MVRRA History

Minnesota Prairie Line, Inc.

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Minnesota Prairie Line
Reporting mark MPLI
Locale Minnesota
Dates of operation 2002–
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
Length 94 mi (151 km)
Headquarters Glencoe, Minnesota

Minnesota Prairie Line (reporting mark MPLI) is a short-line railroad in the U.S. state of Minnesota which started operations in October 2002. It is a subsidiary of the Twin Cities and Western Railroad (TC&W), and runs on 94 miles (151 km) of track owned by the Minnesota Valley Regional Railroad Authority (MVRRA). It has been partially funded through federal and state government sources. The tracks were originally built by the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway around 1880 between Norwood and Morton, and 1884 west of there. From Morton west, the line was built by Wisconsin, Minnesota & Pacific Railway, which was purchased by M&STL in the late 1880's The line connects on its eastern end to parent TC&W at Norwood, and extends westward to Hanley Falls, Minnesota.

The Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway was acquired by Chicago and North Western in 1960, though C&NW eventually abandoned the Minnesota Prairie Line tracks in 1982. The MVRRA was created that summer and acquired the rails.[1] Companies including the Minnesota Valley Authority (MNVA) and the Minnesota Central Railroad (MCTA) attempted to take over the line thereafter, but had little to no success. The line was again abandoned in 2000, and continued to deteriorate for two years.

Twin Cities and Western employees took an exploratory journey along the track in April 2002 to determine its condition. The track was rehabilitated over the summer, but could still only support speeds of 5 to 10 mph (8.0 to 16 km/h) by the time the first revenue train ran in October.[2] MPLI initially used two former TC&W EMD GP10s, which had the MPLI logo applied to them on the long hood side. Currently, MPLI utilizes Red River Valley and Western Caterpillar Generation II locomotives (GP20Cs and GP15Cs). Trains typically run five days per week between Norwood and Wood Lake, Minnesota, with service as needed to Hanley Falls. Track condition remained poor as of 2009, still only supporting speeds of 10 mph or less, but the railroad had success in securing state and federal funding that year, and hopes to upgrade track to support 25 mph traffic, particularly on the segment from Norwood to Winthrop where there is an ethanol plant.[3]

The line meets BNSF tracks in Hanley Falls. BNSF now owns the ex-M&StL track west of the city, as well as the ex-Great Northern track running southwest through town from Willmar.[4]

The communities of Fairfax and Belview still have old Minneapolis and St. Louis train stations preserved in their towns, turned into museums. The Fairfax building is still in its original location right next to the tracks, while the one in Belview has been moved.


  1. ^ "Minnesota Prairie Line Inc. MPL #984". Union Pacific Railroad. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  2. ^ Jeff Borne (Fall 2004). "A (bumpy) ride on the Minnesota Prairie Line". The Crossing Gate. Twin Cities Division, National Model Railroad Association. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
  3. ^ Dan Olson (May 5, 2009). "Short line railroad seeks public help in improving tracks". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved February 5, 2010.
  4. ^ "Minnesota Freight Railroad Map". Minnesota Department of Transportation. April 2009. Retrieved January 7, 2010.