Click here for my Soo Line Index Page A 100-year Timeline History of
The Soo Line Railroad
and it's Predecessors
Click here for my Soo Line Index Page

Minnesota produces over seven million bushels of grain.
Minnesota's first railroad built from Minneapolis to St. Anthony, serving the fast-growing flour mills of the area.
The first railroad between the present Twin Cities and Chicago opened. Millers in the Twin Cities area consider the rates charged to be exorbidant.
A line from St. Paul to Duluth built. Its builders wouldn't extend a branch to St. Anthony, so the millers there built a railroad (the beginning of the Minneapolis & St. Louis Ry.) to White Bear. Much of their east-bound flour is now routed via Duluth and carried by boats on the Great Lakes.
Hon. Israel Washburn first suggests a railroad for the 500 miles between the Twin Cities and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
May 30, 1883
The Aberdeen, Bismarck & North Western Ry. organized.
September 29, 1883 (or Sept. 25, 1883?)
Articles of incorporation of the Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie & Atlantic Railway filed at Madison, Wisconsin. The incorporators were:
  • W. D. Washburn (elected President)
  • H. T. Welles
  • John Martin
  • Thomas Lowry
  • George R. Newell
  • Anthony Kelly
  • C. M. Loring
  • Clinton Morrison
  • J. K. Sidle
  • W. W. Eastman
  • William D. Hale
  • Charles A. Pillsbury
  • Charles J. Martin
Captain W. W. Rich was appointed Chief Engineer in charge of engineering and construction.
The enterprise was completely financed by Minneapolis interests, with 75% of the stock owned by the flour manufacturing companies. The railroad was projected to be built between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie, to connect with the growing Canadian Pacific Railway system. The plan was to provide Minneapolis shippers with an alternative shipping route exclusive of Chicago, thus making rates more competitive.
Winter 1883-84
Surveying crews plot the right-of-way through Wisconsin.
April 1884
Construction begins at Cameron, Wisconsin, building west to Turtle Lake and east to Bruce, a total of 46 miles. Through a traffic agreement with the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha -- the "Omaha Road," that railroad was used to convey M.S.Ste.M&A. traffic between Minneapolis and Turtle Lake.
April 13, 1884 (or Sept. 15, 1883?)
The Minneapolis & St. Croix Railway incorporated. This entity was to construct the road from the Twin Cities to Turtle Lake.
September 4, 1884
The same group of men organized the Minneapolis & Pacific Railway . This entity was to provide for westward expansion into the wheatfields of Minnesota and the Dakotas, allowing grain to be moved to the mills.
The road was extended from Bruce to Main Creek (Ingram).
April 1886
Construction of Minneapolis & Pacific Railway begins.
The road was built to Rhinelander, 70 miles.
December 20, 1886
The Minneapolis & Pacific Railway reaches Lidgerwood, North Dakota, where work was discontinued. It would be recommenced in 1891 by the merged company.
The Minneapolis & St. Croix Railway completes its road from Minneapolis to Turtle Lake. The Minneapolis & Pacific Railway pushes westward from Lidgerwood to Boynton, South Dakota. In Gladstone, Michigan, in addition to a large station, a roundhouse, a machine shop, and merchandise and coal docks, an iron ore dock 768 feet long with an approach of 914 feet is constructed by the Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie & Atlantic Railway.
In the 126 miles from Rhinelander to Gladstone, 289 culverts (totaling 11,751 feet) and 81 bridges (totalling 21,058 feet) were built. This was 6.2 miles, 5 percent of the total milage.
December 10, 1887
The railroad reached Sault Ste. Marie, 277 miles.
December 31, 1887
The international bridge, jointly constructed by the Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie & Atlantic, the Canadian Pacific, and the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic, is completed.
the Canadian Pacific completed a line from Sudbury to Sault Ste. Marie to make connection with the Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie & Atlantic.
January 5, 1888
The first train, in five sections, departed from Minneapolis with 102 cars loaded with flour destined for Boston, New York, Philadelphia, London, England and Glasgow, Scotland.
June 11, 1888
The Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie & Atlantic Ry., the Minneapolis & Pacific Ry., the Minneapolis & St. Croix Ry.,and the Aberdeen, Bismarck & North Western Ry. were consolidated into one single corporation, the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway Company. The consolidated company acquired 737 miles of roadway.
Work resumed on the western road from Lidgerwood, ND., and completed to Valley City, ND by year end.
The western line reached Harvey, ND.
Completion of the Portal line from Hankinson forms the second connection to the Canadian Pacific Ry., opening the third rail connection from the Twin Cities to the Pacific Northwest.
M. St. P. & S. Ste. M. Ry. purchased the Rice Lake, Dallas & Menomonie.
August 1902
The "Soo Line" entered Bismarck, North Dakota.
October 28, 1903
Completion of the Wininipeg line, from Glenwood to Noyes, Minnesota provides the third connection to the Canadian Pacific Ry.
M. St. P. & S. Ste. M. Ry. purchased the Bismarck, Washburn & Great Falls.
Construction north of Glenwood, MN provides yet another connection to Canada at Noyes, MN.
April 1, 1909
The Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Ry. Co. leased the Wisconsin Central Ry., adding approximately 1,000 miles of track lying between Chicago-Twin Cities-Duluth-Ashland and through the Fox River country of Wisconsin. Even though all Wisconsin Central equipment would carry the "Soo Line" reporting marks and insignia, it would remain for all practical purposes a separate railroad. The accounting system, revenues, and expenses were all kept separate from that of the Soo. See Wisconsin Central Railway for more details of the organization and construction of the WC.
The western extremity of the Soo -- to Whitetail, Montana -- is completed
M. St. P. & S. Ste. M. Ry. purchased the Fairmount & Veblen to reach into northern South Dakota.
M. St. P. & S. Ste. M. Ry. purchased the Minnesota Northwestern Electric Ry.
M. St. P. & S. Ste. M. Ry. purchased the Wisconsin & Northern to connect Neenah, Wisconsin with Argonne.
December 31, 1937
Petition in bancruptcy filed due to effects of drought and depression in the early '30's reducing the Soo Line cash reserves and earning power.
First Diesel Locomotive purchased for the road.
November 13, 1942
The road emerged from jurisdiction of the courts.
September 1, 1944
A new corporation is established after reorganization - the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railroad Company
Corporate name dropped except for legal matters, and the trade name "Soo Line Railroad" was adopted. The initials MStP&SSMRR, in small type, were used under the Trade Mark.
Early 1950
The first segment of automatic block signals placed in service between Spencer, Wisconsin and Wheeling, Illinois.
Freight equipment gets four-foot high "SOO LINE" letters.
February 16, 1955
The Soo Line Railroad is the first major line west of Chicago to be completely dieselized.
January 1, 1961
The Wisconsin Central Ry. (jointly owned by the Canadian Pacific Ry. and the Soo Line Railroad but operated by the latter for over 50 years) was consolidated with the Soo Line, along with the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Ry.) and reorganized as the Soo Line Railroad Company.
Automatic block signals with CTC (Centralized Traffic Control) completed from Minneapolis to Buffalo, Minnesota.
The Soo Line adopts a new color scheme of red, white and black.
Automatic block signals with CTC completed from Spencer to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
The Soo Line Railroad finally gives up the famous $ sign insignia.
The Soo Line Railroad buys the Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern.
The Soo Line Railroad purchases the Milwaukee Road, transfers most of it's Chicago - Twin Cities traffic to the Milwaukee Roads superior double-track mainline.
Most of the Soo's own track in Wisconsin transferred to a subsidiary called Lake States Transportation Division in an attempt to operate it more profitably.
2,048 miles of the Lake States Transportation Division is sold to a group of investers headed by Ed Burkhardt, who was formerly Vice President of the Transportation Division of the Chicago & North Western Railroad.
October 11, 1987
After a 30-day delay, the Wisconsin Central, Limited starts operations, with 98 locomotives, mostly ex-Soo and Burlington Northern, and a fleet of rolling stock.
Canadian Pacific Railway purchases the remaining shares of Soo stock (it had owned 56% of outstanding stock for many years) and makes the Soo a wholly owned subsidiary.

Click here for my Soo Line Index Page This timeline was adapted from a section entitled "A Brief History of the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railroad . . . The 'Soo Line'", by Jim Lydon. It appeared in the book, "Steam Trains of the Soo", © 1962, by Leslie V. Suprey. Additional information, and information beyond 1961 is taken from chapter one, "A Historical Outline", of the book "The Soo Line", © 1979, by Patrick Dorin. All credit, and my sincere thanks, go to these gentlemen and their sources; any inaccuracies or omissions are strictly my own. Additional information was gleaned from the "Special Bicentennial Issue" (May-June 1976) of the Soo Liner magazine, a publication of the PR Dept. of the Soo Line Railroad Company, John Bergene, Editor. All appropriate credit, and again my thanks, go to Mr. Bergene and the Company. Click here for my Soo Line Index Page

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Last Updated August 28, 1999.