Twin Cities & Western on track for rail improvements

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TCWR2010Hopkins
A Twin Cities & Western train departs Hopkins with a transfer run to Minneapolis on former Milwaukee Road track, June 26, 2019.
Steve Glischinski
GLENCOE, Minn. – The Twin Cities & Western Railroad will embark on track improvements this summer, thanks to a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration. The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety Improvement grant for $2.01 million is being used for a rail joint elimination project, TC&W President Mark Wegner says. The railroad will cut off the bolted rail ends of jointed rail and then flash-butt weld the rails together. About every 10 rails a new rail will be added for the lost footage of the bolt-hole ends. The railroad will focus on 112-pound rail, where the bolt holes are a half inch closer to the rail ends than the bolt holes on 115-pound rail.

According to Wegner with the federal money and economies of scale 28 miles of track can be converted to welded rail through this method. Work will begin where existing welded rail ends in Chanhassen and work west toward Norwood Young America. The railroad hopes to start the project in August. The portion to be upgraded is part of the former Milwaukee Road main line to the Pacific Northwest, once the route of the famed Olympian Hiawatha.

Wegner expressed thanks to elected officials who assisted in getting the FRA grant. The bi-partisan effort included Democratic U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and Rep. Colin Peterson, and Republican Rep. Tom Emmer and former Republican Rep. Eric Paulsen.

Further east, a separate project will move and improve track used by Twin Cities & Western in conjunction with the Southwest Light Rail Project now under construction. Contractors for the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council will construct new track east of Excelsior Boulevard in the Minneapolis suburbs of Hopkins and St. Louis Park on the former Minneapolis & St. Louis right-of-way. The right-of-way is a trail that runs parallel to the ex-Milwaukee Road line used by TC&W. Once work on the ex-M&StL is complete, TC&W trains will move over to the new track, and the ex-Milwaukee route will be used for the light rail line. Twin Cities & Western’s move to the new track will happen in late 2019 or early 2020.

–This story was updated to correct the source of the grant funds
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