Moving Freight on the Peg

Alco Diesels in Action

Originally Published July 2015

While the Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific Railway’s roots came from early logging and lumbering activity north of the Twin Ports, the modern day DW&P (or “Peg” for short) was always about bridge traffic. It didn’t have much in the way of on-line industries, but it did move large amounts of lumber, potash fertilizer, cement, and newsprint paper—commodities that were always in demand—between the U.S. and Canada. It also played an important role interchanging bridge traffic with the other railroads in both Duluth and Superior. This month we’ll see the Peg’s Alco diesel-electric locomotives in action as they moved freight from place to place.

The backbone of the DW&P’s steam freight roster was a group of ten 2-8-0 Consolidations built by Brooks in 1916-17. Classed as N-2a by the Peg, they lived out their careers carrying numbers 2455 to 2464 until the diesel-electrics from Alco replaced them in 1956. Weighing 240,000 pounds and developing 50,000 pounds of tractive effort made these husky Consolidations quite large for a locomotive of this type. This marvelous view shows the 2455 pulling a northbound freight 3.5 miles from Duluth on October 5, 1956. The new diesels had been on the property over a month by this time and soon enough all steam on the DW&P would become just a memory. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History Collection)
The backbone of the DW&P’s steam freight roster was a group of ten 2-8-0 Consolidations built by Brooks in 1916-17. Classed as N-2a by the Peg, they lived out their careers carrying numbers 2455 to 2464 until the diesel-electrics from Alco replaced them in 1956. Weighing 240,000 pounds and developing 50,000 pounds of tractive effort made these husky Consolidations quite large for a locomotive of this type. This marvelous view shows the 2455 pulling a northbound freight 3.5 miles from Duluth on October 5, 1956. The new diesels had been on the property over a month by this time and soon enough all steam on the DW&P would become just a memory. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History Collection)
It wasn’t unusual to see between three and five of the Alco diesels pulling long freights on the DW&P. Although Alco designated this model as both the RS-11 and DL-701, the Peg had its own unique designation for them: MR-18a. These lightweight versions of the RS-11 weighed in at 226,790 pounds while the standard version typically weighed 250,000 pounds. A two-unit set was rated to pull 3,200 trailing tons of freight between West Duluth and Simar, Minnesota, and 7,700 tons between Simar and West Virginia, Minnesota. Single-unit ratings were half of that amount while four-unit ratings were twice that amount. The ruling grade (incline) of the track was always a large factor in determining how many cars a locomotive could pull. If the train was heavier than usual, extra diesels could be added to the train to make certain it could climb the hill out of Duluth. This view was taken in November 1963. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History Collection)
It wasn’t unusual to see between three and five of the Alco diesels pulling long freights on the DW&P. Although Alco designated this model as both the RS-11 and DL-701, the Peg had its own unique designation for them: MR-18a. These lightweight versions of the RS-11 weighed in at 226,790 pounds while the standard version typically weighed 250,000 pounds. A two-unit set was rated to pull 3,200 trailing tons of freight between West Duluth and Simar, Minnesota, and 7,700 tons between Simar and West Virginia, Minnesota. Single-unit ratings were half of that amount while four-unit ratings were twice that amount. The ruling grade (incline) of the track was always a large factor in determining how many cars a locomotive could pull. If the train was heavier than usual, extra diesels could be added to the train to make certain it could climb the hill out of Duluth. This view was taken in November 1963. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History Collection)
A railroad is a system of tracks that connects with other railroad systems for the purpose of allowing any freight from any railroad to go wherever it needs to go. When cars are passed from one railroad to another this activity is called “interchange” and the trains that deliver those cars are typically called “transfers.” A daily ritual for DW&P in the Twin Ports was delivering interchange cars to the Lake Superior Terminal & Transfer Railway in Superior, Wisconsin, via the Northern Pacific’s Grassy Point line. This August 1966 view shows the DW&P crew discussing the return trip to Duluth. They already brought their cars into the Terminal’s yard near Superior Union Depot, then ran around that train engine light and grabbed their caboose off the rear end. While DW&P always delivered cars to the Terminal in Superior, when Burlington Northern was created on March 2, 1970, that practice was curtailed later that summer. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History Collection)
A railroad is a system of tracks that connects with other railroad systems for the purpose of allowing any freight from any railroad to go wherever it needs to go. When cars are passed from one railroad to another this activity is called “interchange” and the trains that deliver those cars are typically called “transfers.” A daily ritual for DW&P in the Twin Ports was delivering interchange cars to the Lake Superior Terminal & Transfer Railway in Superior, Wisconsin, via the Northern Pacific’s Grassy Point line. This August 1966 view shows the DW&P crew discussing the return trip to Duluth. They already brought their cars into the Terminal’s yard near Superior Union Depot, then ran around that train engine light and grabbed their caboose off the rear end. While DW&P always delivered cars to the Terminal in Superior, when Burlington Northern was created on March 2, 1970, that practice was curtailed later that summer. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History Collection)
Making the trek from West Duluth to Superior was tricky, as there wasn’t a way for the Peg to make this trip in one continuous run. The Peg ran out of the east end of their yard in West Duluth to the interlocking known as DW&P Junction near 46th Avenue West in Duluth. There the Peg maintained and operated an interlocking tower that controlled the flow of trains between the Peg and the Northern Pacific. From that junction point the Peg trains would have to back up onto the Superior Connection that was a track connecting the DW&P with the NP’s Duluth Transfer line. Once there, the engine and caboose would swap ends of the train in order to continue the short trip down the NP’s Grassy Point Line, across the drawbridge, and into the State of Wisconsin. This view shows one such transfer coming off of the NP tracks and about to make the connection with Lake Superior Terminal & Transfer Railway at LST&T Ry. Jct. in Superior. Look closely, way in the background, and you’ll see the Grassy Point draw bridge dead center just ahead of the locomotives. The switchman in this view is walking ahead of his train at a brisk pace to be able to line the switch so that his train can finish the run into the Terminal’s yard along Oakes Avenue. It’s a cold day in March 1970 just after the Burlington Northern merger. The Peg’s days of interchanging cars here are just about over. (Image: Russ Porter)
Making the trek from West Duluth to Superior was tricky, as there wasn’t a way for the Peg to make this trip in one continuous run. The Peg ran out of the east end of their yard in West Duluth to the interlocking known as DW&P Junction near 46th Avenue West in Duluth. There the Peg maintained and operated an interlocking tower that controlled the flow of trains between the Peg and the Northern Pacific. From that junction point the Peg trains would have to back up onto the Superior Connection that was a track connecting the DW&P with the NP’s Duluth Transfer line. Once there, the engine and caboose would swap ends of the train in order to continue the short trip down the NP’s Grassy Point Line, across the drawbridge, and into the State of Wisconsin. This view shows one such transfer coming off of the NP tracks and about to make the connection with Lake Superior Terminal & Transfer Railway at LST&T Ry. Jct. in Superior. Look closely, way in the background, and you’ll see the Grassy Point draw bridge dead center just ahead of the locomotives. The switchman in this view is walking ahead of his train at a brisk pace to be able to line the switch so that his train can finish the run into the Terminal’s yard along Oakes Avenue. It’s a cold day in March 1970 just after the Burlington Northern merger. The Peg’s days of interchanging cars here are just about over. (Image: Russ Porter)
During the 1960s the DW&P ran interchange transfers to Duluth and Superior six times each day, two runs on each shift including days, afternoons, and nights. It was a frequent and busy affair for the men working on this line. Occasionally there would be time to pause—such as the case here on September 6, 1964—as Peg 3603 waits for a steam special train to pass by. Many of the images presented in these stories came from amateur photographers who snapped pictures of a variety of subjects. Many of the truly rare things that show up in their pictures are the background subjects. The building at left was the Northern Pacific Railway’s freight house in Superior, located just west of Superior Union Depot on Winter Street. Even though the building still stands, few pictures exist showing it during its railroad days. The real find in this view is the signage on top of the building indicating that it was both an NP and Milwaukee Road freight agency. A short time later the Milwaukee sign would be taken down, followed by the NP sign. Further behind the engine and just barely visible off the front of the long-hood end is the almost-never photographed headquarters building of the Eastern Railway of Minnesota. The two-story stone structure was designed and built by St. Paul architects D. W. Millard and Charles E. Joy in 1888. It passed to Great Northern when Eastern was absorbed into that company. During the 1960s and 1970s it was used as a dispatch and crew-caller center for GN and later, Burlington Northern. Just beyond that we can make out part of the old Stott Briquet plant that was once the largest manufacturer of anthracite and Pocahontas-brand home heating briquettes. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History)
During the 1960s the DW&P ran interchange transfers to Duluth and Superior six times each day, two runs on each shift including days, afternoons, and nights. It was a frequent and busy affair for the men working on this line. Occasionally there would be time to pause—such as the case here on September 6, 1964—as Peg 3603 waits for a steam special train to pass by. Many of the images presented in these stories came from amateur photographers who snapped pictures of a variety of subjects. Many of the truly rare things that show up in their pictures are the background subjects. The building at left was the Northern Pacific Railway’s freight house in Superior, located just west of Superior Union Depot on Winter Street. Even though the building still stands, few pictures exist showing it during its railroad days. The real find in this view is the signage on top of the building indicating that it was both an NP and Milwaukee Road freight agency. A short time later the Milwaukee sign would be taken down, followed by the NP sign. Further behind the engine and just barely visible off the front of the long-hood end is the almost-never photographed headquarters building of the Eastern Railway of Minnesota. The two-story stone structure was designed and built by St. Paul architects D. W. Millard and Charles E. Joy in 1888. It passed to Great Northern when Eastern was absorbed into that company. During the 1960s and 1970s it was used as a dispatch and crew-caller center for GN and later, Burlington Northern. Just beyond that we can make out part of the old Stott Briquet plant that was once the largest manufacturer of anthracite and Pocahontas-brand home heating briquettes. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History)
This June 1970 view shows DW&P 3607 switching cars from the east end of the Peg’s freight yard in West Duluth. The imposing concrete columns flanking the tracks belong to the as-yet uninstalled highway bridge over the tracks that would eventually help to complete the decade-long I-35 highway project linking St. Paul with Duluth. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History Collection)
This June 1970 view shows DW&P 3607 switching cars from the east end of the Peg’s freight yard in West Duluth. The imposing concrete columns flanking the tracks belong to the as-yet uninstalled highway bridge over the tracks that would eventually help to complete the decade-long I-35 highway project linking St. Paul with Duluth. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History Collection)
Just as in the days of steam, when business was brisk and the DW&P ran short of motive power, they relied on locomotives transferred from parent Canadian National, Central Vermont, and the Grand Trunk Western. This August 1969 view shows Peg 3603 leading two CN diesel-electrics, numbers 4308 and 4300. These CN units were lightweight Canadian-built GP9s from General Motors and had the same tonnage rating as the Peg’s RS-11s. They were the perfect mates to help move bridge traffic between Duluth and Canada during the early 1970s. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History Collection)
Just as in the days of steam, when business was brisk and the DW&P ran short of motive power, they relied on locomotives transferred from parent Canadian National, Central Vermont, and the Grand Trunk Western. This August 1969 view shows Peg 3603 leading two CN diesel-electrics, numbers 4308 and 4300. These CN units were lightweight Canadian-built GP9s from General Motors and had the same tonnage rating as the Peg’s RS-11s. They were the perfect mates to help move bridge traffic between Duluth and Canada during the early 1970s. (Image: Twin Ports Rail History Collection)

Alco Diesels in Action

11 Responses to Moving Freight on the Peg

  1. Capt. Ed –

    Glad to hear that you’re enjoying our series of short stories about rail transportation in the Twin Ports. If there’s a favorite topic you’d like to see covered drop us a line. I’m always looking for new sources of inspiration and a reason to open another file box to see what’s inside.

    Thanks for reading.

    Cheers!

  2. Hello Jeff — Just curious, in the 1956 photo of the 2-8-0 Consolidation steamer, what is that road in the upper right background and what is that little hut under the bridge? Also, over what road or creek is that stone trestle spanning and is it still there? Thanks!

  3. Absolutely great photos, thank you for sharing! I love seeing pictures of the Peg.

    When I saw the first photo I knew right away where it had to be, as for the 2nd one I had a suspicion it was the crossing over Skyline at Becks road, glad it was confirmed.

    Does anyone know the location of the former Nopeming station along the line?

  4. Hi Jon –

    Thanks for helping to unravel the past about these two locations. When everyone shares what they know we usually end up with a pretty complete story. And that’s the whole point of presenting these vignettes in the first place. Long live the Peg.

    Cheers!

  5. The second photo shows the Alcos in the classic green-and-gold scheme heading north and crossing the bridge over West Skyline Parkway. That bridge also remains today and on the south facing girders the faded words “DULUTH WINNIPEG & PACIFIC RAILROAD” can still be partially made out. Large trees and brush now obscure this view.

  6. Actually, the first photo shows 2-8-0 2455 crossing Koki Creek at milepost 8 on the climb out of Duluth. To the upper right in the photo you can see Becks Road bridge crossing over the Northern Pacific tracks(todays Munger Bike Trail) just railroad “south” of Short Line Park.
    The DWP bridge over Koki Creek is still standing in the woods above Becks Road, but is closed to foot and recreational traffic. Ulland Bros. now operates a quarry just “above” the old DWP line in this location.

  7. Hi Guys –

    Glad to hear that you enjoyed the DW&P stories here on ZCO. As for the shot of steamer 2455 on the curving trestle you might find it interesting to know that Ray Buhrmaster took a similar shot that was published in black & white in Trains magazine, page 22, in their March 1974 issue. That caption states that the location is near Harney while the note on my slide says the location is 3.5 miles from Duluth. No doubt both photographers were standing side by side as the train passed them up on that morning in October 1956. As luck would have it I ended up with the color version of that view. Hope that helps.

    Cheers!

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