Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad Recovers From Flood

Updated: 08/17/2014 10:25 PM
Created: 08/17/2014 4:19 PM
By: Briggs LeSavage

After flooding a couple years ago wiped out bridges along the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad's route, volunteers thought it might be the end of 35 years of showing tourists the St. Louis River Corridor by train. 

"We didn't know if we'd be back up in operation, if it was going to be economically feasible for the (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad) to actually replace the bridges, so our future was in question," Harold Dols, a 11-year volunteer with the LS&M Railroad, said. 

The railroad had to stop running for a few months in 2011 and then the entirety of the 2012 season because of flooding, but with repairs complete and service back to full throttle two years later, Dols said the railroad is now finding issues in higher insurance costs. 

"Significantly higher insurance costs have been taking a toll in terms of us being able to plan forward with seasons and our operation," Dols said.

Part of the tracks LS&M Railroad runs on are BNSF property. Dols said if LS&M would be able to avoid higher insurance costs if they consider moving launch sites.

"We have some potential ideas of moving our operations and starting off in Riverside and we'd be completely on our own LS&M tracks and from there we could actually continue on with our $5 million liability coverage."

Volunteers are also looking for new ways to show off the area's rich history--a similar goal to the city. 

"I think we could be a wonderful asset to the development of the recreational potential of this area. We've been here for well over 35 years bringing people down close to the St. Louis River and showing it's wonderful beauty and history. I think we could continue to do that and bring people and kayaks and bikes and so forth down to this area," Dols said. 

But he said there might also be other options on the table for the railroad, including adding a bike path. Dols said LS&M Railroad hopes to be able to work in collaboration with any projects.

Sharon Broscious is visiting Duluth from Richmond, Virginia. She said it's encouraging to see so many working so hard to help their railroad.

"We thought that was pretty impressive that there's a group of people who are willing to make that commitment to keep this railroad running," Broscious said. "I think it's a great idea and hopefully they can keep doing it."

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