Today nothing much remains of the former main line of the Minneapolis & St. Louis in either Minnesota, Iowa, or Illinois. This photo essay focuses on one of the bits that remains stretching from Cedar Lake Junction in Minneapolis on the former main line of the Great Northern (now the BNSF Wayzata sub) to where it is spliced into the former Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific transcontinental main line by Bass Lake in St. Louis Park. Sadly, this bit of track is on borrowed time, for while it is operated by short line Twin Cities & Western, the corridor it occupies is slated to become the Southwest Corridor light rail line. While rails will still grace the right-of-way, heavy freight will no longer rumble along it like in the glory days of the “Tootin’ Louie.”
The Chicago Great Western Red Wing-Mankato line passed through Faribault once upon a time. Today, after abandonments in 1973 and 1975 that clipped the route north and west of town, 1.4 miles of track remain in operation on the city’s northern side thanks to CGW successor Chicago & North Western finding traffic to and from Faribault to be so profitable that when deferred maintenance on the CGW between Northfield and Faribault made the line impassible by 1975, the C&NW arranged for trackage rights on neighboring Milwaukee Road, moved its Faribault traffic over to its rails, and promptly abandoned the CGW between the two points, resulting in the remaining CGW track becoming an industrial spur. The trackage rights arrangement remained in place when the Milwaukee Road gave way to the Soo Line in 1985 and the C&NW to the Union Pacific in 1995. Today Progressive Rail operates the line after assuming operations on it and UP’s former CGW Northfield-Cannon Falls line (another Red Wing-Mankato route survivor) in November of 2004 via a lease.
In this photo essay we will explore these surviving CGW rails.
Facts in this article are from the book More Chicago Great Western in Minnesota, and More Milwaukee Road in Minnesota, both by John C. Luecke, and the Union Pacific’s webpage on Progressive Rail’s Cannon Valley line: