Photo Essay: All Aboard This Scenic Train Ride

Kai Odenbach, 6, and father Paul Odenbach of Minneapolis listen to Lake Superior & Mississippi engineer Rich Johnson talk about the railroad’s 71-year-old switch engine during a tour before Saturday’s first trip. Kai had already rang the engine’s bell and whistle. “It’s all about making the little kids smile,” Johnson said.
By Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune

At the front of the train, parents are lifting children up into the bright yellow, 1946 General Electric switch engine, where engineer Rich Johnson lets them ring the bell and toot the whistle.

Andrew Marking, 2, points at something to father Joe Marking during a ride on the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad. The family lives in Madison. “We came up to Duluth just to ride the trains,” Marking said. “He really loves it.”

Behind the engine, conductor Dave Moore prepares to collect tickets from passengers as they board the train and find seats in its two 1912 passenger coaches or on the 1928 flatcar converted into an open air safari car.

Passengers riding on the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad’s safari car watch as conductor Dave Moore indicates how far apart the car and the engine are. At the halfway point of each trip, the engine uncouples from one end and recouples at the other end of the train.

Another season on the nonprofit, all-volunteer, scenic Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad has begun, with two scheduled trips a day on Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 22 on 6 miles of track from Duluth’s Irving neighborhood to Gary-New Duluth and back.

During each hour-and-50-minute trip along the St. Louis River, through woods, over streams and past wetlands and the U.S. Steel site, a railroad volunteer tells of the area’s natural and human history. Five miles of the line follows the route of the original LS&M, whose first train from St. Paul pulled into Duluth on Aug. 1, 1870. It was the first train between the two cities.

Passengers riding on the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad look out on the St. Louis River just upstream of Clyde Avenue. The railroad follows close to the river in several sections.

The scenic railroad’s iconic section of track is the causeway over Mud Lake, with water and wildlife on both sides of the train. But this section of track may close. As part of the city’s plans to improve the environmental health of the St. Louis River and to extend the Western Waterfront Trail, the final 1½ miles of rail line would close.

Duluth City Council will likely take up the rail/trail corridor plan later this summer.

The Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad’s switch engine pulls three passenger cars across the Mud Lake causeway on Saturday. The city has proposed removing the causeway, shortening the LS&M’s out-and-back route from 6 miles to 4½ miles each way.

For more information on the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad, its schedule, fares, charters and kayak shuttle service, go to