Railways

Railroads provide transportation and vital commercial links for Minnesota farmers, the mining industry, manufacturers, and other businesses.

There are 21 railroad companies operating in Minnesota on 4,481 route miles of track. It is the eighth-largest rail system in the nation.

The system carries 3.6 million total carloads or nearly 228 million total tons of freight.

The railroads provide an important pathway for movement of taconite pellets from plants on the Iron Range to Lake Superior ports and inland steel mills and a wide variety of agricultural commodities to market.

Minnesota railroads rank first in the nation in the movement of iron ore and third and fourth, respectively, in the origination of farm and food products.

The railroads are divided into three classes by the Surface Transportation Board:

  • Class I railroads are those that have annual operating revenue exceeding $346.8 million.
  • Class II railroads have annual operating revenue between $27.8 million and $346.7 million.
  • Class III railroads have annual operating revenue of less than $27.7 million.

A total of 3,246 miles, or 72 percent of the track mileage, is owned by the state's Class I railroads.

Regional railroads are line-haul carriers operating at least 350 miles of road and/or earning revenue exceeding $40 million, but less than a Class I railroad. Regional and short-line railroads generally are lighter-density lines that have been spun off by a Class I carrier.

Class I Railroads and Their Minnesota Track MileageBNSF railroad in Duluth.jpg

  • BNSF Railway, 1,598 miles of track
  • Canadian Pacific Railway, 750 miles of track
  • Union Pacific Railroad, 462 miles of track
  • Canadian National Railway, 436 miles of track
  • National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak) 0

Class II Railroads and Their Minnesota Track Mileage

  • Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern RR Corp., 278 miles of track
  • Iowa, Chicago & Eastern, 194 miles of track

Class III Railroads and Their Minnesota Track Mileage

  • Minnesota Northern Railroad,156 miles of track
  • Twin Cities & Western Railroad Co.,146 miles of track
  • Minnesota Prairie Line Inc., 94 miles of track
  • Progressive Rail Inc., 80 miles of track
  • Otter Tail Valley Railroad, 71 miles of track
  • Northern Plains Railroad, 45 miles of track
  • Minnesota Southern Railroad Co., 42 miles of track
  • St. Croix Valley Railroad, 36 miles of track
  • Minnesota Commercial Railway Co., 35 miles of track
  • North Shore Scenic Railroad, 25 miles of track
  • Northern Lines Railway, LLC., 23 miles of track
  • Cloquet Terminal Railroad Co., 4 miles of track
  • Minnesota, Dakota & Western Ry. Co. , 4 miles of track
  • Red River Valley & Western Railroad, 2 miles of track

All carrier-owned railroad track in Minnesota must comply with safety standards set forth by the Federal Railroad Administration and is subject to periodic inspections.

About two-thirds of the track in the state is FRA Class 3 or 4, permitting freight trains to operate at speeds up to 40 and 60 mph, respectively.

Passenger and Commuter Rail

  • Amtrak's daily Empire Builder (Chicago-Seattle) train runs through Minnesota, calling at Midway Station in St. Paul and five other stations.
  • The Northstar Corridor Rail operates a 40-mile segment of existing track from Big Lake to downtown Minneapolis. Northstar trains offer commuter service during prime morning and evening weekday rush hours, as well as regular weekend and some special event service. The project is a joint effort of the Northstar Corridor Development Authority, the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
  • The Hiawatha Line offers fast, quiet light-rail service to 17 stations on a 12-mile stretch between downtown Minneapolis and Mall of America.
  • Dozens of bus routes are timed to connect with trains at Hiawatha Line stations, making it easy to get to work, to shopping or wherever you need to be.
  • Currently in the early stages, the Central Corridor LRT line will connect downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul along University and Washington avenues through the State Capitol complex, Midway area, and the University of Minnesota.

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