In 1878, they built from Melrose to Alexandria. By the next year, they became the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba railway (StPM&M), but before that happened they finished building to Barnesville.
By the next year, it was completed to Moorhead/Fargo. At Barnesville, a switch controlled a line built around the same time to Crookston via Glyndon, Ada and Beltrami.
The order of the cities that this line went through is: St. Cloud, St. Joseph, Collegeville, Avon, Albany, Freeport, Melrose, Sauk Centre, West Union, Osakis, Nelson, Alexandria, Garfield, Brandon, Evansville, Ashby, Dalton, Fergus Falls, Carlisle, Rothsay, Barnesville, Baker, Sabin, Moorhead before finally crossing the Red River to Fargo, ND.
For most of the way, it followed US 52, but 52 was combined with 94 when that was built in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's.
The StPM&M became the Great Northern in 1907. The GN operated this line as a mainline, until they merged with their rival Northern Pacific in 1970 to form the Burlington Northern. The BN already had the Ex NP Staples Sub, so they abandoned the part from Monticello to Clearwater in 1983, and Clearwater to St. Cloud in 1984.
The BN abandoned the part from Collegeville to Avon in 1981. They sold the part from Avon to Barnesville to Otter Tail Valley Western railroad in 1986.
OTVR turned right around in 1992, and ripped out the tracks, between Avon and Fergus Falls. But they left the bridges alone. If BN had ripped out the line, all the bridges would have been removed. The tracks were removed in the mid 1990's. The Minnesota DNR purchased the line from Collegeville to Fergus Falls.
BNSF was created in 1996 when BN and Santa Fe RR merged. They abandoned the line from St. Joseph to Collegeville in 2002.
The Albany Jaycees planned a trail in 1995. They worked hard with fundraising and getting people on board. The Trail opened from Collegeville to Osakis on September 30th 1998. The trail became very popular, because it connected several small to medium sized cities along the former US 52 corridor. The trail was named the Lake Wobegon Trail, which was a fictitious town in Minnesota, said to be the boyhood home of Garrison Keillor. Sinclair Lewis almost drowned in a stone arch bridge over Hoboken Creek in Sauk Centre
Now Osakis wanted it extended. It opened from Osakis to Fergus Falls in August 2005. This part was named the Central lakes trail, for the lakes area it goes through. Minnesota is famous for their 10,000 lakes.
The trail was also extended to St. Joseph after BNSF leased the part from St. Joseph to St. Cloud in 2002.
This trail is one of the only trails that has the original Railroad Milepost's as it's
mileposts. All the bridges have asphalt decks, and the trail has many of them. There are
also stone Culverts all over the place. Check out my regional trail guide for this trail.
This bridge is a three span through plate girder bridge over MN-78 just outside of Ashby.
The bridge was clearly built by American Bridge Company (the steel embossings would say)
The bridge is rather undecorative, although it serves its function. Today it is a trail.
The photo above is looking at the south face.