Before the arrival of TC&W, the "Ortonville Line" was operated by the SOO Line.
The line was originally built by the Hastings & Dakota between 1872 and 1880. The Milwaukee Road purchased the H&D
in 1880 and completed the "Benton Cutoff" between Cologne and Minneapolis before continuing the railroads effort to reach the west coast.
After the SOO Line take over of the Milwaukee Road,
the line was considered a branch line and CP began looking at selling
its extensive network of branch lines. The TC&W was born on paper on July 26th, 1991 and the first train ran one day later
on the 27th.
Since startup the TC&W has seen healthy growth and annual carloads have more than
doubled since startup. Being a mainly agricultural railroad, traffic heavily relies on the weather and the current market for
grains. Similar to most Midwestern shortline railroads, the TC&W has seen a large surge in ethanol traffic in recent years.
This has resulted in unit trains of ethanol and DDGs. The railroad continues to strive to diversify its traffic base and help
the communities along the line to grow. Annual carloads average a little around 20,000.
In 2002 Minnesota Prairie Line Inc (MPLI) began operations as a TC&W subsidiary on the former Minneapolis & St. Louis line between Norwood (connection with TC&W) and Hanley Falls, MN.
The 94-mile line is owned by Minnesota Valley Regional Railroad Authority (MVRRA). In 2012 TC&W purchased the assets of Sisseton & Milbank Railroad (SMRR) and operates the 37-mile railroad also as a subsidiary.
Locomotives & Railcar Fleet
The TC&W boasts one of the most unique locomotive fleets of any shortline. As of 2016, a total of 20 locomotives
are being used on the TC&W system including power for MPLI and SMRR. A total of nine engines have been repowered with
Caterpillar prime movers (four GP20Cs, three GP30Cs and two GP15Cs) while ten are EMD powered (one GP10, two GP39-2s, four GP38-2s, two SW1200s and one SSB1200) plus
one slug in a CF7 body. Two out of service ex-NS slugs and another CF7 slug are also stored at the railroads headquarters in Glencoe, MN but haven't seen service for many years.
Minnesota Prairie Line shares locomotives with TC&W and units constantly drift from one railroad to another. The SMRR locomotives (SW1200 and SSB1200) are captive to SMRR.
Currently, the TC&W owns and leases around 700 railcars. The majority of the cars are covered hoppers for grain service.
47 RBL boxcars are used to serve Senece Foods in Glencoe and Arlington on MPL. There are also 16 airslide boxcars, 5 sidedump gondolas and
other MOW cars. Foreign railcars are brought onto the system when needed.
The TC&W's traffic base is largely made up of grain products (corn, grain, wheat, barely, soybeans etc.) for over 15 online
grain elevators. Large amounts
of sugar, molasses, beet pulp pellets, coal, limestone, coke, lumber, and fertilizer (in various forms) are also shipped as well as an ever increasing amount of ethanol and
DDGs (Dried Distilled Grains).
The TC&W operates 229 miles of track from St. Paul, Minnesota to Milbank, South Dakota. Trains operate six days
per week (Mon-Sat) from St. Paul to Ruebel and five days a week west of Reubel. Operations sometimes continue seven days a week when
demand is at its peek during the summer and fall.
Glencoe is the headquarters and is the location of the engine house. There are three home terminals on the railroad:
Hopkins, Glencoe and Montevideo. Tie up points include the home terminals plus St. Paul, Milbank, Ortonville and Shoreham (Minneapolis).
The TC&W system is broken up into five different core areas. In addition to the five core trains, there is a Utility Job
based out of Glencoe that does any work that needs to be done around the Glencoe area and heads west to later change crews with Ruebel Turn.
There is also the Savage Turn which originates out of Hopkins and an intermodal train (NSI) that runs between Montevideo and Shoreham (Minneapolis)
Going from the East to the West, the St. Paul Turn goes on duty at 0700 at Hopkins. The train is a transfer that runs east
from Hopkins into the Twin Cities to St. Paul Yard to interchange with CP. Interchange with BNSF and CN is handled at the Minnesota
Commerical's Midway Yard. Additional stops are made at the Union Pacific's East Minneapolis Yard when needed. A UP Turn is occasionally
called to go to East Minneapolis and MNNR/Midway Yard. On those days the St. Paul Turn only goes to St. Paul Yard and back to Hopkins.
The next train is the Glencoe Turn that is based out of Hopkins and is basically a continuation of the St. Paul Turn using
the same power. The crew goes on duty in the evening and heads west to Glencoe performing local work along the way in both directions. In Glencoe
the train picks up the train that came from Ruebel earlier that day and brings it back to Hopkins.
The Utility Job goes on duty at 0600 in Glencoe and switches customers in the area, the shop services the power before
heading west. Upon its departure, a Ruebel Turn crew is called and relieves the Utility Job en route and finishes the work out to Ruebel and then
heads east back to Glencoe. Trips to the Granite Falls Energy ethanol plant can also be made.
Between Ruebel and Milbank, SD is the territory of the West End Switch. The west end of the railroad is
operated depending on what work needs to be done where.
An ever increasing number of unit trains have begun running on TC&W, sometimes multiple per day. Ethanol plants in Granite Falls and Winthrop (MPLI) receive and ship unit trains regularly.
Shuttle grain elevators in Brownton, Buffalo Lake, Montevideo and Appleton load unit grain trains from Class I railroads in the Twin Cities. The Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (SMBSC) in Ruebel also receives about 12
unit coal trains per year with BNSF power.
From the major cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to the modest scenery in western Minnesota the TC&W is true Midwestern railroading.
Only one train is a night job, the Glencoe Turn, and US Highway 212 follows the tracks for most of the between Hopkins and Montevideo. Highway
7 follows the line to Ortonville where Highway 12 follows the tracks well beyond Milbank.
In the Twin Cities the train can be followed without too much difficulty, but a map is recommended if you're new to the area.
A map is also useful east of Cologne as no single road follows the tracks closely and the tracks have a much more direct path.
Track speed is a modest 30MPH west of Hopkins making chasing trains easy without testing the local authorities. The entire line is TWC
with portions of yard limits in Glencoe, Ruebel/Renville, Montevideo and Appleton. Most communication is done on the road channel, AAR 90 161.460.