The Minnesota Zephyr was a heritage railroad operating out of Stillwater, Minnesota. It operated as a dinner train and served a five-course, white linen dinner on a six-mile route, traveling between four and seven miles per hour. Power was provided by two EMD FP7 locomotives, with one on each end of the train. The rolling stock consisted of five restored dining cars. The train traveled along the St. Croix River bluffs, then turned westward and followed a stream. The trip lasted about three and a half hours.
On September 18, 2008, owner David Paradeau stated that the train would cease operation at the end of the year, becoming a stationary restaurant serving dinner along with the adjacent Stillwater Grill. Paradeau cited the desire to retire, as well as a downturn in business and a $1.6 million loss within the last two years. Paradeau had hoped to sell the railroad right of way to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to be converted to a rail trail that would connect Stillwater to the Gateway State Trail system. The train has had close to a million riders during the last 23 years.
The tracks connecting the Minnesota Zephyr line to Union Pacific to the south through downtown Stillwater were removed in the summer of 2005 after the city of Stillwater forced abandonment of the tracks because they had not been used since 1995 when the last steam engine visited Stillwater. This line was the first railroad line built into Stillwater. Work stopped late in December 1870 when the ground was too hard to finish the line. The last 1 mile of track was laid into downtown Stillwater in the spring of 1871 after the ground thawed. Two more railroad lines were built into Stillwater coming instead from the south end before the 1890s. The last Burlington Northern freight train to leave Stillwater on this line was in 1982. Burlington Northern submitted a bid to deliver coal via this line to the King power plant in 1985 but the bid was won by Union Pacific.
On September 10, 2010 the Minnesota DNR expressed renewed interest in and laid out plans for the Minnesota Zephyr  In February 2012 the sale of the right-of-way was finalized to the Minnesota DNR for 4.37 million dollars. The sale to the DNR does not include the dinner train (engines and cars) itself or the Zephyr building. The rails and ties have been removed to prepare the right of way to be made into a walking and biking trail. The DNR currently has paved the first two miles of the trail starting from downtown Stillwater and will pave the rest of the trail as funds become available. The DNR is also planning to build a bridge over Manning avenue (County Road 15). The right of way is being considered as a route for a future light rail line into Stillwater.
In early 2013, Iowa Pacific Holdings purchased the train and to use on their Rio Grande Scenic Railroad subsidiary. In March, the dining cars were shipped by rail to Colorado with the locomotives being shipped later. As of September 2013, both locomotives are sitting in the parking of the Zephyr building.
- Shah, Allie (2008-08-18). "Dinner train will become stationary restaurant". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved 2008-08-19.
- "Railroad Club at the Univ of MN". Retrieved 2008-08-19.[dead link]
- "Minnesota Zephyr". Explore Minnesota. Retrieved 2008-09-19.
- Carew, Emma (2010-09-10). "DNR plans to buy Minnesota Zephyr railbed". Minneapolis Star Tribune.