Winnipeg Line                                                                TT00010




03/20/03 0:00

Mark Meyer

I have always been fascinated with Northern Pacific's line from Manitoba    Jct.   to Winnipeg and wonder if anyone can offer some insight into its    operations.   I have found very little written about this line.      The line appears to be NP's longest branch. It also has the distinction of   the having the NP's last RDC passenger service, and had the last NP    passenger   service discontinued prior to those discontinued with the start of Amtrak.      Overall the line was pretty much a single route, except between Fertile and   Carthage Junction there were two routes (the original via Red Lake Falls    Jct.   and the shorter route via Crookston). The Red Lake Falls route featured a   short branch from Red Lake Falls Jct. to Red Lake Falls and from Key West    to   Sherack.      When the railroads began publishing their freight schedules in the 1960s,    NP   showed one freight train each way on this route. Interestingly, depending    on   the year, the westbound train shows a time at Crookston, but the eastbound   does not. I am curious as to whether perhaps the through freight on the    line   used one route in one direction and other in the opposite direction. Or,    was   there a local based in this area to serve these branches? Or perhaps was   there local service in addition to this through freight train? If so,    where   was it and the crews based? Did the through train operate east or west    from   Manitoba Jct.? In other words, did it go to Staples or just go to the    large   yard in nearby Dilworth? Did NP freight crews run to Winnipeg, or just to   Pembina or Emerson Jct.?      With regard to passenger service on the line in the 1960s, how did crews    run   on this route? According to John Strauss's book (NP Pictorial 5) the RDC    on   this route (which actually operated between Fargo and Winnipeg originally)   continued between Fargo and the Canadian Border until May 24, 1969. Was   there a time when the train did operate only to Pembina?      When the Mainstreeter was speeded up in the fall of 1968, the schedule of    the   Winnipeg RDC also changed southbound (likely timetable east). Instead of   leaving Winnipeg in the morning and connecting with the Mainstreeter in   Hawley that afternoon, train 14 departed Winnipeg at 450 PM and arrived in   Fargo at 1210 AM, offering a 2 plus hour connection to the eastbound North   Coast Limited. However, the northbound train's schedule didn't change,   arriving in Winnipeg about 830 PM, and met train 14 at the US-Canada    border.   The schedule change and long layover (in the middle of the night) at Fargo   certainly hurt patronage. Does anyone know why the southbound train    wasn't,   for instance, changed to depart Winnipeg at 1150 PM instead of 450 PM?    This   would have allowed NP to use the same RDC inbound on train 13 to protect   train 14 that evening, instead of having the equipment layover in Winnipeg   over 20 hours per trip. This would also have allowed for a 710 AM arrival    in   Fargo, and a similar (in layover time) connection with the Mainstreeter.    By   the time of the schedule change, of course, I suppose it was a foregone   conclusion that the Winnipeg trains would not operate much    longer  .  .perhaps   that the was goal, but does seem to be a poor waste of equipment  .  .unless    it   had something to do with the fact that trains 13 and 14 then met at the   border (both trains at Emerson Jct. about 645 PM). Did this have some kind   of advantage, perhaps if there were different crews on either side of the   border? Does anyone know? Also, does anyone know why these trains had the   longest life of any of the NP RDC runs?      Thanks for any insight. RDC Amtrak Red lake Falls Train 13 Train 14  Fertile Carthage Junction Staples Passenger 1960s Fargo schedules  Compiler  C Frissell

03/24/03 10:04

Dennis Miller

The line you refer to brings back so many memories of my growing up in the  50's in East Grand Forks. My dad worked for the NP as a switchman for 20  years, and my Grandfather was a bridge builder, and finally the  superintendent out of Staples, an NP employee for 40 years until his passing  in 63. My dad is currently on vacation, but when he returns I will ask him for the  details, and pass them along.  Manitoba Junction Red Lake Falls Compiler  C Frissell

03/24/03 10:30

Mark Meyer

In a message dated 3/24/2003 11:06:57 AM Central Standard Time,  d50mil@h... writes:  > Greetings, > The line you refer to brings back so many memories of my growing up in the  > 50's in East Grand Forks. My dad worked for the NP as a switchman for 20  > years, and my Grandfather was a bridge builder, and finally the  > superintendent out of Staples, an NP employee for 40 years until his  > passing  > in 63. > My dad is currently on vacation, but when he returns I will ask him for the  >  > details, and pass them along. > Until then, > Dennis >   Thanks, Dennis. And with the recent discussion about Rail Diesel Cars, I  wonder if trains 13 and 14 on this line, usually operating with a single RDC,  encountered any problems in the winter. These "cars" aren't very heavy, and  I wonder about their ability to break hardened snow drifts, especially on a  line where there was probably only one other train per day, and given the  likelihood that it could be many hours without a train to keep the line  relatively clear. I know that even today, Amtrak's Empire Builder performs a  lot of "drift busting" in this area, especially west of Grand Forks, where it  is sometimes the only train that uses that line during a given day. But this  is a train with multiple locomotives and 10 or more cars. Knowing how hard  the drifts can get in this area, makes me wonder how a lone RDC might fare.  Even today, BNSF requires trains in this area to have two locomotives....not  for power necessarily, but for two sources of heat in case one of the units  fails. Of course, 40 years ago, there were a lot more maintenance of way  personnel than you see today to keep the line open, but the NP Winnipeg line  was basically a branch that had a passenger train.  RDC BNSF Amtrak snow Train 13 Train 14  Compiler  C Frissell

05/17/03 18:04

Dennis Miller

Well my Dad returned from vacation, and was quite impressed someone other  than myself was interested in the branch line he worked on for so many  years. I will quote him verbatim, as, quite frankly, I had to look up some of the  towns. " Train 752 originated in Lake Park. Then to Manitoba Junction,no stop here.  There was switch control to take us off the main line on to the branch. Next  stop Hitterdal, unless it was a tonnage train, no stop then, as it was  uphill, and the steam engine did not have enough power to stop and start.  Next stop Syre, the Twin Valley. On to Fertile, Crookston, and East Grand  Forks. Done here. Changed crews and caboose. North end. To Mekinok, ND., grain elevator only, although the branch to the AFB started  here. On to Gilby, then Forest River. Next to Voss and Grafton. (side note, my brother has a wall clock that my dad salvaged from the fire  in 48-49 at the Grafton station, quite a nice item) Onward to Drayton,MN, then Bowesmont and Pembina. Go through customs, and  deliver the train in Emerson Junction." Dad also stated after delivering the train, they had to layover until the  engineer was able to head back. They slept in the caboose. It did have a wood/coal stove, but no running water, or facilities. In the winter at temps of 40-50 below zero, it was quite an experience when  you had to exit for natures call. One final note, Dad said there is probably less than ten men alive today who  worked on that line.  rain 752 Compiler  C Frissell