Tag Archives: Chicago Great Western

The ex-Chicago Great Western trackage in Faribault

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.

 

 

Looking west down the former Chicago Great Western from Franklin Avenue. The Hulet Avenue grade crossing is in the distance. Beyond Hulet the line finally ends at Lyndale Avenue S. Past Lyndale the right-of-way is used by the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail on the portion of the route abandoned west of Faribault in 1973.  Note the switch in the foreground for the connecting track to the outside rail world. Photo by the author.

 

Looking east now up the former CGW, we now see in full the connecting track to the former Milwaukee Road I&M Division north-south main line which the CGW crosses in the far distance; the connection is made up in part of a surviving piece of a spur that once belonged to the Milwaukee that went west to the now long-gone Sheffield Flour Mill.  The switch itself was not installed until well after the passing of the Great Western.  At first when successor Chicago & North Western assumed trackage rights over the Milwaukee from Northfiled to Faribault, their trains took a routing around the south and east sides of town via a combination of Milwaukee/ex-CGW track that took trains past the Milwaukee Road depot to the south of this location on what was dubbed the “Grand tour of Faribault.” Finally, this switch was installed in 1976, eliminating the 6.5 mile, nearly hour-long “grand tour” for C&NW trains bound for the industries on Faribault’s northeast side. Photo by the author.

 

A short ways east of the Milwaukee/CGW connection, the old Great Western line borders South Alexander Park and crosses 7th Avenue Northwest. Photo by the author.

 

A view east up the CGW from the 7th Avenue NW grade crossing. The first on-line industry is accessed by the switch seen in the distance. Photo by the author.

 

Despite this bit of track now being on its fourth operator, Union Pacific signs adorn the cross bucks posts at the 7th Avenue NW grade crossing since technically Progressive Rail  leases but does not own the tracks. Photo by the author.
But the UP signage is not alone on the 7th Street NW cross bucks; C&NW US Department of Transportation plates also are present. Photo by the author.

 

Moving beyond West 7th Street NW, we are now looking west down the old CGW from near 2nd Avenue NW.  Note the blue Progressive Rail boxcars parked in the distance.  Photo by the author.

 

The old CGW crosses 2nd Avenue NW and into Faribault Foods, the customer at the end of the line. Photo by the author.
Another view of the grade crossing at 2nd St NW by Faribault Foods. Photo by the author.
The old CGW curves into Faribault Foods, the industry at the line’s end. Trail on left is the City of Faribault’s Straight River trail. Photo by the author.

 

Looking east towards 2nd Avenue NW by Faribault Foods. A track leading to the CGW’s yard and depot in downtown Faribault used to exist here; perhaps the city trail on the right occupies the right-of-way at least in part? CGW rails once stretched across the background sweeping north to Dundas and Northfield. Photo by the author.

 

 

The CGW crossed the Cannon River near its junction with the Straight River on a pair of wooden trestles, both of which remain today and are used as part of a city trail. This is the one closest to Faribault Foods. Rails last graced the trestle in 1978 when they were finally pulled up after the Faribault-Northfield part of the line was officially abandoned in 1975.  Photo by the author.

 

 

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:

http://www.uprr.com/customers/shortline/lines/cvrc.shtml

The Remains Of Bridge S-844B

The southern Minnesota town of Kenyon, Minnesota, once was host to two railroads -the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific, and the Chicago Great Western.   The Milwaukee Road in the form of the Faribault-Zumbrota branch and the CGW in the form of their north-south Twin Cities to Iowa main line.

The CGW gave way to the Chicago and North Western in 1968, but Kenyon stayed a two-railroad town until 1979, when the third time bankrupt Milwaukee pruned the Zumbrota branch from its system.   By 1984, the old CGW was gone too thanks to the C&NW buying the nearby north-south “Spine Line” of the bankrupt and liquidated Rock Island.

An old abutment marks the eastern end of where bridge S-844B once carried the Zumbrota branch of the Milwaukee Road over the Chicago Great Western main line (today the unruly strip of land between the fence and “Welcome to Kenyon” sign.)  Highway 56 is road in foreground.  Photo by the author.

 

The Milwaukee Road crossed the CGW via a bridge known on the company books as S-844.   Incredibly, much of this span remains intact decades after the last train crossed it!

A closer look at the leftover abutment from the portion of bridge S-844B which spanned the CGW main at Kenyon. Note the leftover bits of trestle posts behind it. Photo by the author.

 

A side view of the remaining abutment for the section of S-844B which spanned the CGW main. Note again the remaining trestle piles. Photo by the author.

S-844B was originally one long trestle.  The span east of the CGW crossing was later replaced almost entirely by the large embankment that remains visible today, but the farmer who owned the land on both sides of the Zumbrota branch at this location demanded access to both sides of his land, so a portion of the bridge was retained.

 

Despite the loss of some bridge decking, the remaining portion of bridge S-844B is still imposing-looking even today. Photo by the author.
The surviving part of S-844B is so well preserved even the bridge’s concrete footings remain in good shape. Photo by the author.

 

 

It obviously was because of lack of money that the Milwaukee Road left most of S-844B standing and in private ownership.   (An imposing steel span over the Straight River several miles to the west -Bridge S-808- was also left standing after abandonment; alas, the span eventually fell to the scrapper’s torch and only the concrete abutments and piers remain.)  Today the bridge remains as a monument to the glory days when every mile of track in southern Minnesota was deemed important for local commerce.

 

Dodge Center’s Old CGW Whistle Post

On a cold day in early March of this year, I visited the remains of the main line of the Chicago Great Western railroad in Dodge Center, Minnesota.   The line, which once ran north to south through this little burg, was used by CGW successor Chicago and North Western to haul grain to Kansas City until the early 1980s.  Then the line was torn up in favor of the recently acquired north-south Twin Cities-Kansas City “Spine Line” of the defunct Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific.

Much of the CGW main north and south of Dodge Center has either fallen victim to the farmers plow, become completly overgrown, or exsist as access roads to residental property and the like.   Lo and behold: while the CGW grade north of County Road 34 is heavily overgrown with spindly little trees and other brush, the line south of County 34 to the lines former crossing of the east-west rail line through town (now run by Canadian Pacific-owned and operated Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern; also former CNW track) was clear of such detritus until right down by the site of the crossing itself.   And post-abandonment development encroaching on the line had been confined to a small duplex.   The remainder of the grade was not only undistrubed save for green grass, but I found much remaining track ballast still extant and visible since the rails went up long ago.   It also had something more substantial left over: the concrete whistle post pictured below.

 

 

Photo by the author.

 

I do believe the CGW used these to denote when the crossing of another railroad line was imminent.

 

 

The whistle post in its context. We are looking south towards the former crossing of the CP/DME line from between 2nd and Main streets. Photo by the author.

 

I love it when extant railroad artifacts remain standing along abandoned lines; they stand like monuments to past glories.