Electric Short Line Railway

Reporting mark: ESL
AKA Luce Electric Lines was a railroad that operated in Minnesota, originating in Minneapolis and heading westward. The railroad owes its nickname to the fact it was operated by members of the Luce family. The railroad ultimately reached beyond Clara City to Gluek.

The Electric Short Line Railway and the affiliated Electric Short Line Railroad (later renamed the Electric Short Line Terminal Co.) were incorporated in late 1908. Construction started in 1909, but it took until 1913 for the first 3.2 miles to be completed from 3rd Avenue and 7th Street North (construction was in various stages of completion for the next 30 miles, however). That spot was originally known as Boagen Green, then became Luce Line Junction when the Dan Patch Line reached it. It eventually became known as Glenwood Junction. Rail east of that point was owned by the ESL Terminal Co., while rail to the west was owned by the ESL Railway. 17.8 miles were complete by mid-1914, 47.5 by mid-1915, and 70.9 miles by the end of 1917 (although some of this included double-tracking), reaching Hutchinson.

Backers of the line had originally planned to reach Watertown, South Dakota, and construction westward resumed in 1922 with completion to Cosmos and extension to Lake Lillian the following year. However, the railroad fell into foreclosure in 1924, and the Electric Short Line Railway came under the control of the Minnesota Western Railroad (later known as the Minneapolis Industrial Railway), which had been formed by the ESL Railway's bondholders. The Luce family lost control of the company around this time, possibly as late as 1927.

Despite the "Electric Short Line" name, the railroad never operated electric locomotives. Passenger service used gasoline-electric railcars manufactured by General Electric and Wason Car Company, though one gasoline-mechanical McKeen Motor Car Company railcar also saw use. The railcars often towed extra passenger cars as trailers. Freight trains were pulled by steam locomotives.

The Minnesota Western Railway continued to operate passenger service into the early 1940s, but was reduced to just one passenger railcar by the end of 1942. The Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway, successor to the Dan Patch Line, acquired and merged the Electric Short Line Terminal Co. in 19551956. Dan Patch/MN&S long had a relationship with the Luce Line, and had used the track from Luce Line Junction to the terminal in Minneapolis for many years.

The rest of the Minnesota Western Railway was acquired by the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway in 1956, which came under control of the Chicago and North Western Railway in 1960. Freight service between Hutchinson and Gluek ended in 1967, and 104 miles of the former Luce Line was formally abandoned in 1972 between Plymouth, Minnesota and Gluek. Chicago and North Western was merged into the Union Pacific Railroad in 1995, and the remnants of the Luce Line between Interstate 494 and downtown Minneapolis are now operated as the UP's Golden Valley Industrial Lead.


Luce Line Trail - Watertown Bridge (Carver County, Minnesota)
Built 1929, approaches removed 1970, rebuilt and opened as trail 1978
Deck plate girder bridge over S. Fork Crow River on Luce Line Trail (Former C&NW)
Open to pedestrians only