Originally built by the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad to connect its namesake cities of St. Paul and Duluth, Minnesota, the Skally Line defined the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad as it was their only main track.

The main line ran north and south through towns like St. Paul, present day Maplewood, White Bear Lake, Hugo, Forest Lake, Wyoming, Rush City, Hinkley, and Duluth. Present day Highway 61 runs parallel to the old route. It had branches going into Minneapolis, Stillwater, Taylor’s Falls, Kettle River, and Cloquet, Minnesota as well as Grantsburg and Superior Wisconsin.

The Skally Line was operated by Northern Pacific in 1900 when it acquired the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad. Later, in 1970 it was acquired by Burlington Northern when Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, Great Northern, and Northern Pacific merged. After this merger the route duplicated those that were already in place by Great Northern and was slowly sold, converted to trails, or given operational leases to other railroads.

The track between St. Paul and Maplewood has been removed, much of which is a trail that intersects with the popular Gateway Trail. Between Maplewood and Hugo the line is used by Minnesota Commercial, and between Hugo and North Branch the roadbed serves as a trail. North Branch to Hinkley is operated by the St. Croix Valley Railroad, and from Hinkley north to Duluth it is again a trail.

Not only does Minnesota Commercial operate on the Maplewood to Hugo portion of the line, it accesses it using the track remaining from the Minneapolis branch at M&D Junction, a wye in White Bear.

Next week I will talk more about the Taylor’s Falls branch as I am completing reading of a book detailing that particular branch. In yet another post I would like to describe some of the current operations on the section controlled by Minnesota Commercial.

References: St. Paul and Duluth Railroad from Wikipedia, and Memorial Library.

About Chad Leigh Kluck

Originally from Nebraska, I am a history and railroad enthusiast currently living near Saint Paul, Minnesota. I enjoy trains, photography, and nostalgic memories, as well as the history of transportation, agriculture, eateries, breweries, and railroad towns. More...

5 Comments

  1. Pat Pepin
    Posted January 23, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Was wondering where Summit Switch,2 miles north of Duluth Junction would have been?
    There was a bad accident there in 1892 that I am investigating.My husband relayed a story to me that I found very interesting.He was staying in a house at Grantsberg Wisc. when he was 5 or 6,and saw a caboose in his room with a man waving a lantern.He got scared and woke his parents who saw nothing.In the morning it was mentioned the house was built on an old railroad bed.He does not remember the people or where the house was.His grandparents originally came from the Rush City,Pine City area.I thought it was fascinating,and have been doing some research.I found out about the Blueberry Special,and am trying to find out if any of his family rode that.I know they often travelled to the Twin Cities,now I know how they did it so easily.Trying to find out if any family members had ties to the railroad.

    • Posted January 24, 2011 at 2:06 am | Permalink

      Pat, I’m happy to help and would love to elaborate if you have more information about the accident, or can direct me in the location of your sources about the accident. I think it warrants me finding out more about it and posting the info on the accident and a little more history about the Stillwater Branch of the NP’s Skally, on which Duluth Jct and Summit was located.

      Here’s what I have: I referenced “SPV’s Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North America: Dakota & Minnesota.” On page 23 I found Duluth Junction (which I drive past on my way to the doctor’s office–with a 4 yr old we go there often). It listed Summit siding to the east about in the middle of a dip south the track makes. I then started a Google map of Summit Siding plotting some locations. Finally, I referenced a USGS map of Stillwater (go to usgs.gov, Imagery and Maps, and find the free downloadable topo 7.5 minute map for Stillwater (45092-A7-TF-024) – sorry, I couldn’t get a direct link to work). I should have started here first because the high resolution map had the name of the siding, as well as the siding itself plotted. So, for an idea, refer to the Google map, and if you want the exact location I recommend downloading the USGS map.

      The USGS maps are pretty cool because there is even a browser/PDF plugin called GeoPDF which allows you to click on a point in the PDF map and go directly to Google maps, no guesswork involved!

      At the USGS site you’ll also be able to download a map showing the old roadbed of the NP branch from Rush City to Grantsburg. You should be able to plot the line right through the bedroom!

      Again, thanks for the lead and the story, if you have more to add either reply to this comment, or send me a direct message through the contact form. It was fun researching and plotting the map! I hope to do more!

  2. Posted January 24, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Here is a link to GenDisasters with two transcribed articles.

    http://www3.gendisasters.com/minnesota/16835/duluth-junction-mn-train-wreck-jun-1892

    One says north of Duluth Jct, the other says south of Duluth Jct. Summit is east, and since one train was bound to Stillwater, and the other leaving, I would have to say north and south are incorrect.

  3. Posted January 25, 2017 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I grew up near the Skally Line in Maplewood MN spent alot of time watching trains and dreaming about working for the Railroad when I was old enough to hire on BN my first job was a clerk job at Daytons Bluff Yard getting to know all the crews that saw me as a boy long the tracks the old NP crews were the best fun bunch later off the extra board got work as Agent at Rush City and Hinckley sadly watch all those old job go

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