Rail lines to Iron Range mines are openThe vital rail lines connecting the region’s mines with its harbors were largely back in service over the weekend, while one of Duluth’s two scenic railroads is offering limited service. The city’s other scenic railroad, meanwhile, is out of service until further notice.
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune
The vital rail lines connecting the region’s mines with its harbors were largely back in service over the weekend, while one of Duluth’s two scenic railroads is offering limited service. The city’s other scenic railroad, meanwhile, is out of service until further notice.
“Operations resumed along all our affected lines by 6 p.m. on Friday,” said Patrick Waldron, a spokesman for Canadian National Railway, owner of the former Duluth Missabe and Iron Range Railway that serves the mines.
“Our engineering crews across the region worked practically around the clock to get our lines back in service so we could begin moving products around Minnesota,” he said. “There was quite a lot of work to do around the state following the heavy rains and flooding.”
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway returned its main tracks to service beginning Friday and over the weekend, “all but a short stretch on what we call our lakes subdivision, which is Brookston and west,” said BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth. “We had several locations throughout the area where we had mudslides or washouts.”
While most, if not all, of BNSF’s main lines are back in service, some shorter industry lines remain out. One is the section of track running to the Riverside neighborhood. That track suffered a massive washout near the Lake Superior Zoo.
That washout has forced the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad to halt its excursion trips along the St. Louis River. The all-volunteer railroad offers two trips a day from the zoo area to Gary-New Duluth on Saturdays and Sundays. The six-mile route includes one mile of BNSF track and five miles of track owned by the city but maintained by the railroad.
The damage on the city-owned part of track is relatively minor.
“If that culvert had not washed out on Wednesday, we would have operated last weekend because we would have pulled all-nighters,” LS&MR President Andrew Webb said. “We are not operating due to the washout of the culvert near the Lake Superior Zoo. Until BN repairs that, we will not be operating because we can’t get past that.”
McBeth didn’t know when BNSF will be able to repair its track near the zoo.
“There are several locations where industry tracks were impacted,” she said. “We have crews that are working in various locations. We have crews inspecting routes and dumping ballast and riprap as needed.”
Webb said the LS&MR will post updates on its operational status on its website.
Last week’s rain and flooding forced the North Shore Scenic Railroad to cancel its regular schedule, although it is able to offer 45-minute “Tischer Creek Specials.”
“The worst washout is just past the Tischer Creek bridge,” scenic railroad director Ken Buehler said. “That one is about 60 feet long. Where it is washed away completely — where the culverts were — the track is hanging about 45 feet in the air. We have ordered 150 loads of fill rock already, and I think they are going to put some more in. We expect to have that area back running Wednesday at the earliest and Thursday at the latest.”
The railroad already has repaired washouts in the Lakeside area. It has more along the North Shore to repair yet before it can resume full operations.
“I am planning on running our entire schedule this weekend — that means all the way to Two Harbors,” Buehler said.