The Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway: The Dan Patch Line
The Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway also known as the Dan Patch Line was a Class
III, shortline which operated around the greater Twin Cities region
connecting the cities with the town of Northfield to the south. The
MN&S began life as a trolley/interurban operation, which ultimately
proved to be unsuccessful and after bankruptcy
its new owners saw the potential freight traffic available over the
route. While the railroad did not serve any large markets outside of
St. Paul and Minneapolis its connection with virtually all of the areas Class
I systems made it a rather successful during its latter years. Today,
nearly all of the MN&S remains in operation by Canadian Pacific and
shortline Progressive Rail, the latter of which continues to use the railroad's famed red diamond logo.
MN&S has a history which dates
back to an interurban operation named the Minneapolis, St. Paul,
Rochester and Dubuque Electric Traction Company, which became better
known as the "Dan Patch Line". The operation was started by successful entrepreneur
Marion Savage who wished to connect the Minneapolis/St. Paul area with
his property and farm to the south. Construction on the line began in
1908 and being well-funded it had reached Northfield two years later in
1910, covering a distance of exactly 45.2 miles according to the
railroad's official timetable. While the company attempted to reach Faribault to the south it never obtained a charter to do so and abandoned the idea just after it began grading for the line.
With the addition of branches to Richfield,
Shoreham, and trackage rights over the Chicago Great Western Railway to
Randolph the Dan Patch Line fielded a route spanning about 87 total
miles. The Dan Patch Line was built during the "Interurban Boom" era of
the early 20th century and much like the "Dot Com Boom" of the early
2000s, it came and went rather quickly. The company found it difficult
to sustain high levels of ridership although it was able to secure a
fair amount of freight traffic serving a number of farms and other light
industry along its route. Having never electrified its route the Dan
Patch Line relied on steam locomotives for its freight services and
gas-electric cars ("Doodlebugs") for passenger operations.
The railroad became so inefficient that it reportedly held a 147%
operating ratio, or in other words for every $1 in revenue the company
earned it was paying $1.47 in expenses (obviously making it impossible
to be profitable). Soon after Savage passed away suddenly in July, 1916
the Dan Patch Line fell into receivership where it remained for about
two years before the Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway,
chartered in June, 1918, purchased the assets two months later in
The new owners quickly saw the route's potential as a bridge line, as it connected with most of the region's Class
I railroads including the Great Northern; Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul
& Pacific (Milwaukee Road); Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste.
Marie Railway (Soo Line); Chicago & North Western; Chicago, Rock
Island & Pacific (Rock Island); and the Chicago Great Western. The
route also acted as a relief valve for these railroads to bypass busy
downtown and congested Minneapolis/St. Paul and the M&NS remained
quite successful in this capacity for years.
Diesel Locomotive Roster
As to be expected the MN&S operated a small roster although it did
field power as large as EMD SD39s. Perhaps their most unique models
were the mammoth and oddball Baldwin DT6-6-2000 center-cab switchers.
Today, many of its EMD products remain in service and one of its
DT6-6-2000 models is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum.
|10||FM||H12-44|| 1/51||Preserved as C&NW #10.|
|20-24||BLH||DT6-6-2000||12/48-1/49||All scrapped except #21, donated to IRM.|
|30-35||EMD||SW1200||9/62-5/65||All in use.|
|36-37||EMD||SW1500||11-12/66||Both in use.|
|40-41||EMD||SD39||10/68||Both in use.|
Seeing the potential of the route, the Soo Line purchased the
MN&S in 1982 just three years before its
major purchase of the Milwaukee Road. The M&NS remained an
independent until about 1986 when it was dissolved into the Soo system.
Today, most of the former M&NS property remains in use by Canadian
Pacific and shortline Progressive Rail. There is also talk of turning
the route into a commuter rail line given the towns and suburbs of the
greater Twin Cities region in which it operates but currently funding
has not be appropriated. How interesting to think that the operation
could come full circle and again carry passengers/commuters, the entire
reason the line was constructed all those years ago by Marion Savage.
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Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern