North Star (Amtrak train)

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North Star
Northstar 1982 jun superior.jpg
The North Star at the Superior Depot
Service typeInter-city rail
LocaleMidwestern United States
PredecessorArrowhead & Twin Cities Hiawatha
First serviceApril 30, 1978
Last serviceApril 7, 1985
Former operator(s)Amtrak
StartChicago, Illinois (1978–1981)
Saint Paul, Minnesota (1981–1985)
EndDuluth, Minnesota
Distance travelled573 mi (922 km) (1978–1981)
153 mi (246 km) (1981–1985)
Train number(s)9, 10
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Track owner(s)Milwaukee Road
BN Railroad

The North Star was a passenger train operated by Amtrak (the National Railroad Passenger Corporation) between Duluth, Minnesota and Saint Paul, Minnesota. It originally operated from Chicago, Illinois via St. Paul to Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, but was soon cut back to a Saint Paul–Duluth train. The service relied in part on funding from the state of Minnesota.


The North Star was introduced in the spring of 1978, when Amtrak moved Twin Cities operations from the Great Northern Depot in Minneapolis to Midway station in Saint Paul and combined the previous Chicago–Minneapolis Twin Cities Hiawatha and the Minneapolis–Duluth Arrowhead services into one train. Where the Arrowhead's route was 148 miles (238 km) long,[1] the North Star was a 573-mile (922 km) sleeper originating in Chicago at 10:30 PM in the initial schedule. It took 8 hours 45 minutes to reach Saint Paul, where there was a 35-minute layover. It then took another 3:45 to reach Duluth for an overall schedule of just over 13 hours from Chicago.[2]

Three other trains shared parts of the North Star route: the quad-weekly Empire Builder from Chicago to Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington, via the Milwaukee Road to St. Paul and the former Great Northern beyond; the thrice-weekly North Coast Hiawatha, also from Chicago to Portland and Seattle, on the Milwaukee to St. Paul and the former Northern Pacific beyond; and the daily Turboliner between Chicago and Milwaukee.[3]:31 The Empire Builder became a daily train again in 1979 when the North Coast Hiawatha was eliminated.[4]:166

The North Star at the Duluth Depot

There were perennial budget battles involving the North Star. In October 1981 cost-cutting measures forced the service to be converted to a Twin Cities–Duluth local, which left the daily Empire Builder as the only Chicago–Twin Cities connection. No effort was made to link the schedules of the two trains. At this time, the schedule was 3 hours 35 minutes from Saint Paul to Duluth.[5][6] It briefly stopped service in September 1982 when Amtrak requested $27,000 (equivalent to $70,098 in 2018) in funding to keep it operating as a weekend and peak period train. Duluth businessman Jeno Paulucci offered a $25,000 (equivalent to $64,905 in 2018) donation, with the rest intended to be covered from some other source. U.S. Senator David Durenberger (R-MN) also requested that Amtrak run a financial audit, which uncovered an extra $100,000 (equivalent to $259,621 in 2018) in available funds.[7]

By the end of service in 1985, the North Star no longer served Superior and made intermediate stops only in Cambridge and Sandstone.[8] State funding ran out in March 1985, and the train made its final run on April 7 of that year.[4]:191

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Amtrak (8 Jan 1978). "Amtrak National Train Timetables" (PDF). The Museum of Railway Timetables. p. 37. Retrieved 6 Nov 2014.
  2. ^ Amtrak (30 Apr 1978). "Amtrak National Train Timetables" (PDF). The Museum of Railway Timetables. p. 37. Retrieved 6 Nov 2014.
  3. ^ Goldberg, Bruce (1981). Amtrak--the first decade. Silver Spring, MD: Alan Books. OCLC 7925036.
  4. ^ a b Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34705-3.
  5. ^ "Amtrak Chicago-Milwaukee Corridor Timetable Timeline". 25 Oct 1981. Retrieved 4 Feb 2009.[dead link]
  6. ^ Amtrak (25 Oct 1981). "Amtrak National Train Timetables" (PDF). The Museum of Railway Timetables. p. 42. Retrieved 6 Nov 2014.
  7. ^ "Duluth North Star Amtrak's last run (9-6-1982 & 9-8-1982)". WTCN-TV and KSTP-TV. Sep 1982. Retrieved 25 Sep 2010.
  8. ^ Amtrak (28 Oct 1984). "Amtrak National Train Timetables" (PDF). The Museum of Railway Timetables. p. 49. Retrieved 6 Nov 2014.

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