• Chatfield, MN Power? (C&NW)

  • Discussion relating to The Chicago & North Western, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road), including mergers, acquisitions, and abandonments.
Discussion relating to The Chicago & North Western, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road), including mergers, acquisitions, and abandonments.

Moderator: Komachi

  by Komachi
Hey, guys...

Just out of curriosity, does anyone know what power was used on the C&NW branch to Chatfield, Minnesota? I would assume the locomotive(s) would have been based out of Rochester (or run through and used on the line between Rochester and Chatfield).
  by Komachi

I'm building a 4x8 HO layout that I'm going to put up for auction for a local Cancer charity (see my thread on "Musings on a 4x8" here... http://railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=72677 ), and since the Chicago & North Western was one of two railroads to serve Fillmore County, I'm currious to know what power ran the local to Chatfield and back to Rochester. (I want the fictional shortline to have two used units that reflect the railroad heritage of the area: the C&NW and the Milwaukee Road.)

Also, I'm just genuinely currious about the line. I don't remember the C&NW operating in Chatfield, as I was born in 1976 and don't know if operations ceased around then, or shortly before or after. All I know is that all that remains of the line, is a spur that serves the Sennica Foods (formerly Libby's) canning plant and a scrap yard just south of Rochester. I don't think there was much industry in Chatfield to be served mainly grain elevators and the depot. So, I can't imagine anything bigger than a Geep or RS unit or maybe even an SW or S-series switcher plying the rails of this branch.

Interesingly enough, John Cartwright, an artist who does railroad-themed works, partcularly depots, did a print of the Chatfield depot...

So, yeah...

Trying to get a little bit of info. for modeling purposes, but I'm also currious about the history of the line as well.

Incidentally, mtuandrew, I grew up 15-20 miles south of Chatfield in the little town of Preston (Milwaukee Road country!!! :P ), so I'm somewhat familiar with the area (just not the history of the C&NW in Fillmore County!).
  by mtuandrew
Oh, that's really cool! Good to see you're donating it to a cancer charity, and congrats on your anniversary as alluded to in the other thread.

If you're going off "what motive power was in the area", I'm only really familiar with the CGW RS-2s that plied their branchlines through Rochester, Simpson, Planks Crossing and Stewartville. I'd have to look up the steam and diesel that would have been available to the C&NW and the CMStP&P, since I doubt Dad remembers specifics. In fact, I think the line you're referring to is the CGW line - it ran from Red Wing south through Zumbrota and into Rochester (now the Douglas State Trail), paralleled then crossed the C&NW in downtown Rochester, and continued southeast to Simpson where it joined the CGW Winona branch and headed south to Osage, Iowa. The C&NW Chatfield branch was just that, a branch off the ex-Winona & St. Peter at Eyota (see the old wye here) which headed straight south, crossed the CGW Winona branch at Planks Crossing, then followed one of the draws into the Chosen Valley. It ended at Chatfield, though grading continued past the east edge of town towards Fountain (but never got there - I think even grading ended less than a mile past modern city limits.) The C&NW ended operations to Chatfield in the early 1960s, but I don't know when exactly. Its twin north to Plainview was abandoned much later, in the 1990s.

I mentioned the ore operations in my last post, that would be a really interesting operation to include in your railroad. Apparently the southeastern area of the state has many small deposits of soft iron ore, so a company made a business of clearing off topsoil and excavating individual farmers' fields, then trucking the ore to Chatfield to be transloaded into empty coal hoppers. Dad specifically remembers that they only loaded them about half full, otherwise they'd be overweight for the tracks. There was a concrete ramp for the operation, but I can't say what it looked like specifically. Perhaps there are pictures in the Chatfield News archives.

Good luck, and if I come across anything else, I'll let you know.
  by mtuandrew
Hi, Komachi, try looking for the North Western Lines magazines from Winter 1996 and Spring 1996 - they cover the Winona & St. Peter and the CGW near Rochester, respectively. Not a ton specifically on Chatfield in either magazine, but I suspect you'll be able to draw some good conclusions about the area. There's a good chance that the power on the Eyota-Chatfield line would have included RS-3s and RSD-4s, GP units and the odd SW. Dad remembers steam into the 1950s, which is consistent with the C&NW Historical Society's assertion that steam came off system-wide in 1956. According to the Winter 1996 issue of NWL, the Chatfield-Eyota line was abandoned in 1971, though Dad remembers it gone earlier (on a break from his studies at the University of Minnesota, probably in the late 1960s) - maybe the Planks Crossing-Eyota segment lasted longer than Chatfield-Planks Crossing because of CGW trackage rights.

From my dad:

"Besides the CNW Historical Society journals (which we have a couple of) http://www.cnwhs.org/index.htm, a good source for your friend will be a pamphlet that can be found in the Chatfield Historical Society. Really, this is a ring binder (2 identical copies) written by John Thompson. John was a section gang foreman on the Chatfield to Plainview branch. He does detail the ore shipping ops. There was a manual turntable for steam engines that didn't like to back up to Eyota. I remember it, but it disappeared in the 50's. There were no coaling or water towers; there were coal bins that they could tap, and the engine feedwater pump could draw water from Mill Creek, tangent to the tracks in many locations- I can't think of any bridges over Mill Creek for at least 4 miles out of town. Thompson includes modern snapshots showing sites as well as a lot of prose describing the operations generally. His "book" was written after abandonment. I don't recall reading descriptions of engines- he was more into describing revenue ops, schedules, maintenance, derailments, weather, etc. Passenger service disappeared before my day, but older kids could sometimes catch a ride to Eyota in the caboose where their parents would pick them up. I was pretty friendly with a station agent named Ed Lampe who had a wonderful Irish Setter. We could go in the depot about any time.

"I always thought that Chatfield to Plainview would be interesting to model...especially geographically, going back to the days of the cannery and various mills. I tried the search tool at cnwhs.org, and only got one hit. There is a Dan Scott in Chatfield that is interested in local history. I seriously doubt any SD's ventured down there on that light rail...there were more than a few rail break derailments in the ore shipping era (all diesel, with partially filled hopper cars destined for Granite City, IL).

# CNW Locomotive 6910 EMD SD40-2 Activities 1999 - Dan Sorce D. Scot Chatfield

"At least one journal refers to the CNW as the "ALCO line"- never heard that one before, but plausible."
  by Komachi
Dude, sweet!

Give your dad a "Mange tusen tak" from me. It is very much appreciated. :-D

I'll have to hit up the Chatfield HS the next time I'm up there and see what I can find out. I'm not opposed to having an RS ply the rails of the layout, as I'm an admitted ALCophile. Maybe an S-1 for the Milwaukee unit... Hmmmmmmmm.
  by mtuandrew
For the MILW (depending on your timeframe), maybe you could find or kitbash a model of one of their Bulldogs on the Southern Minnesota RR. For those who don't know what I'm referring to:
Minnesota Rail Calendar 2010 wrote:...To minimize operating expenses, the Milwaukee dieselized Austin-La Crosse trains 157 and 158 in 1955 by assigning Bulldog 5900 to this service.

Two 1,000 hp Bulldogs, 5900 and 5901, were turned out by the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Shops in May and June 1948. They were initially assigned to operate between Milwaukee and Berlin, Wisconsin and Harlowton and Great Falls, Montana. The units were capable of pulling a four-car train at speeds of up to 85 mph. The Bulldogs were also fitted with a Railway Express section in the rear of the units, but this saw little if any use.
You could probably also toss in an A-B-B-A set of red, black and maroon mismatched CGW Fs, just for giggles. :wink:
  by Desertdweller
I am new to this forum, but hope to be able to contribute useful information now and then.

I lived in Winona, MN for 18 years and began my railroad career there in 1973 on the Milwaukee Road. In answer to the previous posts, if I remember correctly Eyota was the town where the CGW's Winona branch crossed the CNW's Black Hills Main Line. I was unaware that CNW used to have a branch that dropped down to Chatfield from there, but that is neat to know.

What power would have been used of course depends on what time frame. In the late 1960's-early 1970's, the CNW would have most likely used GP-7's or GP-9's, also possibly RS-2's, 3's, or RSD-4's for a line like that. In the 1970's the Black Hills Main Line became known as th "Alco Line". By that time, Class 1's like CNW were concentrating their fleets of minority builders' power to certain mainenance bases to concentrate parts inventory. "Alco Line" power was maintained at Winona, MN, and (especially) at Huron, SD. In the early 1980"s, even C-628's and RS-32's were regular road power there.

Mention was made earlier of an iron mining operation. That was before my time, but it took place near Spring Valley, MN on the CGW line that used to run south out of Rochester. It also served Ostrander. It was an open pit operation.

The CGW line into Rochester came down from the north from Pine Island. This line followed the breaks to the Mississippi River at Red Wing, serving clay mines in the area that supplied Red Wing Pottery. Power I remember on the CGW at Rochester was limited to RS-series Alcos by the time I discovered it. This line had a branch that once went to Winona. It paralleled the Black Hills line from Eyota to near Lewiston, then swung north and crossed US 14 to Bethany. In earlier times (to the mid-1930's) this line entered Winona via Bear Creek Valley and Rollingstone, then entered the Mississippi Valley at Minnesota City. It then followed the foot of the bluffs south to Winona.

The Milwaukee Road got into the action, too, in this Southeast corner of Minnesota. We had two branch lines that were former 3' narrow gauge. One ran west from the Iowa main line at Brownsville, MN. The other left the Twin Cities Main Line at LaCrescent, MN. These lines ran parallel about 20 miles apart until they joined at a junction named Isenours. The line then continued on to Austin and Albert Lea. They served town like Caledonia, Mable, Houston, and Lanesboro (the latter near Chatfield). A curiousity of these lines was the retention of very light bridges (left over from narrow gauge days?).
So we had a little fleet of SW-1's, equipped to MU with each other for these trains.

Milwaukee Road had a better-known narrow gauge operation in the areas until the 1930's that ran west from Wabasha to Zumbrota. Wabasha once had a bridge that crossed the Mississippi and gave Milwaukee trains access to their Chippewa Valley line northeast to Eau Claire and Durand, WI. This line became the haunt of RSC-2's and SDL-39's.

  by Komachi

Thanks for the additional info.!

Believe it or not, my hometown of Preston was the western terminus of the Caledonia, Mississippi & Western, which was the narrow gauge line that ran between Reno (originally Summer, MN) and Preston.

The link with the Southern Minnesota (the line that ran from LaCressent to Austin and westward to the Dakotas) was built just after the turn of the century after both lines were acquired by the Milwaukee and the CM&W had been converted to standard gauge.

I was born about a month and a half, or so, after the last train pulled out of town on October 29, 1976 and have no recollection of trains running through Spring Valley, Fountain, Lanesboro, etc. before that line was abandoned in 1980.

I should also metnion that trains didn't run any further east than Caledonia on the CM&W after '48, when a trestle between Caledonia and Reno was washed out and never replaced.

And, from what I've read, and heard from some of the guys who used to work the Preston - Caledonia line was that, indeed, the bridges and trestles were too light to support the weight of heaver locomotives, so the SW-1s were the only locomotives that could operate on the branch.

I knew the line between Huron SD and Winona was the "ALCo. Line," but I wasn't sure if they ran them down to Chatfield or not. I guessed it could possibly be an RS-2, or something like that. I also wasn't sure if they had a dedicated unit that was stationed in Chatfield, or Eyota that was used specifically for the Chatfield - Eyota branch or if the Northewstern just used whatever they ran for road power that given day.

And since you're a MILW man, Les, you might enjoy this...

The Preston Historical Society is trying to rebuild the 1903-vintage grain elevator to become an interpretive center to tell the agricultural and railroad history of Preston. They have two pieces of rolling stock that they intend to put on display. One piece is a 1939-vintage, 40' steel ribbed-sided boxcar (one of the first the MILW built in its own shops in Milwaukee) and the other piece is a 1951-vintage, steel, ribbed-sided caboose (which was of the last group of home-built cabooses). The boxcar has been restored, but the caboose still needs A LOT of work.


Thanks for the info. guys. It is very much appreciated!!!
  by Desertdweller

Preston. Yes, I've been there.

If you were modelling the steam era, you might consider an R-1 4-6-0. These were the GP-7's of their day, and in fact were replaced by GP-7's and 9's.

The last time I was in Houston, MN, the old depot was still standing. I think this station dates from about the time of the Civil War, maybe older.

The town where the iron ore came from was, I believe, LeRoy, MN. The CGW station was still in existence there in the early 1980's, but I haven't been there since.

I think the original Winona and Southwestern depot building is still standing in Winona. It was one of the few downtown buildings to survive the big fire in 1862. IIRC, it stood near the coner of Second and LaFayette Streets, next to the building that was the CB&Q ticket office (now gone). The CB&Q office was on the corner, and used to be their passenger station. They shared a common train shed and stub tracks with the Winona and Southwestern Station. The W&SW became part of the CGW.

In later years (up to AMTRAK), CB&Q ran a converted schoolbus (painted red and cream, like their gas-electrics) from this building to "Winona Junction". This Winona Junction was about a mile north of the other Winona Junction where the GB&W crossed the CB&Q on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. The CB&Q Winona Junction consisted of two heated cabins facing each other across the double track main.

In the early days, CB&Q passenger trains wyed onto the GB&W at the southern Winona Junction to enter Winona over the Winona Bridge Company bridge. They were wyed again on the Wall Street wye, and backed down Front Street to the station.
The last passenger train to use this track, AFAIK, was a special run in November 1967 at the instigation of CB&Q TM Gene Malay. This train carried college students from Winona to Chicago for Thanksgiving break, during some very severe winter weather. I was attending St. Mary's College in Winona at the time.

The track behind this station may still be there. I remember the CB&Q kept an SW-1 parked there for local switching.

There were five railroads in Winona in those days! CNW, CGW, CBQ, GBW, MILW.

My first assignment (38 years ago today) was working a relief clerk job at the Milwaukee Road station there. Part of my duties were to carry waybills and train lists to our interchange roads at Winona (GBW and CNW). I remember the big red Alcos of the GBW belching black smoke on cold mornings. The GBW office was in a building that also housed their engine house. Winona was their western terminal. On the wall of the enginehouse was a large cutaway drawing of an FA-1. That probably wound up as a real prize for someone.

Milwaukee Road was one of only two Class 1's I have worked for. I have led a boomer's career on 12 railroads, mostly short lines and regionals. Right now I am what I expect to be my last railroad, the Southwestern in Deming, NM. I am going to retire in April and go home to Ogallala, Nebraska. I have worked in Deming as a loco engineer, Supervisor of Engineers, and as a substitute Operations Manager. Next career: US Coast Guard Auxiliary!

  by Minneapolitan
My great-grandfather was a MILW sectionman in Caledonia. All the information put forth by you guys is pretty accurate!
Desertdweller wrote:Mention was made earlier of an iron mining operation. That was before my time, but it took place near Spring Valley, MN on the CGW line that used to run south out of Rochester. It also served Ostrander. It was an open pit operation.
To be more exact, it was near Cherry Grove. If you look there on Google Maps, you can still see the CGW right of way.