Rails & Trails Pages

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mondovi Line

On Wednesday, September 23, three friends and I rode ATVs on "The Mondovi Line."  This is an all-terrain trail on a railroad grade and on a sand base.  Some of it has crushed limestone on it and could be ridden with a bicycle but most of it is only suitable for ATV and horseback riding.

This is the line I wrote a book about in 2008 called "The Mondovi Line."  I tried to ride my bicycle on it but it was too sandy.  This would be the first time I would see many parts of the line.

Left to right are friends Dan Morris, Terry Kirkman, and Jim Malecki:

The foundation for the Eleva depot can still be found in the grass along the trail:

We set on at Eleva and headed east to Fairchild.  The plan was to go to Fairchild and back and then to Mondovi and back.  First thing we cross the Buffalo (or Beef) River at the edge of Eleva.

Much of the trail is now overgrown with foliage, creating a neat canopy:

We quickly enter farming area:

Terry was the "engineer" on this train and he saw the most wildlife--a couple of pheasants and about a dozen wild turkeys.  Yours truly, being the caboose, only saw this ringneck as he didn't want to get out of the way and kept running down the "track."

Here we enter Strum.  The stockyard, pickle salting station, and lumber yard were on the right hand side:

The Strum depot was located in the treeline on the left of the trail:

Between Strum and Osseo is essentially a sand prairie, best suited for growing sandburs and pine trees:

We cross Tracy Valley Road.  The train crossed on a trestle here that only had 7' 9" clearance.  The trail has been drastically lowered:

We again cross the Buffalo (Beef) River on a trestle as we come to Osseo.

We enter Osseo.  The lumber yard, elevators, and depot were located on the right.  The smokestack is from the condensary.

The condensary building still stands.

Between Osseo and Fairchild we parallel US Highway 10.

Terry spotted this neat concrete sign.  It looks like it would be a railroad whistle post but it is parallel to the track.  Any ideas??

The village of Price is hardly recognizable any more.  If you have the book, compare this to the photo from the 1910s.  The pickle salting station was on the left, the train station between the track and highway (Old Highway 10) and the village buildings where the house is.  Only the Church remains (hidden by trees).

We found an Amish man picking his apples with a mobile ladder:

This is the dreaded "Price Cut."  It doesn't seem very deep but before there were trees, this cut would fill with drifted snow.  In 1917, three steam engines were caught in this cut and had to be shoveled out by hand--by people who walked from Mondovi so they could get the trains moving and their goods in.

The colors hadn't started changing much but this is one day the four of us all could "get off from work" on the same day.  It was overcast in the morning but it had rained the day before and with the heavy humidity and fog cover, there was no dust until late afternoon. 

We enter Fairchild.  The mainline was Omaha, then Chicago Northwestern, and now Union Pacific trackage.  The 2 depots sat on both sides of the mainline.

N.C. Foster built the Mondovi Line as one of 3 separate spurs radiating from Fairchild.  Another one went to Greenwood, shown in the center of the picture.   It looks like this is also an ATV Trail--which none of us knew about.  Looks like another ATV ride some day . . .

We went back to Eleva and then headed to Mondovi.  Here is where all the industries and depot were located in Mondovi.

I attended Eleva-Strum Central High School which is just across the river from the railroad.  I remember occasionally seeing the train during noon hour or football practice.  I always had thought how fun it would be to ride that train and see exactly where it went.  Now, 47 years later, I got the chance to do that.  Although it wasn't steel wheels on steel rail, rubber tires on a trail was a great way to see it.  Thanks MUCH to Dan, Terry, and Jim for a great day.  Another check-off on the "bucket list."

The End!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

St. Croix Speeder

I was invited to take a speeder run on the St. Croix Valley Railroad by employee Tavis Anderson.  He invited some Minnesota speeder friends and I took friend Mike Bearden with me for the August 8th run.  We set on at Rush City, Minnesota and waited out a thunderstorm before heading north to Pine City.  5 motorcars in today's run.  Pictures are greatly downsized for quicker loading.

Mike had never been on a speeder run and certainly never run one.  So here he is "engineering."  How fast will this thing go????

The storm was moving out and the sun came out and it became quite hot but a nice day for the ride. Here is Don Schoeb of Mankato and his Tomah cab Milwaukee Road car, impressively restored.

Jay has a nicely painted CNW unit:

He has an air tank for his 3-chime horn:

And, he has marker lights!!  First I've ever seen on a speeder!!

He built a shorty "dumpy cart" for hauling gear, of course painted in CNW/Omaha colors:

We hadn't gone very far before lead car with Tavis and his dad had a problem.  A bolt had broken off and the engine wouldn't run.  This car, Jay's car, and mine are all have the old Fairmont engines with cranks where we have to adjust timing, carburetion, and spark to get them to run properly.

So this car got a push to Pine City by Ladd and Sharon:

The line from North Branch to Hinckley is part of the famed Skally Line, the mainline of the Northern Pacific Railroad from the Twin Cities to the Twin Ports.  The scenery is excellent along here.  Here we cross Highway 30.

The year is 1965 and you are running NP train #103 with an almost brand new A-B-A set of F7s.  You throttle up to notch 6 as you pull your 94 car train north.  You are running on an Automatic Block System, probably the first in Minnesota and maybe the country.  Everything's great and you are getting paid for this job!!!

About to enter the S-curve just south of Pine City.  Rail Works has been working here replacing ties, some rail, and grinding rail.  We ride SMOOTHLY as some of our rail is welded rail but even the jointed sections are well-maintained.

Entering Pine City.

Even though the track continues to Hinckley, we must stop at Pine City as there is a severe bridge problem.  The railroad is presently embargoed but Tavis got us permission to ride as far north as Pine City.

Last May the train crew was bringing a unit train of wheat to the Rush City Mill when a man in Pine City flagged the train.  He asked the crew if they wanted to go swimming.  What did he mean???  He showed them--(picture from the Internet):

Ice had broken away the exterior masonry and revealed all the wood structure below as rotted out!!!  Here's a view from above through the ties:

No trains have run since May and the mill is shut down.  Plans are for this bridge to be "fixed" starting in late August, to be completed by the end of October.  To do that, the construction company will lift the steel bridge, build new piers 12 feet to the south of the existing ones, slide the bridge 12 feet down onto the new piers, and add to the trestle on the other end.  So, we turn the cars and head back to Rush City.

Other speeders besides mine are known as "Mosquito Killers!!"

At Rush City there are 13 cars that are "land-locked."  The engines are gone.  They will be getting the Geep back in a Northern Pacific inspired new paint scheme.

An empty yard.

Tavis offers to let us ride south to North Branch.  But no trains have run here for a long time so he will hi-rail ahead of us to make sure the track is clear.

Leaving Rush City:

Passing through Harris.

We arrive in North Branch.

We turn our cars in North Branch and hustle back to Rush City.  Storms are in the forecast again.  Time to load the speeders and head home.  But here is one of the many Griswold signals on the line.

Thanks to Tavis Anderson and the St. Croix Valley Railroad for a great day of "speedering!!"