Twin Cities & Western Railroad

The Twin Cities & Western (reporting marks TCWR it is owned by the same company which operates the Red River Valley & Western) is a Class III, shortline headquartered in Glencoe, Minnesota and operating along the former Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (Milwaukee Road) Pacific Northwest main line through Minnesota. The railroad began operations in 1991 taking over the Soo Line Railroad's former "Ortonville Line", the section of Milwaukee Road main line it had acquired through its 1985 purchase of the railroad. Today, the TC&W has connections with four Class I railroads and handles a wide variety of freight traffic from food-based products to chemicals and fertilizers. Because the shortline also connects with the Twin Cities, operates a subsidiary railroad (the Minnesota Prairie Line), and a has a sound management team (which has made its sister line, the RRV&W successful) its future looks to be very healthy.

Twin Cities & Western GP39-2 #2300 is seen here next to the former Milwaukee Road depot in Hopkins, Minnesota, still in use by the railroad, on August 29, 2015. The unit began its career as Kennecott Copper #790 in 1978. Doug Kroll photo.

The history of the Twin Cities & Western Railroad began in the mid-1980s when the floundering Milwaukee Road system, once a massive railroad which stretched from Kentucky to Washington state was purchased by the much smaller Soo Line railroad. By this point the Milwaukee had significantly reduced its system and no longer operated west of eastern Montana. After the Soo's purchase in 1985 it began selling off or abandoning large sections of the Milwaukee it deemed either unprofitable or not valuable (part of which was due to the fact the Milwaukee carried so much debt and bad track that the Soo was forced to do this).

Twin Cities & Western GP10 #404 is seen here tied down in Glencoe, Minnesota. This Geep began its career on the Boston & Maine as #1710 in 1957. Doug Kroll photo.

By the early 1990s the Soo was looking to sell part of the Milwaukee's main line west of the Twin Cities, turning over the line to the Twin Cities and Western Railroad on July 27, 1991. Additionally, the TC&W would pick a 94-mile section south and west of Norwood, which it operated as the Minnesota Prairie Line (the track itself is owned by the Minnesota Valley Regional Railroad Authority). With trackage rights included the TC&W stretches from extreme eastern Minnesota at the Twin Cities (where it interchanges with BNSF Railway, Canadian Pacific, Union Pacific, and Canadian National) to eastern South Dakota at Milbank (where it again connects with the BNSF and shortline Sisseton Milbank Railroad).

Red River Valley & Western GP15C #4106 and TC&W GP20C #2004 have a westbound freight departing St. Paul, Minnesota behind on August 29, 2015. Doug Kroll photo.

The Twin Cities and Western Railroad has become quite a successful shortline operation over the last 20+ years, in no small part due to its many Class I connections and diversified traffic base. It currently operates well over 200 miles of track and moves freight which includes, according to the railroad, "coal, grains (corn, wheat, barley), soybeans, sugar, beet pulp pellets, lumber and other forest products, canned vegetables, edible beans, molasses, DDGs, fertilizers, crushed rock and agricultural machinery." For more information about the Twin Cities and Western Railroad please click here to visit their official website. The site includes full contact information and available services the railroad provides.  The railroad also provides additional services such as industrial development and car supply guarantees. In any event, below is a current roster of the TC&W.

Twin Cities & Western GP39-2's #2301 and #2300 pass under the BNSF signal bridge at Dayton's Bluff Yard in St. Paul, Minnesota on August 26, 2015. Doug Kroll photo.

Twin Cities & Western Diesel Locomotive Roster

Builder Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
EMDSlug302, 15031950-1951 (Ex-AT&SF F7s)2
EMDGP10401-4081950-1957 (Ex-GN, Ex-IC, Ex-B&M GP7s and GP9s; Ex-UP GP9B)8
EMDSD20600-6011957 (Ex-UP SD20s)2
EMDSW120012001954 (Ex-Milwaukee Road)1
EMDGP20C2004, 2008, 35161960-1961 (Ex-GN, Ex-CB&Q GP20s)3
EMDGP39-22300-23011977-1978 (Ex-Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation)2
EMDGP30C4300-43021962 (Ex-UP GP30s)3

Red River Valley & Western GP20C #2053 and TC&W GP30C #4300 have an eastbound train at Buffalo Lake, Minnesota on August 28, 2015. Doug Kroll photo.

A great new read that highlights the history of Minnesota's railroads is Minnesota Railroads: A Photographic History, 1940-2012 by noted railroad historian and photographer Steve Glischinski.   The state has a rich background in the industry with names like the Milwaukee Road, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Chicago & North Western, and others all operating there.  Most of these fabled Midwestern lines are also featured in the book, which was released through University Of Minnesota Press in 2012.  If you're interested in perhaps purchasing this book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through

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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

Researching Rights-Of-Way

A popular pastime for many is studying and/or exploring abandoned rights-of-way.  Today, there are tens of thousands of miles scattered throughout the country.  Many were pulled up in the 1970's and 1980's although others were removed long before that.  If you are researching active or abandoned corridors you might want to check out the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Historical Topographic Map Explorer.  It is an excellent resource with thousands of historic maps on file throughout the country.  Just type in a town or city and click on the timeline of maps at the bottom of the page!

Studying Diesels

You will be hard pressed at finding a better online resource regarding diesel locomotives than Craig Rutherford's  The website contains everything from historic (fallen flags) to contemporary (Class I's, regionals, short lines, and even some museums/tourist lines) rosters, locomotive production information, technical data, all notable models cataloged by the five major builders (American Locomotive, Electro-Motive, General Electric, Fairbanks-Morse, and Baldwin), and much more.  A highly recommended database!

Electro-Motive Database

In 1998 a gentleman by the name of Andre Kristopans put together a web page highlighting virtually every unit every out-shopped by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division.  Alas, in 2013 the site closed by thankfully Don Strack rescued the data and transferred it over to his site (another fine resource).  If you are researching anything EMD related please visit this page first.  The information includes original numbers, serials, and order numbers.