Brooten to Duluth

The Duluth Branch

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Construction began on this line in 1907 and completed between Brooten and the crossing over the Mississippi at Blanchard Dam approximately 3 miles east of Bowlus, MN, later that year. The following year saw the line extend from the Mississippi crossing to Moose lake in Carlton County, with final construction on the line to Duluth ending in 1909.

The line was heavily used and primarily saw freight movements between western Minnesota and the ports in Duluth in order to get to the eastern markets.

The line was shut down in 1990, and abandoned in 1993. Nearly all of this grade is still intact as it was when the railroad abandoned it with the exception of missing rails and ties, which were removed around 1996.

Towns along the line were:

  • Brooten
  • Elrosa
  • Greenwald
  • New Munich
  • Albany
  • Holdingford
  • Bowlus
  • (Mississippi River)
  • Vawter
  • Genola
  • Hillman
  • Onamia
  • Wahkon
  • Isle
  • McGrath
  • Denham
  • Moose Lake
  • Duesler
  • Blackhoof
  • Pleasant Valley
  • Saunders Junction (Wisconsin)

Thanks to Adam Jelinski for contributing information about this route.

At U.S. Highway 10 there is a parking lot on the SE side of the trestle were you can access the old Grade. If you go East towards Duluth it is the South Soo Line ATV trail up to Saunders Junction. As of 2007 If you go West towards Brooten, it is a paved hiking/biking trail up to Albany were it connects with the Wobegon Trail. Snowmobiles are allowed on in the winter, as long as you have no studs in your track.

The railroad's crossing with the Great Northern at Albany was a viaduct/trestle, half of which is the original timber framed, the other half is concrete and steel from where interstate 94 goes beneath.

Adam Jelinski
Little Falls, MN
7/22/2012

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What was the purpose of the spur south of Wahkon? there is/was nothing there? When was it removed? The abandoned rail bed goes through the Mille Lacs Wild Life Management Area, I walked on it last week. THere are trees a foot in diameter growing on it.

Kevin
Minneapolis, MN
9/23/2012

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Kevin- I'm pretty sure that would have been relating to the logging in the area. Can you post where exactly you found the spur? I would die to check it out myself!!

Denise Flasch-Rancour
Wahkon, MN
1/23/2013

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I grew up near this line and currently live on my husbands family farm with the tracks just behind our barn. There is state land nearby and our land is on both sides in both counties. As it is now open to bikes and snowmobiles say "Hi" to our cows when you go on by, then stop and have a good time in Bowlus or Holdingford. If you make it to Blanchard Dam on the Mississippi pause and enjoy the view. Have a great day!! :)

Gina
Bowlus, MN
2/11/2013

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If I worked my computer right I believe they have the Albany point listed twice. The more Eastern one is probably actually the town of Holdingford that was missing on here between Albany and Bowlus. To my knowledge there has never been another line in Holdingford that crossed this one, the only bridge is the covered bridge built over the creek/river in Holdingford a few years back

Gina
Bowlus, MN
2/11/2013

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Are there any train cabooses anywhere? I'm trying to find an abandoned train caboose/s for some photos! Any ideas? Thanks.

Al
Duluth
7/17/2013

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Al, i do not know if this will help. I know where a couple Cabooses are and maybe some potential ones are. Staples MN has a restored Green BN Caboose on the East end of town on the North side of Hwy 1010 which is surrounded by a fence. Waite Park MN has a restored (I believe Red Great Northern) Caboose along the North side of 3rd St. N, West of Waite Ave which is next to a few remaining Rail Car Shops buildings that were used by the Great Northern Railway. I think there may be one in the town of Wahkon MN which may be a business or private property. Another along Hwy 169 South of Onamia on private property (It lookes like the top of one behind a man made soil privacy hill). And also North of Maple Lake MN along Hwythe 55 on private propertyis there may be one, there are some box cars and even an old steam engine scattered across the property.

AJ
Central MN, MN
2/12/2014

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Yes, there is a caboose on Hwy 27/Main Street in Wahkon. There is also one in Onamia at Bill & Ginny Konze's house, just west of town on Hwy 27...go over the Onamia Lake/Rum River bridge and the 1st place on the left.

Denise Flasch-Rancour
Wahkon, MN
2/14/2014

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The soo line south of Wahkon was used to log the timber.

Raymond Embertson
Isle, MN
3/22/2014

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The caboose in Wahkon has been relocated to Mankato!

Denise Flasch-Rancour
Wahkon, MN
3/26/2014

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If you want to access this trail off of Highway 10 you will be just north Of Royalton and south of Little Falls, MN, I believe the part that goes north for ATV's goes through Crane Meadows Wildlife area just before Pierz and Genola

Gina
Bowlus, MN
1/4/2015

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Does anyone know if the grade south of Albany towards Brooten is usable? Like hiking, walking, ATV, snowmobile?

Erin Becker
Avon, MN
1/22/2016

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Erin, that route is called Dairy Land Trail, the master plan is to have it open from Albany to Brooten. As of now there is only 6.2 miles open for biking, walking, horseback riding and snowmobiling between Elrosa and Greenwald. When funds come available Stearns county will make more improvements, for more information you can go to Stearns county website.

Adam
Little Falls, MN
1/24/2016

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