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Milwaukee Road 261 to Winthrop 6/23/2019

by Chris Guenzler

I got up at my usual hotel and then picked up Elizabeth at the Best Western Dakota Ridge. We then drove to Minnehaha Park to a surprise for Elizabeth.

The Minnehaha Milwaukee Road station. From here we stopped at McDonald's for breakfast and then drove on over to Minneapolis Junction. We parked the car and then walked over to where the loading line for the first coach started.

Twin Cities and Western Railroad History

The Twin Cities and Western Railroad is a railroad operating in the U.S. state of Minnesota which started operations on July 27, 1991. Trackage includes the former Soo Line Railroad "Ortonville Line", originally built as the first part of the Pacific extension of the Milwaukee Road. This main line extends from Hopkins, Minnesota to Appleton, Minnesota. The line was originally built between Hopkins and Cologne Minnesota in 1876 by Hastings and Dakota Railroad. In 1913, the Milwaukee Road rerouted it, reducing the curves. The line was eventually extended to the Pacific.

As of 1991, the TCWR also has trackage rights over the BNSF Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 2012, the TCWR purchased the Sisseton Milbank Railroad and it now operates as a subsidiary of the Twin Cities and Western Railway.

The company is also affiliated with the Red River Valley and Western Railroad in North Dakota, and the Minnesota Prairie Line, which has a junction with the Twin Cities and Western in Norwood Young America, Minnesota.

Until Hiawatha Avenue was reconstructed in the 1990s and plans for the Hiawatha Line light rail service entered late stages, the Twin Cities and Western operated on Canadian Pacific's Bass Lake Subdivision through the 29th Street railway trench in Minneapolis, now known as the Midtown Greenway. The tracks continued along the former Milwaukee Road Short Line into Saint Paul, where TC&W would access rail yards operated by Canadian Pacific, the Minnesota Commercial Railway, and others. As part of the Hiawatha project, the railroad's route to St Paul was moved from the 29th Street Corridor to the Kenilworth Corridor to Cedar Lake Junction onto the BNSF just west of downtown Minneapolis. The re-route occurred August 1998.

After the re-route onto to Kenilworth Corridor occurred in 1998, HCRRA constructed the Kenilworth Trail adjacent to the railroad track, using railroad right-of-way acquired from the Chicago North Western Railway by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority. The Kenilworth alignment had first been built as part of the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway and eventually became part of the Chicago and North Western Railway. The Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority acquired the land prior to when C&NW abandoned the line. The existing freight operation shares the corridor with the Kenilworth Trail.

The temporary alignment was only expected to last five years and was proposed as a way to preserve the route for future transit. It has been more than a decade since this alignment opened. The connection is reaching the end of its lifespan and requires rehabilitation.

Minnesota Central Railroad History

The Minnesota Central Railroad extended from a connection with the Twin Cities & Western at Norwood to a connection with the BNSF at Harley Falls 94 miles away. The trackage originally belonged to the Minneaolis & St Louis Railway which was purchased by the Chicago & North Western in 1960. Short line operations begun in 1984 under the Minnesota Valley Railroad later renamed the MNVA Railroad, Inc. The MNVA ceased Operations on December 13, 1994 and sold its assets to Pioneer RailCorp.,Which renamed it Minnesota Central. In August on 1999, Cascade RailCorp took over the railroad. While rail traffic volumes were adequate, the track was in very poor condition. In August 2000, Cascade RailCorp filed for bankruptcy and the Minnesota Central was embargoed. The Twin Cities & Western started operations of the railroad Minnesota Prairie Line (MPL) began serving its customers in October of 2002, restoring rail service to a line that had sat dormant for two years after a prior operator ceased operations. MPL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of TC&W. MPL works in partnership with the Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority (MVRRA) and the communities it serves to enhance rural economic development.

Our Trip

The consist for our trip today was Milwaukee Road 261, NSR 1938 "Earling", NSR 203 "Nokomish", "NSR 202 "Wenoneh", coach Lake Pepin, open door baggage car "Golden Valley", open door baggage car/concession car NSRX 2450, "Fox River Valley", Western Pacific "Silver Palace" CZ 21, "Wisconsin Valley", Super Dome 53, "Milwaukee", "Cedar Rapids" and E9A 101. We boarded the Nokomish and took a left hand window seat. The train left on time at 9:00 AM but pulled forward like yesterday but this time did not have to wait for a freight train. We ran down to Van Buren Street again.

A red signal at Van Buren Street.

We got upgraded to a yellow signal at Van Buren Street and started to pull east.

Milwaukee Road 261 was pushing the train backwards.

We went by the Minneapolis Junction engine house, home of Milwaukee Road 261.

Passenger cars used for the Polar Express trains in November and December each year.

We backed all the way past the junction with the southeast leg of the wye which we would take to start the trip.

Milwaukee Road 261 took the southeast leg of the Minneapolis Junction wye as the rain began but subsided once we were out of the Twin Cities area.

A tree reflected in a pond.

One of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes.

Minnesota's incredible scenery on the way to Norwood.

Norwood Young America water tower. We came to a stop and our crew had to throw the switch to the track to Winthrop and then re-set it back to the main to Glencoe.

The crew getting off to throw the switch.

Before he threw the switch.

After he threw the switch.

The train coming off the main line and starting our new mileage to the way to Winthrop. We ran to Hamburg where they announced we would do a photo runby and then when we arrived, we detrained and walked through the mud to a stack of cement support pillars which we stood for the runby.

Milwaukee Road 261 backing up at Hamburg.

Backup move #1.

The Hamburg station and mileage post sign.

Photo runby #1 at Hamburg.

Backup move #2.

Photo runby #2.

While we were boarding the train to continue our trip.

More of that Minnesota incredible scenery.

We got five miles from Winthrop and the weather changing for the worse in Minneapolis, it was decided that we would forgoe going into Winthrop and try to beat the rain back to the Twin Cities. That was okay with me and Elizabeth as we had to get her back to the airport. It had another good Milwaukee Road 261 trip although not as many miles as yesterday, the unexpected double runby made up for it. Once back, I drove Elizabeth back to the airport and then returned to my usual hotel for a good night's rest. It had been two great days of Milwaukee Road 261 trips, bringing my total to 32 day trips with this steam engine.

6/24/2019 I slept in then had the hotel's breakfast and at 11:00, I checked out and drove the rental car back to the airport. I got my boarding pass, went through security and waited for my Delta Flight 2671. I flew home to Orange County Airport and Cliff Prather picked me up and drove me home, thus ending another exciting two-day trip with Milwaukee Road 261.