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.  

The 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 August.  

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. 

Road Number Manufacturer Model Type Date Built Other Notes
10FMH12-44 1/51Preserved as C&NW #10.
20-24BLHDT6-6-200012/48-1/49All scrapped except #21, donated to IRM.
30-35EMDSW12009/62-5/65All in use.
36-37EMDSW150011-12/66Both in use.
40-41EMDSD3910/68Both 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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