Volunteers Fight for Railroad as Future Remains Uncertain

Northland Uncovered: Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad

Trains are intriguing for all ages and the Northland has quite a few to enjoy.

One is the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad.

It’s been giving passenger rides since the 1800s.

“Carrying goods, grain, everything that made our country and Duluth what it is today probably came on these tracks originally,” said Harold Dols, LS&M Board Secretary, engineer and conductor.

In fact, the first train traveled up from St. Paul on August 1, 1870.

This connected Duluth to the outside world in a new way.

“Duluth has such a wonderful combination of the natural outdoors and also a rich history of industrial development of this country’s growth and this railroad was an integral part of that,” Dols explained.

In the 1970’s, tourist started filling the seats thanks to volunteers who stepped in to save the train after the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad planned to shut it down.

With the cleanup of the U.S. Steel site quickly approaching, the future of this train is in question.

“There was a lot of environmental waste that was left behind,” said Dols.

The upcoming cleanup will close down the railroad operation for two to three years.

The group tells FOX 21 they fully support the improvement mission, but want to be part of the conversation.

They compare themselves to the Lakewalk Comprehensive plan saying that is a good example of how the process should work.

“It was a really thoughtful process that made that happen and we feel the same can happen here. We’re really advocating a rail and trial,” said Dols.

The group says it’s imperative to have both train and trail options because they train offers something the trails can’t.

“There’s a lot of people who can’t walk it, they can’t bike it. They’re not necessarily handicap or in a wheel chair, but they just can’t go that distance,” said Joel Manns, LS&M Vice President of Operations and conductor.

“Even if a trail was put in they would not be able to navigate it,” said Richard Hanson, LS&M Vice President of Engineering.

“We give them that opportunity to experience that part of the St. Louis River,” continued Mann.

With a view not available any other way, comes a dose of history to put today’s world into perspective.

“Our ancestors did a lot of things to get us where we are today to give us the ability to have the car and this is just a little bit, a peek back into what their life was like,” Manns said.

Public meetings are coming up to discuss the Western Waterfront Parks and Trail.

A meeting on October 18 will discuss the train’s future.

That is at 6 p.m. at the Morgan Park Good Fellowship Community Center.

The train only has a couple weekends left to run this season.

This weekend, October 8 and 9, and October 15 and 16.

Departure times are 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

They advise passengers to get there early because tickets have been selling out.

The train is located at 7100 Grand Ave, Duluth, MN 55807.

For more information, call 218-624-7549 or head to their website.

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