Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority: Steadfastly Serving Redwood Area Businesses
The Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority (MVRRA) faithfully serves the businesses of Redwood County. 2020 was a tough year for many businesses, but MVRRA stayed busy, completing projects and shipping goods and commodities. MVRRA Administrator, Julie Rath, shares what the team at MVRRA has been up to and what their plans for 2021 will look like.
“The TC&W, in the form of its Minnesota Prairie Line, Inc. subsidiary (MPLI), operates and maintains the rail line that MVRRA owns,” says Rath.
The tracks were originally built in 1880 and were acquired by the MVRRA in 1982. The Minnesota Prairie Line runs 94 miles and serves 16 communities. MVRRA is headquartered here in Redwood Falls.
MVRRA Wraps up 2020 Projects
“At the end of 2020, I am proud to say that Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority wrapped up some of our larger projects we had been working to complete from 2019 and our $1M bonding project,” Rath says.
“During 2020, MVRRA had a record year for carloads shipped on its line – just over 7,000! Each carload is equivalent to 3 semi-trucks NOT going down the highway! We moved and received goods and commodities for our shippers to their end customers all over the US. That is the beauty of being a short line railroad,” she says.
MVRRA has also experienced an increase in railroad car traffic in Redwood Falls as a result of Midwest Protein expanding here a few years ago. Midwest Protein is experiencing success being in such an excellent area to serve organic grain producers. Soon they will be expanding their existing site with additional bins for storage and shipping on the MVRRA line.
The line will also be expanding in nearby communities, with another major expansion this spring at Echo, Minnesota.
“Farmers Cooperative Elevator intends to remove and replace the majority of their facility in Echo. A new steel facility is being constructed and will consist of covered unload pits, loadout bins, bulk weighing system for rail loadout, steel building and office, all necessary fill and empty equipment, and a new 700,000 bushel steel bin will be erected in its place. In addition to the new rail loadout bulk weighing system, track rehabilitation and reconstruction will take place to facilitate rail loadout. Approximately 400 feet of track (including a switch) adjacent to the new facility will be rehabilitated,” reports Rath.
Rail cars have not been loaded from this facility since 2009, and they will begin shipping on our track this fall.
Rath also reports that Redwood Falls Railroad Depot in the Sears Park saw major renovations over the summer of 2020.
“Thank you to the City of Redwood Falls Park Department for taking the initiative to give this small structure an overdue makeover! It looks much better, and it is mentioned on the Sears website under history that their company started here in North Redwood with Mr. Richard Sears selling the excess pocket watches while he worked at the Depot here!” Rath says.
MVRRA Looks Ahead For 2021
Rath gave several more exciting updates.
“During the past 5 years some out of service rail cars on the MPLI and TCW line have been in storage, but on February 5, 2021, the first 66 of 170 cars went back into service. Train traffic will increase as the cars move east to connections in the Cities,” she reports.
In July of 2021, COVID-permitting, the North American Rail Car Operators will be riding our track with their rail speeder cars.
“They travel all over the USA with their cars and still like to ride our track and visit our area and community!” Rath says.
Two more projects are planned for the MVRRA track.
“This summer, the Region 8 DOT has partnered with us to complete east of Morton a silt mitigation project to deal with the excess runoff water that comes down from the bluff. This project will help control the water flow and the amount of silt on the Highway and tracks,” says Rath.
“On October 15, 2020, we were awarded $10M in the State bonding bill for continued rail rehabilitation and restoration of our track from Gibbon west to Delhi, Minnesota,” she continues.
The MVRRA also has plans to use funds through the Federal Railroad Administration and/or Federal EDA for continued infrastructure improvements. The next phase of track replacement planned is from 1912! To date, MVRRA has completed 44 miles of track replacements, including the replacement of bridges with culverts as well as rail crossings and tie upgrades.
“We now safely move unit trains, 110 carloads at a time, with the 4 large North American railroads with connections in St. Paul,” Rath says.
The MVRRA is happy to report that the railroad has never been in better shape, and it will continue to faithfully serve farmers and industries for years to come.
“This is an incredibly unique transportation infrastructure that we are so fortunate to have located here in our region,” says Rath.
Redwood Area Development Corporation is proud to work with such an important landmark and pillar of infrastructure. For more success stories, click here.