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Local History

The first rail line to reach the area arrived from St. Paul in 1870. That line, known as the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad, entered Duluth from the southwest along the St. Louis River. The LS&M provided a direct link between the Mississippi River at St. Paul and the Great Lakes (Lake Superior) at Duluth. The LS&M's line from Carlton to Duluth, although being very scenic, was operationally difficult with tight curves, numerous trestles and stiff grades. A trip between St. Paul and Duluth that today takes 2-1/2 hours by highway took the first passenger trains over 16 hours to complete.

Big changes came to the LS&M in 1872 when the line was leased and later absorbed by the Northern Pacific Railway. The NP had started its transcontinental push west from Carlton, a junction with the LS&M, in 1870. The LS&M thus provided NP with access to Duluth and St. Paul. Changes to the route into Duluth occurred in 1886 when the difficult line along the St. Louis River was replaced with a better line from West Duluth to Carlton. This line, known as the Short Line, was abandoned by Burlington Northern in the mid-1970s and is today the very popular Willard Munger bike/snowmobile trail. A portion of the original LS&M running along the St. Louis River from West Duluth to New Duluth remains intact and serves as a summer-operated tourist railroad with the same name.

As the ports of Duluth and Superior grew in importance, especially with the discovery of iron ore north of Duluth, other railroad companies began to arrive. Companies such as the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha (C&NW), Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic (Soo Line), Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie (Soo Line), Wisconsin Central (Soo Line), Duluth & Winnipeg (GN), Eastern Minnesota (GN), Duluth & Iron Range/ Duluth, Missabe & Northern (DM&IR), and the Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific (CN) all built lines into the Twin Ports. Though mergers, acquisitions and abandonments have decreased the number of lines serving Duluth-Superior, the variety and frequency you will find in the Twin Ports still rivals larger rail centers.

As 2005 dawned there were four Class 1 railroads serving the Twin Ports - BNSF, CN, CP, and UP.