A large revolving platform, for turning railroad cars, locomotives, &c., in a different direction; – called also turn-gate. — Webster, 1882
The Tracy railroad turntable was located south of the former railroad tracks on the south side of South Street (!) at the end of 8th Street. It was three blocks from here to the original passenger depot, located on the east side of 4th Street; it became the freight depot in the 1880s when a larger depot was built on the west side of 4th. This early depot had been brought in from Summit (in Redwood County) in 1874.
It’s possible that Laura would have been able to see the turntable in action three blocks from the platform. The railroad turntable was manually operated and allowed an engine to be rotated into position to travel in another direction than the one in which it was currently heading. When visiting Walnut Grove, check out the End-o-Line Railroad Park and Museum in Currie, Minnesota, with its manually-operated turntable. A roundhouse was built at the Tracy turntable and enlarged in the early 1900s. The postcard image used in the button view shows the roundhouse as seen from the north; the turntable is not visible. In the 1902 map below, the location of the turntable and first depot (freight depot on the map) is marked. The depots, most of the railroad tracks, turntable and roundhouse are no longer standing.
The first hotel in Tracy was the Commercial, built by H.H. Welch in 1874. He sold it a couple of months after the Caroline Ingalls and daughters rode the train to Tracy in September 1879. In her Pioneer Girl manuscript, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that after they had waited for Pa in the hotel parlor, the family spent the night in the hotel, occupying two adjoining rooms, eating both supper and breakfast in the hotel dining room. Ma also purchased a lunch for them to eat on the road — the boiled eggs were not edited out of the published By the Shores of Silver Lake.
turntable (SSL 4)