Tag Archives: Twin Cities and Western

My latest Kenilworth Corridor photos

Anti freight co location sign along Kenilworth trail Mpls 9 8 2013
I found this sign posted along the Kenilworth Trail’s pedestrian path less than a block north of the 21st Street grade crossing. It had company to the south…
Anti freight rail banner on north side of Burnham Rd bridge Mpls 9 8 2013
…in the form of this banner…
Anti freight rail banner on south side of Burnham Rd bridge Mpls 9 8 2013
…and this banner. The banners were adorning the north and south sides of the Burnham Road bridge. This span crosses the Kenilworth Corridor south of 21st Street. This and the preceding two photos taken by Tony Held on 9-8-2013.
Looking up Kenilworth corridor towards 21st Street Mpls 9 8 2013
A view north along the Kenilworth Corridor. 21st Street is faintly visible in the distance. Railroad tracks once were as thick here as noodles in a soup with the Minneapolis & St. Louis had a yard here. By the early1980s, however, M. &. St. L. successor Chicago and North Western ceased to have any use for this yard and so pulled up all but the main track to the left. The Kenilworth Trail is now flanked by the track to the left and the experiment in prairie restoration to the right. Theoretically freight rail, light rail, and the Kenilworth Trail could be accommodated here. The loss of the prairie restoration experiment would probably generate some howls, however. Photo taken by Tony Held on 9 8 2013.
Pro LRT tunnel and anti freight rail signs at Burnham Rd and Park Pl Mpls 9 8 2013
Pro-LRT tunnel signs proliferate on Burnham Road southwest of the bridge over the Kenilworth Corridor. At the intersection of Park Place and Burnham, pro-LRT tunnel and anti-freight rail/light rail co-location signs engage in a Mexican standoff. Photo taken by Tony Held on 9-8-2013.
My engineer cap on anti freight rail sign along Kenilworth trail Mpls 9 8 2013
The imp in me could not resist placing my 1998-vintage engineer cap on the anti-freight rail/light rail co-location sign I came across less than a block north of 21st Street. This picture is my way of saying “Keep freight rail here!” Photo taken by Tony Held on 9-8-2013.
TCW US DOT plate on crossbuck on south side of 21s st crossing Mpls 9 8 2013
Interesting to note is this U.S. Department of Transportation plate bearing the initials “TCWR.” This is affixed to the crossbuck on the south side of the 21st Street grade crossing along the old Tootin’ Louie line by Cedar Lake. Photo taken by Tony Held on 9-8-2013.

Kenilworth Corridor: The LRT tunnel option

Southbound LRT leaving Ft Snelling station 12 4 2011
A southbound Route 55 LRT leaves the Fort Snelling station behind as it heads for the tunnel beneath Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Photo taken by Tony Held on December 4, 2011.

A tunnel along the Kenilworth Corridor portion of the Southwest Light Rail Transit line could solve the problem of co-locating Twin Cities and Western freight and Metro Transit light rail in the corridor as well as keep the Kenilworth Trail in place.   A group named the Kenilworth Preservation Group advocates one as well, such as in this white paper.

The city of Minneapolis is dead set against it, however.

“I don’t want anybody who is not in these deep conversations to think it’s really practical to do a deep tunnel there. If we could, in this area, afford deep tunnels, there would be one in downtown Minneapolis.”  Minneapolis Transportation and Public Works Committee chair Sandy Colvin Roy claims in this Southwest Journal article.  Roy’s claim conveniently ignores the tunnel on the Green (formerly Hiawatha) Line which passes underneath Lindbergh Terminal at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.

Southbound LRT arriving at Lindbergh Term station 12 27 2012
A southbound Route 55 train on the Green –aka Hiawatha– Line arrives at Lindbergh Station deep beneath Lindbergh Terminal at Minneapolis/St. Paul International. Photo taken on December 27, 2012, by Tony Held.

 

“People really should not get their hearts set on the deep tunnel because we have no idea how much cost it would carry with it. We have no idea how extensive the impact to neighboring communities might be. A lot more work would need to be done before we’d be in a position to take that seriously.”  Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak’s policy director Peter Wagenius claimed to the Southwest Journal.  Wagenius’ remarks about having no idea what the impact to the “neighboring communities” a tunnel would have flies directly into the face of support for a tunnel demonstrated by the likes of the Kenilworth Preservation Group.  “We are proposing to those in charge to consider TUNNELING as not only a viable option but as a solution to preserve this natural resource.” The KPG states on their website.  It would behoove Mr. Wagenius to contact this group and get some facts.  In fact, Wagenius claimed to the Star Tribune in this article that: “We’re willing to look at tunnel options to keep the project going,” though he added the that Mayor Rybak was tepid to the idea.

This same Star Tribune article reports that a deep tunnel would cost $420 million, while a shallow tunnel would cost $250 million.

It is my opinion that a deep tunnel would be the best option.  It could start near Cedar Lake, and end after passing under the Twin Cities & Western in the vicinity of Bass Lake in St. Louis Park.   The proposed 21st Street LRT station could be converted into a subway-style one like at Lindbergh Terminal, too.

I believe it would behoove Minneapolis and the Met Council to support a deep tunnel along the Southwest LRT.  It would allow the TC&W to remain where it is, keep the Kenilworth Trail intact, and end this long, drawn-out debate raging over transit issues along the Kenilworth Corridor.

Wake up and support a tunnel for the Southwest LRT line, Met Council and the City of Minneapolis!

 

Twin Cities & Western is “neutral” on reroute issue

Returning St Paul turn with ILSX GP 39 2 1389 and two TCW units crossing 21st street west Minneapolis April 3rd 2009
The Twin City and Western’s St. Paul Turn –bound for Hopkins after interchanging traffic with Twin City railroads– tip toes across 21st Street in Minneapolis as the train slowly rumbles along the jointed rails of the old Minneapolis & St. Louis main line on a gorgeous April 3, 2009. The train is right in the heart of a corridor contested between Minneapolis and the suburb of St. Louis Park as to whether or not freight rail can co-exist here with Light Rail Transit plus the Kenilworth Trail. Photo by Tony Held.

 

In January of 2013, Minnesota regional railroad Twin Cities & Western announced its opposition to being re-routed out of Minneapolis and into St. Louis Park for the Southwest LRT line.  But the railroad had done an apparent about-face from this stance by July.  “We could bring our trains through there safely,” TC&W president Mark Wegner told the Star Tribune in this article in regard to two new proposals that routed the TC&W through SLP.  “We can’t crimp capacity for freight,” Wegner told the newspaper when he expressed concerns that shipments of large loads such as wind turbine blades could not navigate a corridor that shared LRT with it. (This also indicates Wegner would be against the 29th Street corridor being reopened as well, due to the limited clearance beneath the many bridges along it.)

This begs the question: Is the Twin Cities & Western opposed to the re-route, or not?  Mark Wegner gave the answer in an August 3, 2013 Star Tribune guest editorial: “We have not sought to be relocated. We have emphasized the need to continue safe and economic freight service to our customers as we have for the past 22 years. Despite suggestions to the contrary, we have avoided taking sides with one community or another as they have sought allies for or against various options.”

And so the TC&W has declared itself “neutral” on the issue.  However, Wegner does not indicate his willing to let the trains be moved about at the whim of local governments, which is a good sign.

The only way this issue will be resolved ultimately boils down to whether Minneapolis will force St. Louis Park to abandon their stance on the re-route, or vice versa, not what the TC&W wants.   I do hope, however, their trains can stay where they are.  It is a much better option than having to beef up the Canadian Pacific’s MN&S spur –the former Minneapolis, Northfield, and Southern main line– in an expensive rebuild that would carve a swathe through St. Louis Park which dislocated home and business owners.

 

The ex-Minneapolis & St. Louis between Cedar Lake Junction and Bass Lake yard

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.”

In this photo essay we will tour the line.

 

 

Cedar Lake Junction as viewed on a partly sunny April 3rd, 2009. Interstate 394/Highway 12 looms in the background behind the signals and “Cedar Lake” sign. Once this was the site of the Cedar Lake yard and shops of the Louie plus a neighboring Great Northern yard. Now only these two tracks remain, with the jointed rail of the Louie on borrowed time. Photo by the author.

 

Despite the temporary routing of TC&W trains over the corridor, sights like these are for sore eyes indeed! Also taken on April 3rd, 2009, here we see the TC&W St. Paul Turn tip-toeing along the line at 10 MPH across the 21st Street West grade crossing. In lead is ILSX GP39-2 1389 with two more GP39-2s behind it, TC&W 2301 and 2300. Photo by the author.
The Saint Paul Turn heads down the old Louie past the sight of another yard, Kenwood. Currently the Kenilworth Trail occupies the site. Burnham Road crosses the bridge in the distance. Photo by the author.

 

The next set of photos was taken on November 5th, 2011. Here we are looking up the Louie main from the Cedar Lake Parkway grade crossing. Kenilworth Trail is to the right. Photo by the author.
The Cedar Lake Parkway grade crossing looking east.   How will it look once heavy rail is out and light rail is in?  Photo by the author.
Even the trail along Cedar Lake Parkway has its own grade crossing. Photo by the author.

 

This signal stands proud on the south side of the Cedar Lake Parkway grade crossing. It must date back to the days of the North Western if not the Louie. Photo by the author.

 

A view south along the Louie from the Cedar Lake Parkway grade crossing reveals the concrete base of a signal mast that once faced north as well as an old telephone box. Photo by the author.

 

Here is where the rails of the Louie are spliced into those of the Milwaukee Road in what once was the Milwaukee’s Bass Lake yard in St. Louis Park. The Southwest LRT trail takes over the Louie at this point. Photo by the author.