Duluth's Other Scenic Railroad
September 10: A block from our campground was a sign pointing down a side-street, reading "TRAIN RIDE". Obviously, we had to check it out, and found ourselves at a trackside shed identifying itself as the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad. Back at the (wi-fi equipped!) campground, we hauled out our laptop, found their website, and decided to take the Sunday morning trip. Here is the train we found waiting for us when we turned up the next day -- a 45-ton switcher, two vintage coaches, and the "safari car":
While the coaches are pretty posh, our choice of transport was the open-air safari car -- an old flatcar adapted for passengers.
The tour covers 6.2 miles of track along the St. Louis River, winding west out of Duluth -- all that remains of the mainline of the original LS&M, which operated from 1863 to 1877, before being absorbed by larger railroads. Part of the route is shared track with the BNSF, and in fact our departure was delayed 15 minutes when these two engines came along, ran up the line, and returned with a tank car.
Once en route, we soon find where that BNSF crew was switching: the Tate & Lyle syrup plant.
Proceeding onwards, the line runs through marshland along the edge of the river -- very scenic, and we had a beautiful sunny day. On the way back, this eagle circled above us for a short period, and then we startled a heron in the marsh as we passed.
The LS&M line passes beneath this bridge which carries traffic to the Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific's Pokegama yard on the Wisconsin side of the river.
Here's the same bridge, seen from across the river -- but what an odd collection of motive power: CN; leased power that looks like ex-Conrail and ex-BN; and Union Pacific.
After a leisurely hour we reach the end of track in the suburbs, and run around for the return journey.
Between yesterday and today, my capsule review of Duluth train rides is:
The NSSRR is the "rail-fan" trip; but for scenery: the LS&M.