Research Notes -
from Park Genealogical Books,
your specialists in genealogy and local history for Minnesota and the surrounding area

Minnesota by Rail

Many of Minnesota's communities began as railroad villages, centers of burgeoning economics. Some supported the shipping of farm produce to other markets; others the movement of iron ore from the pit mines to the Great Lakes.

The U.S. government granted land to be used to finance the development of the railroads. Some of the railroads were very small, and existed for a short time, before going bankrupt or being acquired by larger lines. Others were created with a larger vision, and in turn affected a wide area. For example, it was the choice of the Minnesota side of Lake Superior for the railway terminus that caused Duluth to be the larger of the Twin Ports, even though Superior, Wisconsin, was the older place.

The multiplicity of rail company names presents problems for family researchers. If 'Grandpa worked for the railroad,' which railroad? is the first question to be answered before records can be found. Often a researcher will have only an acronym, which doesn't match to the names familiar to current family members.

Finding railroad employment records is possible when the correct name of the line is known. The Minnesota Historical Society holds records for some of the railroads in the state but not all. Holly Hansen's book Directory of North American Railroads, Associations, Societies, Archives, Libraries, Museums/Collections brings the rail community and its holdings to the researcher: each listing is arranged alphabetically with an additional state/province index at the back to help locate resources geographically.

The lexicon below was first compiled and copyrighted by Hudson Leighton and William Cordes in 1996 as part of an ongoing research project to document Minnesota railroads and depots. The dates for the beginning and end of each line have been added, with a new copyright. I am grateful for their willingness to share the list on these pages.

And Park Genealogical Books published a gazetteer of Minnesota railroad towns put together by the same team. It lists those places that had a railroad to help with local area research, and the name(s) of the lines that served each of them. The intent is to assist those who know where their ancestors lived, but who are unsure of the railroad to research. For example, "My great grandfather worked for the railroad, and lived in X and Y." Migration patterns for many followed the railroad lines, both employees and new settlers. See our catalog for details on ordering it.

To use the lexicon:

  1. The first column gives an acronym for one of Minnesota's rail lines. They are presented in alphabetical order.
  2. The second is start date for the line.
  3. In the third is the official name of the rail line.
  4. The ending date for the line.
  5. The fifth shows the code for the successor line, which can then be looked up in the first column. If no code appears in the End column, it is either a current railroad, or was abandoned without a successor.
Rep Mark Start Name Present End
ALS 1900 Albert Lea & Southern RR DSCR 1903
AMTK 1971 National Rail Passenger Rail Corp. (Amtrak)

BBR 1889 Bass Brook RR
BCRN 1878 Burlington Cedar Rapids and Northern Ry. Co. CRIN 1903
BFFR 1989 Buffalo Ridge RR NRR 1992
BFIF 1907 Big Fork and International Falls NP 1914
BFN 1905 Big Fork & Northern Ry. MI 1905
BMR 1880 Barnesville & Moorhead Ry. SPMM 1880
BN 1970 Burlington Northern BNSF 1996
BNMR 1892 Brainerd and Northern Minnesota Ry. Co. MI 1901
BNSF 1996 Burlington Northern & Santa Fe RR. BNSF 2005
BNSF 1996 BNSF Ry.

CBN 1887 Chicago Burlington and Northern Ry. Co. CBQ 1899
CBQ 1899 Chicago Burlington and Quincy RR. Co. BN 1970
CCDM 1878 Chicago Clinton Dubuque and Minnesota RR Co. CMSP 1880
CDMR 1872 Chicago Dubuque and Minnesota RR Co. CCDM 1878
CDRC 1888 Cherokee and Dakota RR Co. DSCR 1888
CDRY 1879 Chicago and Dakota Ry. Co. WSP 1881
CGW 1893 Chicago Great Western Ry. Co. CNW 1968
CHRC 1878 Chatfield Railroad Co. WSP 1881
CIRR 1909 Cuyuna Iron Range Ry. Co. MSPSSM 1910
CMO 1880 Chicago St. Paul Minneapolis and Omaha Ry. Co. CNW 1904
CMRC 1879 Caledonia and Mississippi Ry. Co. CCDM 1880
CMSP 1878 Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul Ry. Co. MILW 1926
CMWR 1879 Caledonia Mississippi and Western RR Co. CCDM 1880
CN 1923 Canadian National Ry.

CNoR 1903 Canadian Northern Ry. CN 1923
CNRC 1912 Cuyuna Northern Ry. Co. NP 1914
CNW 1880 Chicago and North Western Ry. Co. UP 1995
CRCM 1872 Central Railroad Company of Minnesota SMRC 1879
CRIN 1888 Cedar Rapids Iowa Falls & Northwestern Ry. Co. BCRN 1902
CRIP 1903 Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Ry. Co.
CRRR 1992 Cedar River RR

CSPKC 1887 Chicago St. Paul and Kansas City Ry.. Co. CGW 1983
CTRR 2002 Cloquet Terminal Railroad

CVAR 1984 Cedar Valley RR CRRR 1992
CVSR 1882 Chippewa Valley and Superior Ry. Co. CMSP 1882
CYPX 1989 Cyprus Mining NSMX 1994
DAKR 1985 Dakota Rail
DCNR 1889 Duluth Crookston and Northern RR Co. NP 1898
DIRR 1884 Duluth and Iron Range RR Co. DMIR 1937
DME 1986 Dakota Minnesota and Eastern

DMIR 1937 Duluth Missabe and Iron Range Ry Co.

DMN 1892 Duluth Missabe and Northern Ry Co. DMIR 1937
DMNR 1872 Dubuque and Minnesota RR Co. CCDM 1878
DMR 1886 Duluth and Manitoba RR Co. NP 1898
DMRN 1895 Duluth Mississippi River and Northern RR Co. ERCM 1899
DMVR 1899 Des Moines Valley Ry Co. CMO 1900
DMW 1898 Duluth Missabe & Western
DNE 1898 Duluth and Northeastern RR Co. CTRR 2002
DNM 1898 Duluth and Northern Minnesota (Alger Smith Line)
DPL 1911 Minneapolis St. Paul Rochester and Dubuque Electric Traction Co. MNS 1918
DRLW 1903 Duluth Rainy Lake and Winnipeg Ry Co. DWP 1912
DRWS 1889 Duluth Red Wing and Southern RR Co. WMP 1901
DSB 1893 Duluth Superior Bridge Co. ECRM 1901
DSCG 1907 Duluth St. Cloud Glencoe and Mankato Ry Co. CMSP 1910
DSCR 1887 Dubuque and Sioux City RR Co. IC 1903
DSLR 1888 Duluth Short Line Ry Co. SPDR 1898
DSSA 1887 Duluth South Shore & Atlantic SOO 1961
DSW 1896 Duluth Superior and Western Ry ERCM 1898
DSWT 1897 Duluth Superior & Western Terminal Co. GN 1898
DTRC 1888 Duluth Terminal Ry Co. GN 1928
DTRR 1902 Duluth Transfer RR Co. NP 1902
DTRY 1887 Duluth Transfer Ry Co. DTRR 1902
DUD 1890 Duluth Union Depot Co. DUDT 1892
DUDT 1890 Duluth Union Depot and Transfer Co. NP 1902
DVRL 1903 Duluth Virginia and Rainy Lake Ry Co. DRLW 1905
DWP 1912 Duluth Winnipeg and Pacific Ry Co. CN 1975
DWRC 1888 Duluth and Winnipeg RR Co. ERCM 1898
EMCX 1954 Erie Mining Co LTV 1986
ERCM 1888 Eastern Railway Company of Minnesota GN 1907
ESL 1913 Electric Short Line Ry. MW 1924
ESLR 1913 Electric Short Line RR ESLTC 1915
ESLTC 1913 Electric Short Line Terminal Co. MNS 1956
FSRC 1884 Fargo and Southern Ry Co. CMSP 1885
GBLP 1871 Green Bay & Lake Pepin RR GBM 1873
GBM 1873 Green Bay & Minnesota RR GBWSP 1881
GBW 1910 Green Bay and Western RR WCL 199?
GBWSP 1881 Green Bay Winona & St. Paul GBW 1896
GLNR 1885 Gull Lake & Northern Ry. BNMR 1894
GN 1889 Great Northern Ry Co. BN 1970
GNTR 1918 Great Northern Terminal Ry. Co. GN 1928
GRSC 1884 Grantsburg Rush City and St. Cloud RR Co. SPDR 1899
HCRC 1910 Hill City Ry Co. GN 1935
HD 1867 Hasting and Dakota Ry Co. CMSP 1872/1880
IBT 1910 International Bridge and Terminal Co. MDW 1910
IC 1867 Illinois Central RR Co. ICG 1972
ICE 2002 Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad Corp.

ICG 1972 Illinois Central Gulf RR CVAR 1984
ICRY 1888 Iowa Central Ry. Co. MSTL 1912
IMNW 1900 Iowa Minnesota and Northwestern Ry CNW 1900
IMRL 1997 I & M Rail Link ICE 2002
ISTR 1907 Inter-State Transfer Ry. DMIR 1938
ITR 1809 Itasca Railroad
KNR 1877 Knife Falls RR NP 1900
KRR 1886 Kettle River Railway Co. SPDR 1887
LCTP 1871 La Crosse, Trempealeau and Prescott RR. Co. CNW 1877
LFD 1882 Little Falls and Dakota RR Co. NP 1900
LFS 1891 Little Falls and Southern RR Co. NP 1899
LQPR 1983 Lac Qui Parle RR

LSM 1868 Lake Superior and Mississippi RR Co. SPDR 1877
Lake Superior and Southeastern WC 1906
LTV 1986 LTV Steel Mining Co.
MACR 1915 Minneapolis Anoka and Cuyuna Range GN 1966
MBLC 1917 Minneapolis Belt Line Co. GN 1928
MBLT 1892 Minnesota Belt Line Railway and Transfer Co. MTFR 1898
MCFD 1902 Mason City and Fort Dodge RR Co. CGW 1909
MCMR 1870 Mason City & Minnesota Ry. Co. CMSP 1871
MCRR 1882 Minnesota Central RR Co. WMPR 1883
MCRY 1864 Minnesota Central Ry Co. MGW 1867
MCTA 1992 Minnesota Central
MD 1871 Minneapolis and Duluth Ry Co. NP 1901
MDN 1883 Minnesota and Dakota Northern RR Co. SPMM 1883
MDW 1910 Minnesota Dakota and Western Ry Co.

ME 1879 Minneapolis Eastern Ry Co. CNW/MILW 1972
MGN 1904 Minnesota and Great Northern Ry Co. GN 1907
MGW 1867 McGregor Western Ry Co. MLSP 1867
MHCW 1910 Mississippi Hill City and Western Ry Co. HCRC 1915
MI 1901 Minnesota and International Ry. Co. NP 1941
MILW 1926 Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific Ry. Co. SOO 1986
MIRC 1899 Minnesota and Iowa Ry Co. CNW 1900
MLMR 1879 Minneapolis Lyndale and Minnetonka Ry. MSRR 1887
MLSP 1869 Milwaukee and St. Paul Ry Co. CMSP 1874
MMDR 1878 Minnesota Midland Ry Co. CMSP 1883
MMRC 1900 Minnesota and Manitoba RR Co. CNR 1903
MNI 1959 Minneapolis Industrial Ry Co. CNW 1960
MNNR 1987 Minnesota Commercial

MNO 1900 Minnesota & Ontario Bridge Co. CN
MNR 1912 Minneapolis and Northern Ry MACR 1915
MNRC 1871 Minnesota and Northwestern RR Co. CRCM 1872
MNRR 1997 Minnesota Northern RR.

MNS 1918 Minneapolis Northfield & Southern Ry Co. SOO 1982
MNUR 1900 Mankato and New Ulm Ry Co. WSP 1900
MNUS 1895 Minneapolis New Ulm & South Western RR Co. MSTL 1899
MNVA 1983 Minnesota Valley Transportation Co. MCTA 1992
MNW 1881 Minneapolis and Northwestern RR Co. SPMM 1883
MNW 1895 Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin RR
MNW 1871 Minnesota & Northwestern RR Co. CRCM 1872
MNWE 1914 Minnesota Northwestern Electric Ry Co.
MNWR 1886 Minnesota and North Western RR Co. CSPKC 1887
MPLI 200? Minnesota Prairie Line, Inc. (TCW)

MPRC 1858 Minnesota and Pacific RR Co. SPP 1862
MPRY 1886 Minneapolis and Pacific Railway Co. MSPSSM 1888
MR 1912 Mesaba Ry. Co.
MRLM 1898 Minneapolis Red Lake & Manitoba Ry
MRRR 1901 Minneapolis and Rainy River Ry.
MRTC 1895 Mantorville Railway and Transfer Co. CGW 1897
MSCO 1887 Minneapolis and St. Croix Ry Co. MSPSSM 1888
MSCR 1882 Minneapolis and St. Cloud RR Co. SPMM 1883
MSCW 1884 Minnesota St. Croix and Wisconsin RR Co. WC 1888
MSD 1900 Minnesota and South Dakota Ry Co. WSP 1900
MSLPE 1879 Minneapolis and St. Louis Ry Co. Pacific Extension MSTL 1881
MSPSSM 1888 Minneapolis St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Ry Co. SOO 1961
MSPT 1902 Minneapois and St. Paul Terminal Ry Co. CRIP 1904
MSR 1894 Mesabe Southern Ry. NLC 1896
MSRY 2001 Minnesota Southern Railway

MSSE 1888 Moorhead and Southeastern Ry Co. SPMM 1891
MSSMA 1887 Minneapolis Sault Ste Marie & Atlantic Ry. MSPSSM 1888
MSTL 1871 Minneapolis and St. Louis Ry Co. CNW 1960
MTFR 1884 Minnesota Transfer Ry Co. MNNR 198?
MURC 1883 Minneapolis Union Ry Co. GN 1907
MVR 1865 Minnesota Valley RR Co. SPSC 1870
MVRY 1878 Minnesota Valley Ry Co. WSP 1881
MW 1924 Minnesota Western RR Co. MSTL 1956
MWRC 1885 Minneapolis Western Ry Co. GN 1928
MWRY 1902 Minnesota Western RY Co. CNW 1902
MZDT 199? Minnesota Zephyr Dinner Train

Northern Lumber Co. BNM 1894
NLRR 2005 Northern Lines Ry. (Anacostia & pacific)

NMRR 1890 Northern Mississippi Railway
NP 1870 Northern Pacific Ry Co. BN 1970
NPFBH 1881 Northern Pacific, Fergus & Black Hills RR Co. NP 1899
NPR 1997 Northern Plains RR

NRR 199? Nobles & Rock RR MSRY 2001
NSMX 1994 North Shore Mining

NSSR 1988 North Shore Scenic RR

ORRR 1900 Ontario & Rainy River Ry. CNR 1903
OSCV 199? Osceloa & St. Croix Valley

OTVR 1986 Ottertail Valley

PADW 1893 Port Arthur and Western Ry. ORRR 1900
PGR 1996 Progressive Rail

PRC 1878 Plainview RR Co. WSP 1881
PRLL 1897 Park Rapids and Leech Lake Ry Co. GN 1907
RIMT 1902 Rock Island, Minneapolis Terminal & Transfer Co. CRIP
RLTC 1899 Red Lake Transportation Co. MRLM 1905
RMC 1953 Reserve Mining Co. CYPX 1986
RNM 1878 Rochester and Northern Minnesota Ry Co. WSP 1881
RRLC 1904 Red River Lumber Co.
RRLW 1883 Red River and Lake of the Woods Ry SPMM 1883
RRM 1877 Red River and Manitoba RR Co. SPMM 1879
RRMR 1877 Red River & Manitoba RR Co. SPMM 1879
RRVR 1875 Red River Valley Railroad Co. SPMM 1879
RRVW 1987 Red River Valley and Western

RTM 1884 Railway Transfer Company of Minneapolis CNW 1984
SACN 1882 Sauk Center and Northern Ry Co. SPMM 1883
Superior Belt Line & Terminal Co. GN
SCDR 1894 St. Croix & Duluth RR
SCGA 1883 Saint Cloud, Grantsburg & Ashland SPD 1899
SCLT 1880 St. Cloud and Lake Traverse Ry Co. SPMM/LFD 1880/1882
SCMA 1885 St. Cloud Mankato and Austin RR SPMM 1886
SCNRY 1889 Sioux City and Northern Ry Co. WSF 1900
SCRI 1873 St. Croix Railway & Improvement Co. SPST 1873
SCSP 1871 Sioux City and St. Paul RR Co. CMO 1881
SCVY 1997 Saint Croix Valley Ry.

SHRC 1880 Stillwater and Hastings Ry Co. CMSP 1882
SLTR 1916 Spirit Lake Transfer Ry Co. DMIR 1937
SMRC 1866 Southern Minnesota RR Co. CMSP 1880
SOO 1960 Soo Line Ry Co. CP 1995?
SPBT 1909 St. Paul Bridge and Terminal Ry Co. CGW 1935
SPC 1869 St. Paul and Chicago RR Co. CMSP 1872
SPD 1876 St. Paul and Dakota RR Co. WSFR 1876
SPDR 1877 St. Paul and Duluth RR Co. NP 1900
SPMM 1879 St. Paul Minneapolis and Manitoba Ry Co. GN 1907
SPNP 1877 St. Paul and Northern Pacific Ry Co. NP 1896
SPP 1862 St. Paul and Pacific RR Co. SPMM 1879
SPPFB 1864 St. Paul and Pacific RR Co. (lst Division) (Branch) SPMM 1879
SPPFM 1864 St. Paul and Pacific RR Co. (lst Division) (Main) SPMM 1879
SPSC 1871 St. Paul and Sioux City RR CMO 1881
SPSE 1914 St. Paul Southern Electric Ry.
SPST 1872 St. Paul Stillwater and Taylor's Falls RR SPSC 1880
SPStCF 1888 St. Paul and St. Croix Falls RR WC 1888
SPTT 1902 St. Paul Terminal & Transfer Co. CRIP 1904
SPUD 1879 St. Paul Union Depot Co.
SPUS 1886 St. Paul Union Stock Yards Co. CGW 1941
SPWB 1892 St. Paul and White Bear RR SPS 1899
SRLC 1899 Swan River Logging Co. ERCM 1902
SRN 1899 Split Rock & Northern RR
SSLR 1886 Superior Short Line Ry Co. of Minnesota CMO 1895
SSPB 1900 South St. Paul Belt RR Co. BCRN 1901
SSRT 1878 Stillwater Street Railway & Transfer Co. UDTS 1881
SStP 1870 Stillwater and St. Paul RR Co. SPD 1899
STRC 1907 Stockyards Terminal Railway Co. SPBT 1909
SUDT 1888 Stillwater Union Depot & Transfer Co. NP 1902
TCW 1991 Twin Cities and Western

TFLS 1878 Taylor's Falls and Lake Superior RR Co. SPD 1898
TFS 1881 Taylor's Falls and Superior RR Co. StPDR 1899
TLRR 1895 Tower Logging RR Co.
TNW 1881 Toledo & Northwestern Ry. Co. CNW 1890
TRC 1855 Transit RR Co. WSP 1862
UDTS 1896 Union Depot & Tansfer Co. of Stillwater NP 1902
USMT 1883 Union Stockyards - Minnesota Transfer MTFR 1884
VRLC 1908 Virginia and Rainy Lake Co.
WBRC 1891 Winona Bridge Ry Co. CBQ/GBW 1938
WC 1888 Wisconsin Central Ry Co. SOO 1961
WCL 1987 Wisconsin Central Ltd. CN 2001
WMNU 1870 Winona Mankato and New Ulm RR Co. WSP 1880
WMP 1882 Wisconsin Minnesota and Pacific Ry Co. CGW 1899
WNR 1905 Wilton and Northern RR
WPR 1891 Wadena and Park Rapids RR Co. SPMM 1891
WRCM 1877 Western Railroad Co. of Minnesota SPNP 1883
WSF 1889 Willmar and Sioux Falls Ry Co. GN 1907
WSFR 1876 Worthington and Sioux Falls RR SPSC 1879
WSP 1863 Winona and St. Peter RR Co. CNW 1867
WSW 1889 Winona and Southwestern Ry Co. WW 1894
WVRC 1899 Watonwan Valley Ry Co. CMO 1899
WW 1900 Winona and Western Ry Co. WMP 1901
WWIS 1871 West Wisconsin Ry Co. CMO 1881

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