Northern Lights Express

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
DanPatchToget
Union Depot
Posts: 377
Joined: March 30th, 2016, 1:26 pm

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby DanPatchToget » March 13th, 2017, 8:47 pm

Well the tracks between Duluth and Two Harbors are owned by the St. Louis County Rail Authority and are lightly used (not sure how many freight trains go through there, but other than that its just the North Shore Scenic Railroad). I noticed from Google Maps there is railcar storage during the off-season.

The tracks between Big Lake and St. Cloud are owned by BNSF and are used heavily, so extra track is needed if we are ever going to extend Northstar to St. Cloud, but that requires funding, which requires a certain daily ridership level set by the federal government in order to receive funding, but that ridership level can't be reached with the current schedule.

mattaudio
Stone Arch Bridge
Posts: 7505
Joined: June 19th, 2012, 2:04 pm
Location: NORI: NOrth of RIchfield

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby mattaudio » March 14th, 2017, 9:15 am

DanPatchToget wrote:
March 13th, 2017, 8:47 pm
extra track is needed if we are ever going to extend Northstar to St. Cloud, but that requires funding
BNSF recently rebuilt double-tracking from Big Lake to Becker, so trackage shouldn't be an issue for Northstar. I do know there's probably a need for triple tracking the main from Minneapolis Junction or Northtown to Coon Creek Junction (the Duluth split) before any additional trains would happen via Northtown.

Regarding NLE to Two Harbors... not going to happen. But I do wonder if North Shore Scenic Railroad could adjust their services to allow for scheduled seasonal weekend service for people staying in Two Harbors. You could do turns on Thursday PM, Friday PM, two or three on Saturday and Sunday, and a Monday AM service.

MNdible
is great.
Posts: 5439
Joined: June 8th, 2012, 8:14 pm
Location: Minneapolis

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby MNdible » March 14th, 2017, 9:23 am

I don't think there are enough hotel rooms in Two Harbors (let alone in walking distance from the depot) to ever justify a service like this. Two Harbors is a nice little train day trip from Duluth, especially now that Castle Danger is there, but that doesn't require synchronized transfers.

grant1simons2
IDS Center
Posts: 4170
Joined: February 8th, 2014, 11:33 pm
Location: Marcy-Holmes

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby grant1simons2 » March 14th, 2017, 10:48 am

It would be nice to have cheaper transit up to the Superior Hiking Trail. The shuttle that they have is pricey for someone who's just doing a few days up there. It costs $35 to go as far as 9 miles back to your starting point. And that's for 1 person. I think there will be a good amount of people who would ride the train to the trail. Especially if they somehow have shuttle from the station to the trail.

Didier
Capella Tower
Posts: 2320
Joined: June 3rd, 2012, 10:11 am
Location: MSP

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby Didier » March 14th, 2017, 11:25 am

mattaudio wrote:
March 14th, 2017, 9:15 am
But I do wonder if North Shore Scenic Railroad could adjust their services to allow for scheduled seasonal weekend service for people staying in Two Harbors. You could do turns on Thursday PM, Friday PM, two or three on Saturday and Sunday, and a Monday AM service.
Something like this doesn't seem unreasonable, given the circumstances. The X factor, though, would be whether North Shore resorts would be willing to add shuttle service to and from Two Harbors. As Grant mentioned, I don't think Two Harbors the city (or the two harbors) is the appeal, per se.

MNdible
is great.
Posts: 5439
Joined: June 8th, 2012, 8:14 pm
Location: Minneapolis

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby MNdible » March 14th, 2017, 11:33 am

It's only a half hour from the Duluth Depot to Two Harbors by auto, so if your final destination is somewhere further up the North Shore and not Two Harbors itself, it almost certainly makes more sense to take the shuttle direct from Duluth rather than adding in another transfer.

User avatar
Tiller
US Bank Plaza
Posts: 791
Joined: January 17th, 2015, 11:58 am

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby Tiller » March 14th, 2017, 11:53 am

How technically feasible would it be for the St Louis County RRA (along with Cook and Lake Counties' if it got far enough) to lay some track further north along the shore of Lake superior in conjunction with MNDOT rebuilding highway 61?

xandrex
Wells Fargo Center
Posts: 1221
Joined: January 30th, 2013, 11:14 am

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby xandrex » March 14th, 2017, 12:11 pm

grant1simons2 wrote:
March 14th, 2017, 10:48 am
It would be nice to have cheaper transit up to the Superior Hiking Trail. The shuttle that they have is pricey for someone who's just doing a few days up there. It costs $35 to go as far as 9 miles back to your starting point. And that's for 1 person. I think there will be a good amount of people who would ride the train to the trail. Especially if they somehow have shuttle from the station to the trail.
Given that the shuttle appears to be privately owned, it would appear that it’s priced to cover costs. They very well might be charging an exorbitant amount, but is extending a train line so day hikers from the Twin Cities don’t have to pay the shuttle fee really a good investment of our scarce transit dollars? At least in my mind, the answer is…probably not.

mattaudio
Stone Arch Bridge
Posts: 7505
Joined: June 19th, 2012, 2:04 pm
Location: NORI: NOrth of RIchfield

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby mattaudio » March 14th, 2017, 12:18 pm

Not really feasible at all, given the topography between the hills / Sawtooth Mountains and the lakeshore. Remember, there are two massive tunnels on Hwy 61 north of Two Harbors for the two lane highway. And it's been a long and slow road to get a paved multi-use path along that length of road, something which will likely take another few decades.

If money were no expense and rail buffs were ruling over common sense, it would be cool to see the old LTV railway extended from Taconite Harbor about 10 miles north to Lutsen... but that would be more of a tourist train to nowhere, than anything useful.

grant1simons2
IDS Center
Posts: 4170
Joined: February 8th, 2014, 11:33 pm
Location: Marcy-Holmes

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby grant1simons2 » March 14th, 2017, 2:40 pm

xandrex wrote:
March 14th, 2017, 12:11 pm
grant1simons2 wrote:
March 14th, 2017, 10:48 am
It would be nice to have cheaper transit up to the Superior Hiking Trail. The shuttle that they have is pricey for someone who's just doing a few days up there. It costs $35 to go as far as 9 miles back to your starting point. And that's for 1 person. I think there will be a good amount of people who would ride the train to the trail. Especially if they somehow have shuttle from the station to the trail.
Given that the shuttle appears to be privately owned, it would appear that it’s priced to cover costs. They very well might be charging an exorbitant amount, but is extending a train line so day hikers from the Twin Cities don’t have to pay the shuttle fee really a good investment of our scarce transit dollars? At least in my mind, the answer is…probably not.
If I implied trains, I didn't meant to. Just a twice a day shuttle maybe? 4 times a day? Getting people up the shore

mulad
Moderator
Posts: 2738
Joined: June 4th, 2012, 6:30 pm
Location: Saint Paul
Contact:

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby mulad » December 4th, 2017, 12:00 pm

This thread's been silent for a while, but I'd personally be much more interested in seeing NLX service extended from Duluth to Grand Rapids, Hibbing, or Virginia up along the Iron Range. You could get to the Iron Range via Two Harbors, since tracks lead from there up to Hoyt Lakes, but that's a circuitous route.

Of course, accessing the Iron Range means competing with super-heavy trains that move slowly and cause more track damage. There would probably need to be a lot of sidings or double-track added to ensure any passenger service wasn't too badly impacted, which of course makes the cost skyrocket.

tmart
Landmark Center
Posts: 236
Joined: October 6th, 2017, 10:05 am
Location: Expat

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby tmart » December 4th, 2017, 1:00 pm

I always figured the full-build plan, to whatever extent there even is one, was for Duluth to be a secondary rail hub in Northern MN. You could have service to the Range, Bemidji, and (in a crazy unrealistic dream world where we can solve how to operate a train across the unguarded border with our closest ally) Thunder Bay. Then you'd offer timed transfer service to MSP.

Obviously direct service is more convenient and useful, but I wouldn't want it to be a limiting factor on frequency or speed of service between Duluth and MSP, which would see far more traffic.

grant1simons2
IDS Center
Posts: 4170
Joined: February 8th, 2014, 11:33 pm
Location: Marcy-Holmes

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby grant1simons2 » December 4th, 2017, 1:19 pm

Gentle reminder that Amtrak operates a $25 train from Seattle to Vancouver that runs 7 times a day. A fact that I just recently discovered and am already upset about.

User avatar
kellonathan
Nicollet Mall
Posts: 124
Joined: July 8th, 2012, 12:25 am
Location: Seattle, WA
Contact:

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby kellonathan » December 4th, 2017, 1:34 pm

Seattle to Vancouver "WA" (aka 'the Couv') is 7 times a day, but Seattle to Vancouver "BC" is only twice a day.
Jonathan Ahn | hello@jonathanahn.com
Keep calm and ride transit.

tmart
Landmark Center
Posts: 236
Joined: October 6th, 2017, 10:05 am
Location: Expat

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby tmart » December 4th, 2017, 1:37 pm

Yes, I was exaggerating a bit, but only a bit. I'm currently living in Montreal and moving here has been an exercise in discovering just how wonky our border actually is, in lots of ways. One of them was discovering that border control of all things has been one of the key hurdles to introducing more service to the States. Awhile ago, this caused the Montrealer to be truncated to the Vermonter, and even on the Adirondack which still serves Montreal, it adds a ton of time and uncertainty to the already-slow trip, and has been a major impediment to making rail speed improvements.

Apparently they're finally building preclearance at Montreal Central Station, which is nice, but it took a long time to come together for a single station, and the model only scales to the scenario where service terminates at the first Canadian stop. It also adds a bunch of airport-style early-arrival requirements for travel into the US.

Didier
Capella Tower
Posts: 2320
Joined: June 3rd, 2012, 10:11 am
Location: MSP

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby Didier » December 4th, 2017, 2:28 pm

I took the Montreal train into the Adirondacks last summer. The train stops at the border and a few agents walk through and check everyone's passports. A few people are then called to the back of the train for further discussion. After what seems like forever — probably close to an hour — the trains continues.

As tmart says, they were advertising a future U.S. customs station in Montreal, similar to how Canadian airports have U.S. customs. No idea if that's imminent or just in the plans, though.

Either way, taking the train across the border was more of a hassle than I anticipated, and I probably wouldn't do it again.

Considering the size and relative isolation of Thunder Bay, plus the lack of meaningful connections to Minnesota (and the lack of connection to the Trans Canadian Railway), it's hard to see it ever making sense to send a train there. Connecting Winnipeg to Grand Forks and the Empire Builder would probably be easier and better.

tmart
Landmark Center
Posts: 236
Joined: October 6th, 2017, 10:05 am
Location: Expat

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby tmart » December 4th, 2017, 3:07 pm

Yeah, I cited Thunder Bay as a possibility *if* we had HSR to Minneapolis from Duluth, and *if* Duluth became a regional hub. Its relative isolation means a sufficiently fast rail link would probably be leaned on pretty heavily. However, I underestimated the distance--at close to 200 miles it would actually be longer than the actual NLX!

In any case, it's interesting to think about, since at 110k population it's actually significantly larger than any of the other destinations we're considering as extensions or transfers from Duluth. Hibbing is the largest candidate and it's only 16k.

HiawathaGuy
Wells Fargo Center
Posts: 1417
Joined: June 4th, 2012, 12:03 pm

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby HiawathaGuy » December 4th, 2017, 3:38 pm

Didier wrote:
December 4th, 2017, 2:28 pm
I took the Montreal train into the Adirondacks last summer. The train stops at the border and a few agents walk through and check everyone's passports. A few people are then called to the back of the train for further discussion. After what seems like forever — probably close to an hour — the trains continues.
My experience with Vancouver, BC to Seattle 2 summers ago was similar to this - except it was only a 20-30 min. delay. But it was annoying nonetheless, seeing as how we went through a US Customs preclearance area at the Vancouver train station before leaving... but still had to show our passports on the train to the authority.

DanPatchToget
Union Depot
Posts: 377
Joined: March 30th, 2016, 1:26 pm

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby DanPatchToget » December 4th, 2017, 10:12 pm

Here are transit improvements I thought of on the Iron Range:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1X57cH ... sp=sharing

As tmart said Duluth would be a northern hub for bus and rail. While the bus line to Thunder Bay isn't as great as a rail line (especially HSR), it would save us a ton of money, reduce the environmental impact by a huge amount, and a range of services are offered to cater to travelers (commuter, regional, and express).

Also the regional rail line to Bemidji could be extended to Grand Forks.

MNdible
is great.
Posts: 5439
Joined: June 8th, 2012, 8:14 pm
Location: Minneapolis

Re: Northern Lights Express

Postby MNdible » December 5th, 2017, 10:53 am

There's no way you could ever get enough passengers to justify running anything more than a DMU on any route beyond Duluth, and at that point, you could never justify the costs of the rail and safety upgrades. With the possible exception of Highway 61 on a summer weekend, which only has a parallel rail corridor as far as Two Harbors, none of these roads get congested.

Sorry, railfans.


Return to “Transportation”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], mplsjaromir, papazim and 6 guests