Mankato to Minnesota Lake

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Map submitted by Tim Thorp.

GOOGLE MAPS no longer available: With apologies, I am unable to continue showing Google Maps. Google has forced my hand by increasing their map usage fee from nothing/free to OVER $300 A MONTH for the Abandoned Rails website! This is an expense that I simply cannot afford. Rest assured I am looking at available open source alternatives, so maps should be back online soon!

Greg Harrison
AbandonedRails.com

This railroad grade is now the Red Jacket Trail (from Mankato to Rapidan), managed by the Blue Earth County. This paved bicycle/multiple use trail takes the rider from near the Minnesota River up and out of the river valley along the old grade. The trail features a\the high railroad bridge over the Blue Earth River. The following railroad historical information comes from the Blue Earth County website (http://www.blueearthcountymn.gov/304/Railroad-Corridor-History):

History of the Railroad Corridor

The Red Jacket Trail (RJT) runs through spectacular scenery from the Minnesota River at Mankato south to productive prairie land. The trail, which follows a former railroad, runs near the Blue Earth River, crosses the Le Sueur River, and for much of its length follows a deeply incised natural ravine.

Just as establishment of the RJT was a long and sometimes controversial process, construction of the railroad was difficulty.

1857

The Minnesota Legislature chartered the Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad with rights to construct a railroad from the Iowa line via Mankato to Big Stone Lake. The charter requirements were not met and the project languished.

1867

The Legislature amended the charter and extended the deadline.

1869

Surveys from Mankato south to the Iowa border were completed. The most challenging construction section was the 5.5 miles from the Minnesota River to the higher prairies south of Mankato. An engineering challenge then is now a scenic opportunity.

Financial problems, political considerations, and coordination with other railroad lines all contributed to delays in construction. Finally, a group of investors agreed to fund the project contingent on cash donations and loans from adjacent townships and cities.

1870

Construction finally started. Several routes were considered before the present trail alignment was chosen. In the summer, 400 men were at work in the ravine segment which, at 60-feet-per-mile grade, was the most difficult section to build even though mother nature, through erosion, had moved much of the earth needed to construct a uniform grade up the Minnesota River bluff. Rock for the Le Sueur River trestle was hauled.

1871

Work resumed in the spring. Funds were depleted; local newspapers entered the fray with opposing views on the future of the railroad; additional bonuses from affected townships and cities were sought. The railroad's name was changed to Central Railroad of Minnesota. The financial panic of 1873 added to the financial difficulties.

1874

Finally in the summer, financial constraints were resolved and work resumed. Tracks were laid on sections graded earlier and the high trestle, with its 183-foot long Howe Truss (later replaced with the existing riveted steel beams) and massive stone piers, were completed.

Difficulties were not over. The railroad failed to pay some debts; Mankato did not like its depot location or train schedules; Rapidan wanted its own depot; landslides and heavy snow in the ravine created operating problems.

1879

The Minnesota RR acquired the Central RR.

1880

The railroad was transferred to the Milwaukee Road, which operated the line until its abandonment in 1978 after several years of no service.

The railroad had a key role in the development of several of the County's cities, including Rapidan, Good Thunder, and Mapleton, which moved three miles from its original location to be track side.

Tim Lundahl
Lakeville, MN
7/26/2018

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