St. Paul and Duluth Skally Line

By Chad Kluck on

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.