‘Stylish’ restored train passes through Eden Prairie this weekend

“Milwaukee Road 261”, a steam locomotive that likely pulled passenger and troop trains to Chicago and Puget Sound during World War II, will take the same hold from Delano to Hopkins this Saturday and Sunday. He will be assisted by a restored diesel locomotive from Milwaukee Road.

If you love the drama of belching plumes and jets of hot steam, driving pistons, mechanical noises, train bells and shrill whistles, stay in town this weekend. Milwaukee Road 261 and its electric assist pass through Eden Prairie and will pull a train of beautifully restored passenger cars.

Eden Prairie offers a number of good train tracking sites, but locomotive engineer Steve Sandberg said Eden Prairie Local News this week the best place to see the train will be in Chanhassen at 500 Market Street when the train embarks – Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. Both seven-hour tours head west to Glencoe, then to the is in Hopkins with a return to Chanhassen.

No tickets will be sold; both excursions are complete. Sandberg said 40% of passengers came from out of state; some from California, Florida and Texas. He rejoices that the weekend, marked L’Express Gourmand, sparks business for hotels, restaurants and local attractions like the Chanhassen Dinner Theater.

“We’ve been using the 261 for almost 30 years now,” Sandberg said. The tours are organized by Friends of the 261, a nonprofit volunteer group that also runs train tours elsewhere in the Midwest.

The “Cedar Rapids” art-deco-inspired lounge car at the back of Olympian Hiawatha was designed by industrial designer Brooks Stevens. Photo credit: Les Amis du 261.

An organization affiliated with Twin Cities, the Railroading Heritage of Midwest America (RHMA) is supporting the restoration work.

Sandberg comes from a family of railway workers and is the COO of RHMA.

Gourmet Express Tours reflect the glamorous era of passenger train travel in the United States, when airlines were getting comfortable and the interstate highway system was being built.

The greedy Express travels through our commuter quilt with the restored coach, glass dome cars and the famous Olympian Hiawatha lounge car from Milwaukee Road (1947 to 1961).

This weekend, passengers will see fall colors emerge in Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and County Carver as they are served gourmet snacks and meals on the train and under a large dining tent set up at a stop secret in rural Carver County.

A restored Milwaukee Road glass dome dining car is part of Gourmet Exoress. Image credit: Friends of 261.

At his peak, Olympian Hiawatha could sail up to 110 miles an hour in a straight line between Chicago and Seattle.

At Eden Prairie, at much slower speeds, the sleek train passed through Birch Island Lake and Woods, on Eden Prairie Road, through a creek to Duck Lake and intersections at what is now Valley View and Dell Roads.

Sandberg told the EPLN that Friends of the 261 could not provide train watchers with scheduled times for segments along the route other than the loading time at Chanhassen. He and the Friends want people to enjoy and appreciate the sights and sounds of a railway era that helped build America.

The unforgettable sound of a steam locomotive or the blast of the warning whistle this weekend are signals that you only have a few minutes to head to the TC&W rail tracks to a safe vantage point before the arrival of the train. Bring your phone cameras. Stay away from the slopes. Make a movie.

Eden Prairie Train Spotting Locations

  • Dell Road Railway Bridge
  • Railway crossing and signal on Valley View Road near Eden Prairie High School (EPHS)
  • Eden Prairie Road / sidewalk bridge over tracks near EPHS
  • Hallmark Lane dead end
  • Railway crossing and signal on Birch Island Road (no parking allowed)
  • Indian Chief Road Railway Bridge (Conservation Area Parking Lot)
  • Camp Eden Wood, conference center parking lot
  • Level crossing and signal on the service road of Highway 62 near the industrial road

For more information, visit the Friends of 261 website.

For more information on Twin Cities and Western Rail Road, the main corporate sponsor of the Gourmet Express, visit the TC&W website.

Note: Jeff Strate, EPLN Editor, also sits on the EPLN Board of Directors.

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About Marc Womack

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