Leaving St Paul on the Milwaukee Road, a train would head south along the Mississippi River. It would then split off the MILW, and cross the Mississippi River on the now removed Rock Island Swing Bridge. It would share a double track line with the Chicago Great Western, later Chicago Northwestern. The CGW would split off on the west side, and would eventually cross over the Spine Line. The CGW would go to Hampton. One line would split and go to Cannon Falls, while the other went to Northfield. A single line connected Northfield and Cannon Falls too. Back on the Spine Line. The Spine Line went to Rosemount, and shared a line with one of the oldest railroads in Minnesota, the former Minnesota Central, then Milwaukee Road. I have no idea why MILW let Rock Island piggy back there, because RI was competition. The MN&S never went past Northfield, but did connect to this line at Northfield. So anyway it stayed on the MILW until a city called Dundas, near Northfield. It split closer to Faribault though at Comus. It went on the east side of town, while the MILW went on the west side and the CGW came across the middle. The CGW paralleled the line from Northfield, crossing near Faribault and coming into Faribault. . That way they could access their Red Wing to Mankato Line from the Twin Cities.
Starting in Faribault, the Spine Line would cross the Straight River 10 times; all those bridges had stone and steel. Some had Steel Girders, some had Deck Plate Girders and one had Deck Truss.
At Medford, it would parallel but not share the Milwaukee Road. In Clinton Falls, it would climb a grade and cross over the Milwaukee Road on an impressive Stone and Steel bridge then would cross high above the Straight River. It would go under the CNW, later DM&E in Owatonna, cross the Straight River 5 more times and go to Albert Lea from there. It would catch up to the M&STL and MILW (a different MILW Line) in Albert Lea. The MILW that paralleled it at Faribault went to Austin instead. It used the M&STL to get to Manly. At Manly, it would split away from the origional CRIP main and bypass Mason City to the East, heading towards Waterloo and Cedar Rapids.
The extension from Des Moines to Mason City was built in 1913 by the St. Paul and Kansas City Shortline Railroad. It was soon absorbed by Rock Island.
The Rock Island was suffering badly for much of the time. Talks of the Rock Island merging with Union Pacific began in 1960, and fell through before 1980. The Rock Island entered the last revievership in 1980, and the Soo Line and Chicago Northwestern began a bidding war for this line. CNW got it for 93 Million, and started operations in 1985. CNW became part of Union Pacific in 1995. Union Pacific named this line their Albert Lea Subdivision. CNW abandoned the Swing Bridge, as they could use the CGW line to go from St. Paul to Rosemount.
Today, this line sees about 12 trains a day. The MILW line from Eagan to St Paul was
ripped out years ago, so trains to Rosemount come from downtown St Paul over the Lift
Bridge to Rosemount. As we all know, the MILW was purchased by SOO in 1985. From St
Paul to Rosemount is owned by Union Pacific. Progressive Rail owns the section from
Northfield to Cannon Falls, as well as the ex MN&S from Northfield to Lakeville.
MN&S was purchased by Soo the same time as MILW. Soo sold the portion from Northfield
to Lakeville in 2004. Union Pacific sold them the Cannon Falls line in 2004. They use
the ex MILW to get to Faribault. Canadian Pacific has abandoned the portion of the
MILW from Faribault to Owatonna. DM&E, a subsidiary of Canadian Pacific owns the old
CNW in Owatonna, the M&STL in Albert Lea is gone. The old Spine Line is owned by Union Pacific
from Manly to Des Moines and Kansas City. The Rock Island to Waterloo is now owned by Iowa Northern.
This is one of the hidden gems in Minnesota. It is hard to access, and you do need to walk over 1/2 a mile. It crosses an abandoned Milwaukee Road line. The bridge has stone piers and abutments, despite being build 1902.
This bridge is in good health, despite taking a beating from several trains a day. There is one thing to note. Some of the main span has some damage near the east end of it.
So this bridge exists because the Rock Island went down to Albert Lea, while the MILW turned at Owatonna and went to Austin. They needed to cross before Owatonna.
This was a perfect place, because they were already on a huge fill to cross the Straight River about .3 miles west of here.
To access this bridge, walk down the abandoned MILW tracks over 1/2 a mile.
The phrase "Clinton Falls Crossing" refers to the fact that this is near the town of Clinton Falls.
The photo above is looking from the Milwaukee Road.