Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Todays Train of Thought- Iron Range Rollers, December 14, 2011

Today's train of thought takes us to Northern Minnesota's Iron Range and is something of a blast from the past.

While many people have no doubt associated Minnesota with terrible football, Garrison Keilor and seemingly endless, flat farmland, the northeastern corner along Duluth and the western and northern shore of Lake Superior is both hilly, forested and home to iron ore and taconite mines.

Throughout most of its history, the Duluth Missabe and Iron Range has essentially acted as a conveyor belt for hauling ore and limestone from the mines to the west of Duluth, MN and Superior, WI to the massive loading docks along Lake Superior in Two Harbors, MN.

After Canadian National's 2001 purchase of the Wisconsin Central, a short 10-mile gap existed in the Twin Harbors area between the former WC line between Superior, WI and Chicago and CN's Duluth Winnipeg & Pacific between the Twin Harbors and Winnipeg, MB. In May 2004, Canadian National purchased the DM&IR as well as Pennsylvania's Bessemer & Lake Erie from Great Lakes Transportation, closing the 10-mile gap between Winnipeg & Chicago (while still continuing to operate ore trains between the mines and docks).

Here, contributor Dave Schauer caught DM&IR SD38-2 #213 and a pair of maroon SD40T-2s trailing while coasting down Proctor Hill in Duluth, MN with a loaded ore train bound for one of the docks amid peak fall colors in October 2004, a few months after the CN takeover.

Such scenes are impossible to repeat today, as the SD38s have been sold, retired or scrapped and although some of the SD40T-2 Tunnel Motors remain, they gave since been repainted into CN colors.

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