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  • MN&S Glenwood Transfer

    Baldwin centercab No. 21 crosses the Mississippi River enroute from Soo Line's Shoreham yard to the MN&S connection on December 10, 1972. Photo: B. L. Bulgrin
    Prototype Modeler - January-February 1985 - Page 18 width=

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    A railroad changes its ownership but not its face-so far

    by THE PM STAFF

       The Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern Railway has been running a daily transfer to the Soo Line in the Minneapolis, Minn., area ever since the line from Glenwood Junction (located in the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley and site of MN&S Shops and the main yard) to the Soo main line at Crystal was constructed in 1927. Even today, under the ownership of the Soo Line, the transfers are still operated, although there have been changes since the Soo took control.

       As far as our research has determined, this line has never seen the operation of passenger service - at least not until the run of ex-Northern Pacific 4-6-0 No. 328 pulling a steam special on September 29, 1984.

       Until the mid-1970's, the transfer to the Soo and Burlington Northern (ex-Northern Pacific Northtown Yard) was one train. It operated out of the yard at Glenwood Junction swinging around the north leg of the wye at Western Avenue (just west of Glenwood Junction) where it would head north for the Soo connection at Crystal. The 5.36-mile line from Western Avenue to Crystal runs through typical suburban scenery - housing developments and modern industrial parks.

       One railroad-the Chicago & North Western's spur to Plymouth - is crossed about 1 mile north of Western Avenue. This line had a history similar to that of the MN&S, beginning life as an interurban only to become a freight carrier. It began as the Electric Short Line Railway, then was sold to the Minnesota Western Railroad (whose roster in later years included a pair of FM switchers that were subsequently sold to the MN&S), then became a part of the Minneapolis & St. Louis before being absorbed by the C&NW. Once over 100 miles long, the old MW is but a spur to a Plymouth industrial park today.

    Top: Photographed at Camden Place in 1972, No. 21 is a 2000 h.p. DT6-6-2000 built in 1948. MN&S diesels had Hancock air whistles, which resembled steam locomotive whistles. A temporary air horn substitution on one unit once elicited a rash of phone complaints from lineside residents (a circumstance that reportedly was recently repeated as 500 diesels ventured into MN&S territory). Photo: B. L. Bulgrin

    Middle: MN&S acquired EMD SW1200 switchers two a time - Nos. 30-31 in 1962, 32-33 in 1964 and 34-35 in 1966. With the SD39's roaming the Soo Line since the 1982 purchase of MN&S, switchers are now the standard power of the Glenwood transfer. Nos. 30-35 can be modeled by using Athearn's SW1500 (which is actually closer to an SW7) and substituting Flexicoil road trucks and making such minor modifications as placing additional louvers on each side. Photo: John H Kuehl

    Bottom: No, 37 and sister No. 36 are SW1500's purchased from EMD in January 1966. Cary Locomotive Works offers an accurate SW1500 body shell that fits to the Athearn switcher frame. SD39's (see cover) can be kitbashed using the guide lines found in Jim Six's article in the April 1984 issue of MAINLINE MODELER. To model the older MN&S power in plastic, adept kitbashing skills are required since no manufacuturer as yet offers the Baldwin or Fairbanks-Morse units the road operated. Photo: John H Kuehl
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       The Soo/MN&S connection at Crystal, termed MN&S Junction, links MN&S trackage with the Soo's main line from Minneapolis' Shoreham Yard to Glenwood, Minn., and points west. The Soo trackage is equipped with CTC from Shoreham to Buffalo, Minn. (36 miles) and is being extended to Glenwood (120 miles), the first crew change point west of Minneapolis.

       From MN&S Junction the transfer would continue east another 3 miles to the Soo's Humboldt Yard, where interchange would be made. Then the train would continue east, crossing the Mississippi River at Camden Place. The bridge at Camden Place is unique because the west end of the bridge splits to form a wye. After crossing the river the transfer would descend a steep track to reach BN's 35th Avenue Yard, adjacent to Northtown. After picking up and setting out, the transfer would return to Glenwood Junction.

       In the mid-1970's this operating practice changed. The train continued to depart from Glenwood Junction Yard and go to Humboldt, but then would return to Glenwood Junction. The same crew would then depart Glenwood Junction, head east to the BN (ex-Great Northern) main at Lyndale Junction where trackage rights on the BN would carry MN&S trains past the old GN depot to Minneapolis Junction. Minneapolis Junction was the site of the Great Northern's engine servicing facilities in Minneapolis, but with Northtown Yard serving that purpose today, the roundhouse has been leased to the C&NW. Trains would swing north through the wye at Minneapolis Junction and on into Northtown Yard for BN interchange.

    Motive Power

       After steam, the Soo transfer almost always rated one of MN&S's famous Baldwin centercabs. MN&S rostered a total of six of the big Baldwins: Nos. 20-24 were DT6-6-2000's, while No. 25 was an RT624. The centercabs handled road runs to Northfield, Minn., as well as the transfers. By the early 1970's only one centercab remained operable; MN&S No. 21 finished her days working the transfer to the Soo Line until retirement in 1974 (today the unit is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum). One other Baldwin saw work on the transfer: DRS6-6-1500 No. 15 would occasionally handle the transfer when it wasn't working the "High Line" job to Richfield or switching at Glenwood Junction.

       Following retirement of the centercabs, switchers were sometimes used, but usually one of MN&S's two EMD SD39's (40 or 41) would get the call after arriving each morning from Northfield with the road freight. Generally the unit was run northbound with the long hood forward, with the nose leading on the return southbound run.

       Following the Soo's purchase of the MN&S on June 3, 1982, the two SD39's were put into systemwide road service on the Soo. Switchers took over the transfer, still operating out of Glenwood Junction Yard. In 1983, however, the Soo finally realigned its MN&S operations, originating all operations out of Shoreham or Humboldt yards. The MN&S Shops at Glenwood Junction were closed at this time, but the yard remains open.

    Above: MN&S owned one DRS-6-1500: No. 15 (shown here in 1971) was purchased in March 1950 and scrapped in 1981. In addition to No. 15 and the centercabs, the road owned three other Baldwins-two V0660's and one V01000. Photo: John H. Kuehl

    Right: In September 1984 Mike Schafer photographed the Glenwood transfer behind an SW1200 and SW1500 making a pick-up at Soo Line's Humboldt Yard. Grain elevators provide a major source of rail revenue in the area.

    Below: Cabooses 101-102 were built new for the MN&S by International Car in August 1972. They displayed the giant red letters as well as the traditional diamond logo. Photos: (above) Steve Glischinski (below) Mike Scholer
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       Today the transfer goes on duty at Shoreham Yard, runs light to Humboldt, picks up the train and goes on to Glenwood Junction. Depending on time and the amount of traffic, the transfer may head to downtown Minneapolis for industrial switching before returning to Humboldt and Shoreham. The trains no longer go into Northtown yard via Lyndale and Minneapolis junctions now that Soo interchanges directly from Shoreham to Northtown, which are right next to one another anyway.

       As of this writing no MN&S locomotives or cars have been repainted into Soo Line colors, so the transfers continue to look as they always did under MN&S ownership. Soo seems to be slow to repaint, plus the fact that MN&S is considered a subsidiary, and as such a separate railroad.

       For years the bread and butter of the MN&S was bridge traffic. The MN&S for most of its life served as a route to avoid rail traffic congestion in the Twin Cities terminal. Shippers were urged to route traffic from the south to the north and vice versa via the Randolph and Northfield gateways. Chicago Great Western traffic received at Randolph and Milwaukee Road and Rock Island traffic from Northfield was brought north on MN&S road jobs to Glenwood Junction, where it was broken up for distribution to the Soo, NP and GN.

       As a bridge route, MN&S trains contained a variety of cars which could be easily modeled, from standard 40-foot boxcars to covered hoppers containing grain or fertilizer. For years MN&S trains carried traffic from Canadian points to RI or CGW connections, so flatcars carrying lumber could even be included in a model consist. MN&S boxcars and covered hoppers carried MN&S's distinctive blue paint scheme; in latter years the road adorned its freight fleet and cabooses with large red "MNS" lettering.

    Top: No. 15 occupies a track into the block engine house at Glenwood Yard alongside H12-44 No. 10, one of two ex-Minnesota Western FM switchers (H10-44 No. 11 was the other) the MN&S owned. Photo: John H. Kuehl

    Middle: A colorful sight in blue with giant MNS red letters, No. 3002 is a 100-ton 17-panel covered hopper car (4750 cubic feet) built by Pullman-Standard at Butler, Pa., in 1974. Photo Mike Schafer

    Bottom: The route of the Glenwood transfer borders many residential areas. Even at Glenwood Yard Baldwin centercab No. 23 switched its train within putting distance of a golf course. Photo: John H. Kuehl
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       As bridge traffic declined following the BN merger and the demise of the CGW and Rock Island, the variety of cars on the transfers slowly eroded. Grain heading for Malt 0 Meal's plant in Northfield was carried, as well as boxcars for shippers at the Airlake Industrial Park in Lakeville. Today's consists feature covered hoppers and boxcars from Soo, BN and MN&S bound for local industry. Runs are no longer made from Northfield to the old CGW connection at Randolph, as CGW successor C&NW now serves Northfield directly via the ex-RI "spine line."

       In addition to freight cars, MN&S transfers always carried one of the road's bay-window cabooses. Painted blue with the MN&S diamond emblem as well as the large lettering, the cabooses were a familiar sight to residents of the western suburbs of Minneapolis. In the late-1970's one caboose was painted yellow with large red MN&S lettering and assigned to the "High Line" local. Since the Soo purchase, many MN&S runs trail Soo's standard white and red cupola-equipped cabooses, although the MN&S waycars are still around.

       Two other jobs continue to work ex-MN&S trackage in addition to the Soo transfer. Each night a road job departs Shoreham/Humboldt for the 53-mile trip to Northfield, returning early in the morning. This was a night operation in MN&S days and continues to be one under the Soo Line. The second job still in operation departs Humboldt Yard each weekday and serves the branch into Bloomington and Richfield (suburbs of Minneapolis) by leaving the main line at Auto Club, 25 miles from Shoreham. This branch is called the Nicollet Avenue spur in Soo timetables, but was always referred to as the "High Line" by MN&S men.

       The future of the ex-MN&S main may be a bright one. Even if the Soo fails in its bid to purchase the Milwaukee Road, it almost certainly will be granted trackage rights over the ex-RI "spine line" into Kansas City. If this occurs, Soo trains would use MN&S trackage to Northfield to gain access to the ex-RI, which should make the MN&S busier than it has been in years.

    Article Details

    • Original Author STEVE GLISCHINKSI
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date January-February 1985

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