GLENCOE, Minn. — The Twin Cities & Western normally is freight service only, but on July 21-22-23 the 229-mile regional railroad celebrated its 15th anniversary by running a series of diesel-powered passenger trains. Regularly scheduled passenger service ended on the line in 1969.
"It’s our way of thanking customers, employees, government leaders and railroad officials who helped make our railroad a success," says TC&W Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Wegner.
The general public had an opportunity to ride similar trains on July 29-30 when the city of Cologne, Minn. marks its 125th anniversary. As a bonus, the trains will be pulled by Milwaukee Road steam locomotive No. 261, built in 1944 (see www.261.com). The trains will operate between St. Louis Park and Cologne, and between Cologne and Glencoe.
The Twin Cities & Western is one of more than 500 smaller railroads operating in the United States, many of them formed after passage of the Staggers Act deregulating railroads.
The TC&W began operation on July 27, 1991 over former Milwaukee Road track acquired from the Soo Line, now Canadian Pacific Railway.
"We have a strong partnership with the Canadian Pacific that has benefited the TC&W and customers along the line," Wegner said. "We greatly appreciate their support."
TC&W’s main line extends from the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis to Milbank, S.D. Branch lines run north and south from St. Louis Park, Minn., serving major grain terminals on the Mississippi River at Camden Place in Minneapolis and at Savage, on the Minnesota River.
We especially want to thank the more than 30 communities along our line and their elected representatives who have helped to provide a positive business environment," said Wegner. "This has allowed TC&W to offer responsive and efficient rail service that is essential to rural America and attracts new business development, such as ethanol plants."
Employment, freight volume rise
Since start up, employment has doubled from 30 to 60 people, most of whom are based at the railroad’s headquarters in Glencoe. "We have a very loyal and efficient work force," said Wegner. "They have been the key to our growth." Payroll and fringe benefits on the TC&W in 2005 were $3.3 million.
The railroad has nearly doubled its freight volume since 1991 to approximately 22,000 carloads annually. Service has increased from three days a week to six days on most of the line.
"A number of major customers have located along our line, or expanded their businesses," Wegner said. These include Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Coop at Renville, Lyman Lumber at Chanhassen, Granite Falls Ethanol Plant at Granite Falls, and several grain elevators. In addition, Heartland Corn Products is building a 90-million gallon ethanol plant at Winthrop that is scheduled to start this fall.
Between 1991 and 2005, the TC&W has spent approximately $22 million to improve trackwork and acquire freight cars and locomotives. The railroad has leased and purchased nearly 600 freight cars, including 512 covered hopper cars to transport grain. TC&W’s fleet of eight locomotives has been upgraded with newer Generation II units featuring more fuel-efficient Caterpillar diesel engines, which can run on a blend of 5% biodiesel that is supplied locally by FUMPA Biofuels in Redwood Falls.
Minnesota Prairie Line subsidiary
The railroad expanded in 2001 when the Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority selected TC&W’s Minnesota Prairie Line subsidiary to operate 94 miles of track between Norwood and Hanley Falls, Minn. Restoration of the line, which had been idle for several years, began in April 2002. The first train was operated in October 2002.
The line continues to be upgraded with assistance from the Minnesota Department of Transportation Rail Service Improvement Program, the Federal Railroad Administration, shippers along the line, MVRRA and the TC&W. Julie Rath, administrator for MVRRA, observed, "Rail traffic has been increasing now that dependable rail service has been restored."