Little Falls to Morris

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This line started out as the Little Falls and Dakota Railroad Company in 1880. It was organized by local men and was capitalized by bonds issued by the counties along the line. Trackwork started in June of 1882 and was completed to Morris in October of that year; the first train operated along the line on November 1st. Ortonville is said to have been the objective, but the line never reached west of Morris.

Towns along the route:

  • Little Falls
  • Flensburg
  • Swanville
  • Burtrum
  • Grey Eagle
  • Ward Springs
  • Spaulding
  • Sauk Centre
  • Westport
  • Villard
  • Glenwood
  • Long Beach?
  • Starbuck
  • Cyrus
  • Morris

The line was sold to the Northern Pacific in 1900; abandonments came in three stages, as seen in this rough timeline:

      Little Falls    Villard    Starbuck      Morris
=======================================================
1882        |---- Little Falls and Dakota -------|
1900        |---- Sold to Northern Pacific ------|
1972        |-abandoned--|
1981                     |-abandoned-|
1983                                 |-abandoned-|

Thanks to Adam Jelinski for contributing information about this route.

I am not sure when the track was in existence... My best guess would be sometime between 1880 and 1970. Kind of broad I know. It's tough to follow on a map at times due to the years of farming/development over some areas where the line ran.

Ajfox
Little Falls, MN
8/14/2010

[A 1895 railroad map does show these tracks in place by the NP.  —Greg Harrison]

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Little Falls, Flensburg, Sauk Center, Villard, Glenwood,

Starbuck Cyrus, Morris.

Those were of some of the stations. I worked as Station agent in a few of those places in the mid 1950's. Crossed GN at Sauk Center and The Soo Line at Glenwood. I cant remember when it was abandoned.

Walter Watland
Blaine, MN
6/30/2011

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I have plotted the route for this line, actually it was pretty easy to track. The way I do it is I find where it originates in one town, follow it til the trail ends then start from the other end. Also I vary the images from new to old sometimes you can see the paths this way. I will submit the file so it can be posted.

Richard Hendrickson
Rochester, MN
12/21/2011

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According to the info from a PDF obtained from BNSF Railway, the Abandonments took place:

1972: Little Falls to Villard

1981: Villard to Starbucks

1983: Starbucks to Morris.

Jason. t
Ottertail, MN
1/15/2012

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I know a gentleman who grew up in Little Falls in the Early 1960's and he stated that he did not ever see the tracks used and that they were in rough shape with the ties roting.

Some of the railroad bed can still be seen, but most is overgrown and/or destroyed from the adjacent property owners and developments. I am not aware of any tressels that still span any rivers or creeks. most if not all have been razed.

A.J.
Little Falls, MN
3/12/2012

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I remember very well when Northern Pacific used that line? It was mid 60's we would play on a cement powder pile next to the tracks on the west side about a block off what was then hwy 10 now Lindbergh Dr. My cousins lived in a little red house by these tracks and we would see Northern Pacific engine a GP9 high nose pulling just a caboose.. I can still remember that unusual sound of that horn and even when I was home I could here it crossing hwy 27 headed west and we lived on 5th st and 2nd ave west.. It wasn't long after that line was abandoned but never tore up right away. BN used it for storage up to hwy 27 from the merger storing cars like GN, NP, CB&Q, Frisco I remember playing on top of those cars and we shouldn't have, but luckly no one got hurt or fell off.. Great memories..

Greg
Little Falls , MN
9/23/2012

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I grew up in Little Falls. I don't really remember trains using the route, but I know that there must have been one or two mail trains per day. The reason that I recall this - at some point in the mid 1960s (maybe 1963) there were one or two "exhibition" trains from Little Falls to Morris. They added a passenger car, sold tickets, and had a couple of weekend outings. I remember that my dad took me on the trip to Morris, and mom drove the car to Morris, and met us there to come home. I couldn't imagine how they could deliver and collect the mail in mailbags without the train stopping, but that is the way that it was done! I saw it myself! At that age it seemed like we whooshed across the countryside, but in all likelihood we traveled mostly between 25 and 30 mph. It seems like it was about 3:15 to Morris.

At that time, everyone knew that services on that line would soon be abandoned - on that day, my dad even said that would happen very soon.

Tom
Annapolis, MD
10/21/2012

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I live Southwest of Morris, and in a land tract South of me the ownership history shows that Dakota Railway was a former owner. Possible planned route to Ortonville?

Randy M
Holloway, MN
12/2/2012

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As I was growing up we would go to Duluth and my dad always told us that some of the tracks near us went all the way to Duluth, now as a I moved a few miles away and those tracks go behind our barn on the county line I have become more interested. As you drive around Minnesota you see areas that look like abandoned railbeds and it gets your curiosity going. Years back I noticed the railbed by Little Falls and my dad and several others in the area said they didn't think there was ever tracks there, but when they were young they obviously didn't get to go the 15-20 miles all the way to Little Falls very often to see the tracks. My question is that with this old railbed is the land still owned by a rail company or by private landowners/farmers? I would like to know if the bed is destroyed in areas or if there is ever a possibility that tracks could easily be put back in? As for the tracks behind my barn it is now a bike trail, and the DNR doesn't like when you go on it with a 4- wheeler to fix fences so the cows won't be on the tracks. :) (: A friend who works on the rails near Fargo, ND said he has heard there is a possibility of trains coming through again, but I think that would be very far off, because the bikers, etc. would battle it, but I think it would be better than all of the trucks on the road, and maybe less pollution. Just sharing my thoughts, keep updating us, great information. Have a great day!! :)

Gina
Bowlus, MN
2/11/2013

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Whether people say they never seen a train on these tracks? I lived by this line most of my life and I've seen the GP9 with the caboose only, sporting the yellow and black markings on the engine traveling on this line but very slow not fast, like I said we would be playing on a cement powder pile right by the tracks and I've walked down these tracks and I also remember the griswold cross bucks on highway 10 which is now Lindbergh Dr. north.. I even remeber coming from my grandparents place and having to stop one night because the signals where activated.. Does anyone have or know if there's any pictures that might be around with trains actually traveling this line? I wish I would have taken pictures even when it was used as a storage line..

Greg
Little Falls , MN
2/12/2013

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Yeah, that's the same method I'd adopted after awhile, Richard. It's easy when you reference historical data to assist. At the time I posted my comment, I was winging it.

I've learned a lot from these posts about this old line and a lot of questions I've had have been answered and then some. Kudos, folks!

btw, if you're looking for a tool for refernece, this has helped me a ton:

http://www.historicmapworks.com/

Enter the city's county and select a date. You may be surprised at what you find about your city.

Cheers

Ajfox
Shakopee, MN
4/2/2013

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I spent many pleasant hours in the late 80's thru 90's hiking and occasionally driving over this line. The only track remaining in use ran parallel to E 10th street in Morris for a few blocks. In Cyrus, just east of the Chippewa River, there was a cattle pen and ramp (which i assumed was) for getting the critters onto stock cars. The elevator in Starbuck was still in use. Both those structures now gone. Going east, the line crossed highway 28, then veered away from lake Minnewaska climbing into the hills to the east. At Glenwood it crossed over highway 29 on a high wooden trestle. What a view a westbound rider would have had in those days, after passing thru woodlands and prarie farmland, then to reach the top of that bluff and see that lake!

In Sauk Centre, Depot Feeds is the old N.P. depot. N.P. passenger/mail/express trains #29 and #30 ran between Little Falls and Morris, using gas-electric railcars (doodlebugs) from 1928 until the end of that service.

Mike Mooney
Buffalo, MN
9/7/2013

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My mother grew up in Swanville, MN, and she talked of taking a one car train in from Swanville to Little Falls. I think she called it the "dinkyline" which was apparently a nickname for the train. My grandfather was a section boss on the line between Villard and Sauk Center. I lived in Little Falls throughout the 1960s, and I only remember seeing a train using that line once, which I think was the exhibition train that someone else referred to. Sure wish they could turn the old line into a bike trail.

Thomas Schenk
St. Paul, MN
9/23/2014

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I map out the old lines using google earth or google maps? One of them you can zoom in to see a bit better and have a real life aerial view. It still isn't always easy as some rail lines had slight curves or you get to wooded areas and can easily lose the line due to changes in the terrain that have been man made

Gina
Bowlus, MN
1/4/2015

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What one of these was near Morton/Redwood falls, MN near where "FarmFest" is? I've seen it covered with large trees, and believe there is an active line near by, just can't find it in the list

Gina
Bowlus, MN
1/4/2015

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Gina, Redwood Falls to Redwood Jct ( Sleepy Eye)to Redwood Falls was originally built by Minnesota Valley Railway Co in 1878. Sold to C&NW Rwy Co in 1881. The line was abandoned Oct 17 1977. It ran parallel to TH 67 between Redwood Falls and Morgan.

George
Inver Grove Heights, MN
1/5/2015

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