A Duluth artist, thankful for firefighters' help at the scene of a car crash several years ago, presented his rescuers last week with an intricately carved marble plaque depicting their fire station.

Eric Waller made the carving with diamond heads on a grinder, a dremel tool and even a dental drill to get the small details. He wore magnifying glasses for a lot of it, he said.

Waller said he wanted to thank firefighters for attending to him after he and a friend were thrown from a vehicle in a drunken driving crash in 2012.

"My mom always taught me to be a good person and thank the people that help you," Waller said. "Driving by every day, you think about what those guys are doing. They go through a lot and they see a lot every day."

Waller presented the carving at Duluth Fire Department Station 10 in the Gary-New Duluth neighborhood. Near his signature, Waller inscribed: "Thanks #10."

Pam Louwagie


MnDOT grants will improve rail service

The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced Friday that it has put up $1.55 million for three projects designed to improve freight rail service in the state.

The Minnesota Rail Service Improvement Program, which began in 1976, will distribute the money to strengthen the state's shipping economy and help improve operations for companies that ship by rail.

• The city of Becker got a $1 million award for Northern Metal Recycling to add a 7,000-foot rail spur to a new processing facility.

• Epitome Energy of Crookston won a $450,000 grant for new rail infrastructure to support a new soybean processing and biodiesel facility.

• Minnesota Commercial Railway got $101,139 to replace a railroad bridge over Rice Creek in New Brighton.

Nine applicants submitted program proposals totaling more than $4.5 million for different projects.

The agency picked projects based on the benefits that public dollars would have on rail service and economic development.

The agency's website says the grants program is open to applications from "railroads, rail users and political subdivisions of Minnesota and the federal government that seek to complete a major improvement or rehabilitation of railroad rights of way or other railroad facilities."

Peter Dahlberg, a project manager with the Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations, said in a statement that the program is designed to "rehabilitate deteriorating rail lines, improve rail-shipping opportunities and preserve and maintain abandoned rail corridors for future transportation uses."

Dan Browning