Railfan Sites in Minnesota

A self-guiding railfan tour

Railfan, railfan--where do you see trains in Minnesota?

Mapwork: If you're going to be looking for railfan locations, you'll need an industrial strength map resource. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.

Cities And Sites

(2) Beaucoup accolades to Dan Meyer, and his excellent Twin Cities Railfan Guide. Dan's railroad homepage is here.

(3) Thanks to Joseph Oates, who winters in the south, and spends warmer times as a camping vagabond, driving around recording railfan site data. We hope to hear more from him in the future.

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BRECKENRIDGE (October 1, 1999)

Some 40 miles south of Fargo on either US-75 or I-29, Breckenridge is on the Bois de Sioux River, on the Minnesota side. The Twin Cities and Western runs 2-6 trains per 24 hours here, and the area next to the tracks is open on all sides. Just drive thru town on US-75, and you'll see the railroad area. There is plenty of motel and restaurant selection in the area.

Thanks to Joseph Oates, who winters in the south, and spends warmer times as a camping vagabond, driving around recording railfan site data. We hope to hear more from him in the future.

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International Falls is famous nationwide as the coldest place in the United States on many winter days. It's also the home of a industrial complex run by paper company Boise Cascade. Boise has a rather extensive rail operation -- the Minnesota, Dakota & Western, which serves the complex and connects to the CN across the Rainy River in Fort Francis, Ontario. Harry Ladd's US RAILROAD TRAFFIC ATLAS shows a connection at Rainier, from where BNSF has traffic rights on the DW&P to Duluth & Superior. I don't know street details, but a map of International Falls and Koochiching County should give you the necessary details.

Of particular interest to many railfans is the diesel roster of the MD&W, which, according to Kerr's 1998 LOCOMOTIVE ROSTERS & NEWS, still consists of 5 Alco S-2's. These are shown in a very attractive green and white (Boise Cascade colors) scheme in a picture from the February, 1996 issue of TRAINS Magazine*.

*[Note: This material was adapted from info provided by TRAINS Magazine in February of 1996. If you don't subscribe to TRAINS, well, you should. It's an excellent publication. Get on its web site here .]

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This is where Northshore Mining Company connects to the outside world (specifically with what remains of Missabe's Wales Branch). Take County Hiway 2 north from Two Harbors until you cross the DOUBLE track of NSM (roughly 25-30 miles north of the crossing. The tracks are just past the junction with County Highway 15. Once you cross over the tracks, take the first right, about 1/2 mile north of the crossing. Take this dirt road until you reach the first road to the RIGHT -- follow this until you reach the double tracks of NSM (you will see the Missabe's Wales Branch, keep following the road until it ends.)

The Missabe Road runs up the branch once or maybe twice a week to deliver cars to NSM. Reserve Mining used this location as its railroad maintenance of way base for years, but nothing remains today. NSM runs three trains a day from its mine at Babbitt to the pellet plant at Silver Bay. Your best bet is the late morning departure, which usually leaves around 11AM - noon, with arrival in Silver Bay around 1300 or 1400. The units then couple to an empty string of cars, and head north, usually after only a slight delay at Silver Bay.

This nice description of the Norshor Junction is from Dave Schauer, an active participant in the MNRail e-mail network.

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This is the junction of the UP and DM&E main lines. A yard is located here. To reach the yard, take US-14 to 3rd Street (Avenue?) North to Industrial Road East to the tracks. The office area is railroad property, so stay away from it. This is an industrial area, but parking is available at a trailer park to the east. Expect 10-20 trains daily.

Thanks to Jerry Kavan contributed this spot for us.


From the west, the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern (ex-C&NW) comes into Minnesota City about 10 miles northwest of Winona, and takes a right turn to follow the Mississippi River into Winona. Also following the river are the Canadian Pacific Railway System's tracks. Both the DME and CPRS run parallel all the way to just north of Winona (see Winona -- Tower CK), and local roads and streets are close enough for plenty of good viewing and photography. Drive north of Winona until you see the DME overpass in Minnesota City, exit, and follow your railfan nose southeast into Winona.

A knowledgeable resident of the area, Doug Johnson has shared this information with us. Thanks, Doug.

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Newport is the first town south of St Paul, and was the location of the old Rock Island departure from the BN (ex-CBQ)-SOO (ex-MILW) mainline over the Mississippi River, and on south to Mason City, Iowa (eventually). This is known as Red Rock Crossing, and is named for a store/tavern located on the northern edge of Newport. At this site is Tinucci's, one of the original restaurants in the Minneapolis area to offer a very palatable Sunday brunch with a lot of variety at a reasonable price. Red Rock Crossing is one of the 2 or 3 good places to see a lot of action at speed that are left in the Twin Cities.

The webauthor would like to thank Ted Pope, an active member of the MNRail e-mail network, for this good stuff concerning Newport, Minnesota.

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Twenty miles west of Brainerd in central Minnesota is this town of 3,500 souls. It is the site of an Amtrak stop on the Empire Builder's journey between Minneapolis and Seattle, as well as the junction between the heavy BNSF mainline that Amtrak uses, and a secondary main coming in from Duluth/Superior. We are talking 50 trains per day thru Staples!

From the center of town, go south of US-10 for 1 block to 1st Avenue. The station area is good for train watching, and is at the corner of 4th Street and 1st Avenue. There is parking in the vicinity.

Frograil tips its hat to Lee Goettig who provided this information to us.

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WINONA -- AMTRAK STATION (December 2, 2001)

From US-14/US-61 west of town, take Huff Street east towards downtown. Take a right and go down Sarnia Street to Main Street. Finally, take a left on Main Street, and the depot will be visible on your right as you cross the tracks. The depot was built in 1889 by the Milwaukee Road. The building and the small CPRS yard in the vicinity are easily photographed from both sides of the tracks. Local Canadian Pacific Railway System engines for local jobs are often parked at or near the depot, particularly when the Empire Builder is due. Besides CPRS and Amtrak, I&M Rail Link (IRML) runs a train each way daily, and one can occasionally see BN and UP unit coal trains running to and from Wisconsin power plants.

A knowledgeable resident of the area, Doug Johnson has shared this information with us. Thanks, Doug.

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WINONA -- TOWER CK (November 29, 2001)

From the UP yard, continue west on Riverview Drive to it's intersection with Prairie Island Road. Take a left and drive south to the tracks. The first tracks you cross are the UP's yard lead. This is how the DME gets into the UP yard. There is a rudimentary road heading east towards the yard proper, and you can view the yard from several locations on the opposite side of the yard from Riverview Drive. Be circumspect, as it is difficult is some places to know what is public property and what's railroad property. There is a city-owned sand and gravel storage lot in the area, and DME power can sometimes be seen awaiting assignment.

At Tower CK, you can see CPRS, DME and UP, with Canadian Pacific's traffic predominating.

One more facility in the Tower CK vicinity is the huge grain storage elevator complex, which is jointly served by both CPRS and UP. You can see a good variety of power working the plant, but you've got to be careful and off the elevator property.

A knowledgeable resident of the area, Doug Johnson has shared this information with us. Thanks, Doug.

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WINONA -- UP YARD (November 29, 2001)

From US-14/US-61 on the west side of Winona, take Huff Street north into the downtown area and all the way thru it to the Mississippi River. Huff will become Riverview Drive where it crosses the UP (ex-CNW). At this crossing is a motel, the AmericInn, which Doug recommends for visiting railfans. Also at this crossing is Daniels Ace Hardware, which besides a nice hobby department, offers 2 employees who are railfans and eager to help the visiting fans.

Once across the UP tracks, the now Riverview Drive swings 90° to hug the UP yard for the next mile or so west. The Union Pacific yard is actually an ex-CNW facility, and UP trains arrive via trackage rights over the CP/SOO (ex-MILW) via Tunnel City and LaCrosse. Winona's UP yard is the end of these trackage rights. Westbound Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern trains are also made up in the yard, as this is the eastern end of the DME (which technically ends at Tower CK just to the west of the yard).

A knowledgeable resident of the area, Doug Johnson has shared this information with us. Thanks, Doug.

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