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The Brainerd Lakes - Crosslake Areas are rich in train history.

Builders photo of Brainerd & Northern Minnesota engine #1.
Brainerd & Northern Minnesota engine #3
pulling a log train.
The Brainerd Lumber Company sawmill at Brainerd.  The tall, slender structure is the sawdust burner.
Brainerd & Northern Minnesota loaded log car at the Brainerd sawmill.  In the background there are piles
of lumber stored at the sawmill
Minnesota & International 2-6-0 #5
M&I Flat Car
The Minnesota & International used log cars like this one to move logs from the cutting areas in the
woods to the sawmill in Brainerd.
The first train of iron ore from the Cuyuna Iron Range was shipped to Duluth by the Soo Line Railroad in 1912.
The banner says: "First shipment of iron ore from Cuyana Iron Range. Rogers Brown Ore Co's Kennedy Mine."

The Gull River Lumber Company logging camp. 
Log buildings were used to house the men.
The cut logs were loaded onto log cars using the cross loading method.  A horse was used to pull the logs up onto the log car one log at a time.
The Kennedy was the first shaft mine to
produce usable quantities of iron ore on the
Cuyuna Iron Range.  It began production in 1912. The coal fired power plant is to the left and the
mine shaft is on the right.
The sintering plant at Crosby.
This plant processed the iron ore prior to
being shipped to the docks at Duluth.

Historical Sketch of the Railroads in the Brainerd Lakes Area 

This short history will focus on the aspects of the railroads in the Brainerd Lakes Area that were the basis for the Northern Trackers HO Scale Historical model railroad. 

Northern Lumber Company 

In 1880 the Gull River Lumber company built a sawmill located near the Northern Pacific Railroad where it crosses the Gull River.   Later its name was changed to the Northern Mill Company.  In 1889 the Minnesota Logging Railroad was built from Gilpatrick Lake (later named Margaret Lake) to Spider Lake.  This railroad was a 3’ narrow gauge railroad, was one of the first logging railroads in Minnesota and was the only narrow gauge railroad in the state.  The railroad moved logs from the cutting areas to the log dump on Gilpatrick Lake.  Logs were then rafted across Gull Lake and down the Gull River to the sawmill.  In 1889 the railroad renamed the Gull Lake & Northern.  By 1890 12 miles of track had been built and they had three locomotives. 

Brainerd & Northern Minnesota Railroad 

In 1892 the sawmill on the Gull River was moved to Brainerd.  The Brainerd & Northern Minnesota Railroad was formed to build from Brainerd to connect with the track of the Gull Lake & Northern.  The southern division ran from Brainerd to Gilpatrick Lake and the northern division from Gilpatrick Lake to Spider Lake and north to the border.  The gauge was changed to standard gauge.  However, in 1893 it was found that it would be better to abandon the line to Spider Lake and build north from Lake Hubert.  In 1894 the track from Lake Hubert to Spider Lake was removed 

The Minnesota & International Railroad 

In 1900 the B&NM was changed to the Minnesota & International Railroad.  The M&I built a log dump on the Mississippi River at Brainerd so logs could be rafted down the river to Minneapolis.  The NP also ran log trains to Minneapolis.  The M&I gradually built north and finally reached International Falls in 1907.  The M&I was owned by Northern Pacific, but was originally run as a separate railroad.   The NP took over the operation of the M&I in 1937 and purchased it in 1941.  The line became part of the Burlington Northern in 1971 and was abandoned in 1986.  The abandoned right of way was used to form the Paul Bunyan Trail. 

The Cuyuna Iron Range 

The Northern Pacific built from Duluth to Brainerd in 1871.  The Kennedy mine was the first shaft mine to produce usable quantities of ore on the Cuyuna Iron Range and began operation in 1912.  The first open pit mine on the Cuyuna Iron Range began stripping in 1914 and first shipped in 1915.  Cuyuna Iron Range mining ended in 1986 and the rails were taken up shortly after that time.  The Soo Line first built a railroad to serve the mines on the Cuyuna Iron Range in 1910 and the Northern Pacific built to the Cuyuna Iron Range from Deerwood in 1912.  The NP and Soo Line began joint operation of the Cuyuna Iron Range in 1929 and much of the Soo Line track to McGregor was removed.

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