• My CP 2816/ Friends of 261 Trip past Minnesota Flood Washout

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by Scoring Guy
I rode the Friends of 261 position move from the ex-SOO Line “Shoreham Shop” (now a CP track maintenance yard at 2800 Central Ave. NE, North Minneapolis) to Milwaukee on August 29th. This trip was a partnership with the Canadian Pacific and in fact was pulled by the CP’s # 2816 Hudson. This oil fired steamer, said have had over two million spent on restorations, looked like it just came from the manufacturer, if not better. It carried two tenders, one for oil, one for water, and a GP diesel, for security and low speed maneuvering. Next in line were several CP owned cars, a tool car, a power car, a sleeping car, three coaches and a snack bar car. 261 owned cars followed, a coach, a baggage car (converted to snack bar car, with railings in the door openings for photos and viewing), a “First Class” car, two sleeping cars for the crew, and two “Premium Class” cars, the # 53 ex-Milwaukee PS full dome car, and the ex-Milwaukee built “Cedar Rapids” Skytop lounge car. East of downtown St. Paul, this train followed the same route as Amtrak’s Empire Builder. The train departed Minneapolis at 8:30 am, and arrived in Milwaukee at 8:15pm. Note that the following day the train would go to Chicago, and for three days after that would give rides, over Labor Day Weekend, from Lincoln Park to Sturdavant, WI and back. The return trip to Minneapolis, would include an overnight in La Crosse, WI.

I live in Onalaska, WI (next to La Crosse) and left home very early for the 3 hour drive to Minneapolis, in order to board the 2816 to Milwaukee. I spent the night in Milwaukee, and dined with some friends there. The next day, I boarded the #7 Empire Builder, in Roomette, 6-730, arriving into the Twin Cities Station a little after 10:30pm, and spent the night at the nearby Days Inn. In the morning I rode the city bus, with just one transfer, to retrieve my car at Shoreham Yard. On the drive home I stopped for some photos of the flood washouts by Minnesota City.

Somewhat overshadowing the magnificent train ride down the Mississippi Valley in the # 53 dome, were the views of the washouts from the recent flooding in southeast Minnesota (and southwest Wisconsin). In fact, the flooding washed out a CP bridge, for a week, at Minnesota City, which was replaced only four days before the 261 trip. However, the big hit at Minnesota City was to the DM&E railroad line there.

The Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern Railroad, runs from Winona, MN to Rapid City, SD, (formerly a C&NW line, which was the route of the Dakota 400) and includes several branch lines. The DM&E made headlines recently when its bid for a two billion government loan, for improvements which would have allowed it to tap into the coal transport business, was denied, with the Mayo Clinic the most vocal voice against the deal (the tracks run right next to the clinic in Rochester, MN). The irony is that the Mayo Clinic gets its heat from the City’s steam plant which requires 50 railcar loads of coal per month. Go Figure! A friend of mine, who works for the CP, claims that the hot rumor is that the CP is considering purchasing the DM&E; just a rumor, , , time will tell.

The ICE Railroad (Iowa, Chicago & Eastern) is the sister line, with track (former Milwaukee Road) south from La Crescent, MN into Iowa, and then lines west into Iowa. Those two lines have trackage rights on the CP between La Crescent and Winona. The main locomotive shop for both lines is in Huron, SD.

In North Winona the DM&E crosses to the west side of the CP line, and the two run side by side to Minnesota City, where the DM&E line does a 180 degree turn to the west and heads up the valley, (cris-crossing Hwy 23) to Stockton, and then continuing up the valley before reaching the top of the Minnesota plateau at Lewiston, MN. About of foot of rain in less that 24 hours, sent a flood down that valley which washed out a rail bridge at Stockton, and destroyed miles of railbed. At the 180 degree turn, at the bottom of the valley, the three trestle bridge that crossed over the “creek” was completely wiped out, to include moving a couple pilings. In addition about a mile of track leading into the turn from the south was dislodged. And of course there were many homes and buildings either completely destroyed or flooded out, plus several lives lost. Everyone’s jaw dropped when seeing the devastation first hand. Another area, about five miles north from there, at the base of a valley, also had similar damage and washouts.

On my drive home, from Minneapolis, I took Highway 61, which follows the CP line all the way to the Mississippi crossing at La Crosse. South of Red Wing (an Amtrak stop) I came across a very long DM&E freight, heading north, parked along a double track section - my guess is that they are running up to St. Paul, and then down the UP (ex-Omaha Route) line to Mankato, where they can get back on their own line - it’s going to be quite a while before the line through Stockton is repaired. Just south of that parked DM&E I found the # 8 Empire Builder, also parked. South of Lake City, I found a northbound UP train, of empty coal cars parked (the UP has trackage rights on the CP from Tunnel City, WI, to the Twin Cities), and also a moving northbound train (but I couldn’t see the locomotives to ID).

When I arrived at the mess at Minnesota City, I stopped to take some photos, while trying to stay out of the way of the construction crews. I’d been there about 20 minutes, when the # 8 showed up - it’s required to run very slow through the damage zone, since the fix of the CP line, will need some more work to get it back to first class. The slow rolling EB made it great for picture taking. Some interesting things in the area, were a 50 foot long storage shed, next to the tracks, with one corner hanging out over the widened gully of the creek, and a baseball diamond next to the track which had its fencing and dugouts full of debris from the flooding. When we went through on the 2816, track was still hang over the creek where trestles use to be, but when I arrived by car, that track had all been removed and machinery was busy digging in the creek bed.

By the way, the trip was great - there were only about 50 passengers on this mid-week trip, and most were in the “Premium Class”. Service in those cars is great, and the ticket includes your drinks, and in this case, three meals. We made a long scheduled stop for maintenance in Portage, WI, where we detrained for a while. Parked in the Portage yard were a half dozen BNSF locomotives - the flooding wiped out some of their double track ‘Scenic Line” south of La Crosse, and they were also using the CP line to detour their trains to La Crosse. - the transfer back to the BNSF track at La Crosse’s Grand Crossing, is rather tricky, since the only turnout from the CP line to the BNSF line is from eastbound to northbound, thus a west bound BNSF train would have to drive past Grand Crossing and then back into the BNSF yard, north of the crossing, and then put loco’s on the other end of the train before heading north toward the Twin Cities.

From September 16 to 22 I will be riding this same CP 2816/Friends of 261 train from Minneapolis to Calgary. The daylight only running train will make stops in Thief River Falls, Winnipeg (2 nights), Brandon, Moose Jaw, and Medicine Hat, where us passengers will spend the nights in hotels/motels, before arriving in Calgary (where I will spend two days sightseeing, before flying back to Minneapolis - Sorry about that flying thing!). Once at the Minneapolis airport, I’ll be able to take the “Hiawatha Light Rail” from the airport to downtown Minneapolis, where I can then catch a city bus to my car and head for home. I’ll be back to the forum with highlights of that trip,. I highly recommend 261 excursion trips, and if you’re interested they are posted on the 261.com website.