Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway
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|Dates of operation||1918–1985|
- This article is about the historic Dan Patch rail line. For the new Dan Patch Corridor commuter line see Dan Patch Corridor.
The Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway (reporting mark MNS) was an 87 miles (140 km) long American short line railroad connecting Minneapolis and Northfield, Minnesota. It was incorporated in 1918 to take over the trackage of the former Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Dubuque Electric Traction Company, also known as the Dan Patch Lines. On 2 June 1982 it was acquired by the Soo Line Railroad, who kept it as a separate railroad until it was officially merged on January 1, 1986.
The Dan Patch Lines
Marion W. Savage, owner of the race horse, Dan Patch, planned an electric railroad that would connect the Twin Cities to his farm and stables south of the Minnesota River. The savvy Savage purchased Dan Patch for $62,000 — a fortune in 1902 — and then lavishly pampered and promoted his equine protégé.
Savage and his backers chose 54th and Nicollet, at the time the Richfield-Minneapolis border, as the starting point for the new railroad. Minneapolis' Nicollet streetcar line ended at that spot, so passengers could easily transfer to the adjacent Dan Patch system. Its owners named their new firm the Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Dubuque Electric Traction Company, but no one used the full name. Instead, they preferred the nickname "Dan Patch Line." Construction began in 1908, eventually reaching Northfield in late 1910. Grading began on an extension to Faribault in 1911, but the company never secured an entrance into Faribault and abandoned the project.
The new railroad built four stations in Richfield, with platforms along the Nicollet Avenue corridor - on the Bachman's farmstead spur at 62nd, Goodspeed's farmstead at 66th, Irwin's farmstead on 72nd and Wilson's farmstead on the southwest corner of 78th. They also completed a company-developed picnic destination named Antlers Park, now part of the Lakeville city park system. Richﬁeld gardeners and farmers used the Dan Patch railroad for shipping produce, dairy products and other goods. Passengers shared the platforms with farmers.
Original plans called for the Dan Patch Line to be electriﬁed, but that concept never became reality. The company used steam engines for their freight trains, while gas-electric locomotives and motorcars handled passenger traffic. However, Savage's penchant for ﬁrst-class style did produce luxurious coaches - red, plush seat cushions and fringed shades on windows added a touch of Victorian elegance.
Management struggled to make the rail route proﬁtable without consistent success. According to some reports, the railroad had an abysmal operating ratio of 147%. However, it persisted in operation until, less than a week after the sudden deaths of the horse Dan Patch and his owner, Colonel Savage, it slumped into receivership on July 16, 1916.
Bankruptcy, receivership and new ownership
Four days after the bankruptcy, Charles P. Bratnober (president of the Minneapolis, Anoka and Cuyuna Range Railroad) was appointed receiver. The Minneapolis, Northﬁeld and Southern Railroad, incorporated during June 1918 in South Dakota, bought what was left of Savage's former company at foreclosure on August 6, 1918. The new owners took advantage of the Dan Patch's line running from Northfield to Minneapolis, and promoted the reconstituted line as a bridge line around the congested Twin Cities freight yards. Besides its freight service, the company continued passenger service using their gas-electric motorcars from Minneapolis to Antlers Park and Northfield until the 1940s. Until the Great Depression, the MNS Ry. also used trackage rights on the Chicago Great Western from Northfield to Randolph and Mankato, and even after discontinuing passenger service kept trackage rights to Randolph for freight purposes.
As finally constructed, the MNS mainline ran in what is now the west metro of the Twin Cities. From its junction with the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad at MNS Junction in Crystal, it traveled through New Hope, Golden Valley, St Louis Park, Edina, Bloomington, Savage (connecting with the Omaha Road), Lakeville and down to Northfield where they connected with the Chicago Great Western Railway, the Milwaukee Road, and Rock Island’s Minneapolis to Kansas City “Spine Line”. They had shops at Glenwood on a spur line that went from the present area of Hwy 100 and Hwy 55 to the edge of downtown Minneapolis and connections to the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway and Great Northern Railway. In addition, the original passenger "High Line" ran from Auto Club Junction in Bloomington through Richfield and into south Minneapolis, ending just north of the current Crosstown freeway.
Sale to the Soo Line and current usage
After the end of passenger service, the Minnesota, Northfield and Southern thrived as a freight company, saving time for shippers by bypassing freight yards in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Eventually the company transitioned from steam locomotives to diesel-electric locomotives. Finally, to serve its planned purchase of the Milwaukee Road and to access Northfield, the railroad was purchased in 1982 by the Soo Line.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has performed studies on operating commuter rail over the Dan Patch Line. While there is currently a circa 2002 legislative ban on state money going to further studies of the Dan Patch Corridor, bills have been introduced into the state legislature to reenact funding. In the meantime, the line is still owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, successor to the Soo Line. However, much of its service is via the Twin Cities and Western Railroad and Progressive Rail. Progressive Rail owns and occasionally operates two MN&S cabooses as well as a former MN&S EMD SD39. Some of Progressive Rail's rolling stock is painted in an MN&S inspired livery.
- Olson, Russell L. (1976). The Electric Railways of Minnesota. Minnesota Transportation Museum, Hopkins/H. M. Smyth Co., St. Paul.
- Johnson, Fred (2008). Richfield: Minnesota's Oldest Suburb, Richfield Historical Society.
- Minnesota Statewide Historic Railways Study Project Report (pages 26 through 56 detail the historic significance of the MN&S)