This line was originally built by the St. Louis, Des Moines and Northern Railway in 1882. Ownership of the line passed through successive hands via various mergers and bankruptcies/consolidations:
- Des Moines and Northern Railway in 1889
- Des Moines, Northern and Western Railway in 1891
- Chicago, Milwaukee and Saint Paul Railroad in 1899
- Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad in 1927
- Norfolk and Western Railroad in 1988
- Norfolk Southern Railway in 1998
The line was actually abandoned by the CMStP&P in 1980 as part of its bankruptcy reorganization, but was soon brought back to service by the Norfolk and Western in 1988.
The Norfolk Southern abandoned a portion of the right-of-way around Grimes in 2012.