some Portal trivia at the memorial hall from 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Supper for registrants only will be at the community center from 6:00-8:00 p.m. A short program will immediately follow at the memorial mall.

A street dance, Dean and the Badlands Express will provide musical entertainment from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 a.m.

Sunday, Aug. 2
A farewell breakfast runs from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the community center (not covered by registration and open to the public). Proceeds go to Portal Masonic Lodge #84.

Church services are at 11:00 a.m. for Christi Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Lignite and 11:30 a.m. at St. John’s Catholic Church in Portal.



Video games and I have always had a strained relationship. Mainly because I stink at each and every one of them…always have and I suspect always will. Generally I’m not inclined to fits of rage or anger but video games never fail to get my Underoos in a bunch. Buck Rogers, if you must know.

My brother and I, like many children in 1982, found an Atari 2600 under the Christmas tree.

We were ecstatic, our very own video game, something else to add to the long list of things for us to fight about.

And fight we did.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that I stunk at each and every game, I had to put up with an irritating little brother beating me and telling me that I stunk.

As you Atari aficionados are aware, the Atari came with a “Joy Stick” that the smiling, happy player used to control the objects on the screen.

One stick…one button…how hard could it be?

If only the objects on the screen would have done what I wanted them to do when I wanted them to do it.

Someone at the Atari factory failed to put the “joy” in my stick.

When I was “playing,” I looked like an angry epileptic chimp trying to get the lid off a jar of homemade pickles.
Such fun, such happiness, such delight, such joy…for my brother and anyone else who played me anyway.

For me it was agony. Joyless, frustrating, agony.

I feel it welling up now 30 years later just thinking about it.

Why wouldn’t Donkey Kong jump the barrel? Why did the Pit Fall guy always..always..always fall into the alligator infested pit? Why did those ghosts in Pac-Man out maneuver me every single time? Why oh why?

There have been many video game consoles that have come out since the Atari 2600. My son has an Xbox 360 that he seems to be able to operate without much problem.

I have heard the telltale sounds of video game rage coming from his room from time to time but it’s short lived and he seems to move on with the game quickly once the fit has passed.

He’s talked me into playing a game with him a few times and yes, I still stink.

I still stink, still get frustrated, and still feel like crushing the controller into tiny little pieces each and every time some zombie gets me before I get them.

Gone is the one stick, one button layout of the previously mentioned “Joyless Stick.” The controllers now have more buttons than I have fingers, which seems unfair from the get-go and, for your information, I have a full set of 10 digits despite taking high school shop.

I watch my son’s fingers flutter with ease around the controller as the zombie killer on the screen expertly moves here and there making zombies wish they had never been born…or dead…I don’t know anymore.

Then it’s my turn.

My son’s barking directions…right flipper, “X” button, left trigger…the zombies are closing in.

I assume their closing in. I haven’t had a chance to actually look up at the screen as the 63 buttons are giving me and my 10 fingers about as much sensory input as a man in my condition can hope to handle.

I’m not sure exactly what that condition is but I know I’ve had it since Christmas 1982 and it could turn out to be fatal…for everyone but the zombies.

Happy 15th birthday to my son, Jackson. May your day be shiny and bright like the braces we got you instead of a dirt bike, a llama or a chimp.

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