Flashes of color set the rails of southwest Minnesota ablaze with excitement this past weekend thanks to the 1ST Iowa Division of NARCOA and the Twin Cities & Western Railroad.
NARCOA, the North American Railcar Operators Association, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and the safe, legal operation of railroad equipment historically used for maintenance of railways. The historic maintenance vehicles, loving dubbed speeder cars, may be obsolete for track upkeep but to these hobbyist, the cars have become vehicles for seeing the unseen sights of America’s railroad system. This past weekend the group came to southwestern Minnesota traveling in the Redwood Area on Saturday and ending Sunday with a ride from Olivia to Montevideo and back.
While traveling the Sunday line through Granite Falls, Operator and Excursion Coordinator David Voeltz proclaimed “This is one of the best tracks we have ever seen, it’s first class.” He, along with the group referenced the great ride made possible by exceptional line maintenance done at the hands of Twin Cities and Western Railroad, combined with the pristine bucolic landscape of the region.
The process of organizing these excursions can take nine months to years in some occasions due to legalities and safety protocols of each rail line but the group is patient and grateful for approvals. Sunday’s trip was approximately seven hours long taking a short break in Sacred Heart and a long break in Montevideo to visit the Milwaukee Road Historical Society. At both stops the group shopped at local businesses and visited with local residents full of interest in the small peppy vehicles.
In Montevideo two separate checks were donated to the host, the Milwaukee Road Historical Society. The first, was a donation from the 1st Iowa division of NARCOA who appreciated the luncheon and history partners work. The second was a very generous donation was from the Twin Cities and Western Railroad who instead of collecting standard rail line rental fees to offset their own costs for the day, asked that those funds also go to Montevideo’s Milwaukee group. The railroad company additionally donated the time of two employees to work with the group on road crossing junctions to ensure even more safety.
The First Iowa Division was so overjoyed with the experience, the track and landscape, they hope to come back next year and push a little further pending permission of the railroad. “We would like to travel all the way to Appleton next time, we hear it’s just more and more beautiful the farther you go” said David.
If you are interested in NARCOA and speeder car travel the group is always looking to expand and educate. Their website even helps direct prospective enthusiasts to speeder cars available for purchase. Watch your western Minnesota rails in 2019.