Minnesota Commercial ends service to Bayport, Minn.

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The last Minnesota Commercial Railroad heads to Bayport, Minn., on Dec. 28.
Steve Glischinski
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Commercial Railway has ended service to Anderson Windows in Bayport, Minn., which it served via trackage rights over BNSF Railway and Union Pacific. The last run from St. Paul to Bayport happened on Dec. 28.

The railroad cited several factors in ending the service, but a major issue was BNSF’s policy that all trains running on their mainlines in the area comply with U.S. positive train control laws as of Jan. 1, 2018. Minnesota Commercial President John Gohmann says the railroad could not justify the half-million-dollar cost of equipping two locomotives with PTC. In addition to that cost, Gohmann says there were also prohibitive insurance costs from Meteorcomm, the satellite transmission vendor owned by four Class I railroads. There were also unspecified Minnesota Commercial back office costs to monitor PTC equipped locomotives.

To reach Bayport, the short line ran on approximately six miles of BNSF’s ex-Great Northern Midway Subdivision and about 18 miles of UP’s ex-Chicago & North Western Altoona Subdivision, then on a short UP branch into Bayport.

Anderson Windows, which opened its Bayport factory in 1913, was once a huge rail shipper. At one time, it was served by three railroads: Chicago & North Western’s Omaha Road, Milwaukee Road, and Northern Pacific. In recent years, Andersen was down to about 100 total cars a year — all plastics. To break even, Minnesota Commercial had to accumulate at least 10 hopper cars at its yard in St. Paul before making the run to Bayport, but cars were taking an average of 35 days to arrive at the yard. In the end, the short line was either breaking even or losing money on the service, making the decision to end it easier.

The railroad has made arrangements to transload Andersen plastic cars starting Jan. l. Andersen has another plant in Pine City, Minn., which has been receiving rail-truck transload plastics for several years.

“Andersen has been cooperative and understanding, which we appreciate,” Gohmann said.

Another casualty of the PTC mandate will be Minnesota Commercial’s operation over BNSF to Northtown Yard in Minneapolis. When Minnesota Commercial took over operations of the Minnesota Transfer Railway (owned by the Class I railroads of the Twin Cities) in February 1987, all the former owning roads agreed to interchange with the new railroad at its yard in St. Paul. In 1990, Burlington Northern asked the short line to do interchange with them at Northtown. BN, then BNSF, continued to do select interchange with the short line in St. Paul in addition to Minnesota Commercial’s run to Northtown, but this practice will change Jan. 1 and BNSF will operate the interchange exclusively, as Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific currently do.
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