Northfield’s 3rd depot (Chicago Great Western)

The Fate of Northfield’s Railroads

The Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern (Dan Patch) Railroad discontinued passenger service in 1942. The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul Railroad & Pacific (Milwaukee Road) eliminated passenger and mail service on June 30, 1952. The Rock Island passenger trains continued until 1967-1968.

Chicago Great Western

CGW merged with the Chicago Northwestern in 1968, and much of its infrastructure was abandoned. The former CGW branch line from Northfield to Cannon Falls, now owned by Canadian Pacific, is leased by Progressive Rail. A section of the former CGW line from Cannon Falls to Red Wing was abandoned in 1983 and transformed into the Cannon Valley Trail. Parts of the Mill Towns Trail also follow the route of former CGW trackage. The restored Chicago Great Western Depot in Red Wing (1906), is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now houses a Caribou Coffee shop. Northfield’s CGW Depot, built ca. 1905 just north of 3rd Street West, was demolished after 1972. (The photo above shows the depot on the left with a view east on 3rd Street toward the Cannon River.)

Chicago Great Western Depot (on left) in Northfield, MN, ca. 1900. Used with permission of Brett Reese

Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul

The Milwaukee Road merged in 1986 with Canadian Pacific, which now owns the former Milwaukee Road tracks through Northfield, operated by the Union Pacific. The CP currently owns the depot. Other surviving Milwaukee Road depots in Minnesota include the historic depot in Red Wing (1905), which does triple duty as an Amtrak station, tourist center, and art gallery; The Depot, a Marriott hotel and conference center in downtown Minneapolis (1899); and the Faribault station. The first two are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Faribault Milwaukee Depot is currently owned by an insurance business.

Milwaukee Road Depot, Red Wing, MN. Source: McGhiever, Wikimedia Commons.

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific

Rock Island Depot, Faribault, MN, 1977, before renovation to restaurant.

The railroad dissolved in 1984, and much of its surviving trackage is now owned by Union Pacific. The UP owns the Rock Island tracks from Mason City, Iowa, through Albert Lea and Faribault to Comus Junction, just south of Northfield. The Canadian Pacific owns the Milwaukee stretch through Northfield from Comus Junction to Rosemount. Restored in 1985, the Depot Bar and Grill in Faribault occupies the former Rock Island depot.

Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern

After the Dan Patch eliminated passenger service in 1942, the MN&S transported only freight. The line was sold to Canadian Pacific (the Soo Line) in 1982. Some of the former Dan Patch trackage was purchased from or leased by Canadian Pacific to Progressive Rail. The former Dan Patch Depot in Orchard Grove (Burnsville) was restored by a local Boy Scout troop.

Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern Depot, Orchard Gardens, Burnsville, MN (1910). Source: Elkman, Wikimedia Commons.