Short line railroad track in Minn. literally falling apart as search for funds continues

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
short line railroad
Denver Rock Island Railroad will move 3 miles of track to make way for the National Western Center.

A short line railroad track that runs in Rock and Nobles counties in Minnesota needs to be able to haul flammable liquids by May 1, 2023. If that is the case, it is time to suit up and go to work.

The line is in terrible condition in some spots, where railroad ties are missing. Ellis & Eastern, which purchased the lease from Minnesota Southern Railway, went before Nobles County commissioners on Sept. 3 asking for support to obtain grants. The county said yes, unanimously.

It’s a good sign, because Ellis & Eastern carries about 500 cars of ethanol on the tracks annually, and the demand is expected to increase to 1,500 cars by 2023, the same year rail shippers must use safer cars to carry flammable liquids. An ethanol plant in Luverne, Minn., plans on tripling production over the next three years.

Eighty-pound rail was installed when the track was first built in 1905, and plans are to replace it with 100- to 115-lb rail. A six-mile stretch between Magnolia, Minn., and Adrian, Minn., is in such poor condition rail cars have derailed at 5 mph.

Ellis & Eastern continues to do any repairs it can, like adding ballast and replacing ties. The short-liner is committed to an aggressive maintenance schedule, and the goal is to handle trains moving at 25 mph.

Ellis & Eastern is applying for a $25 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant, and is ready to match any and all funding. An estimated $56 million alone is needed to make the necessary repairs to the rail line between Manley, Minn., and Worthington, Minn.

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Categories: Freight, News, Shortline/Regional
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