The railway line southwesterly of Saint Cloud for a distance of 20 miles to Richmond was built by the St. Cloud, Mankato and Austin Railway Company, a sub-organization of the Minneapolis and St. Cloud Railway Company, exercising its powers under the charter of the latter company. It was sold on May 24th 1886 to St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway.
In 1887 the line was extended from Richmond to Willmar, MN, a distance of 38 miles by the StPM&M. There was a land grant of four sections per mile attached to the 20 miles between St. Cloud and Richmond, but neither the St. Cloud, Mankato and Austin Railway Company nor its successors were able to have their claims to this grant recognized by state authorities.
The line came under the control of the Great Northern in 1907, the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1970 and finally BNSF in 1996.
Towns along the line are:
- St. Cloud
- Waite Park
- Cold Spring
- New London
An abandonment timeline of this route:
Willmar Hawick Cold Spring Rockville
A stretch of 22 miles of old grade from Willmar through Spicer, New London, Hawick to the Kandiyohi/Stearns county line with a additional 5 miles from Richmond to Roscoe is a paved state trail called Glacial Lakes Trail, which also has a grassy shoulder for horseback riding. The portion between Cold Spring and Rockville that was abandoned in 2012 will be part of the Rocori Trail which will connect Rockville, Cold Spring and Richmond. In Richmond it will connect to the Glacial Lakes State Trail.
The portion of line between Rockville and St. Cloud today is operated by Northern Lines Railway, which was created in 2004 and leases the trackage from BNSF.
Thanks to Adam Jelinski for contributing information about this route.