Milwaukee Road 261 Fall Colors Excursions set for October

Milwaukee Road 261 fall steam excursions to include the Skytop lounge Cedar Rapids.

Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261 will pull two excursions on BNSF Railway this autumn. Beginning Oct. 12, the 261 will pull a round trip from Minneapolis northwest to Willmar on the former Great Northern Railway main line once used by the famed Empire  Builder.

MILW 261

MILW 261 powers a freight out of the yard past the stopped Olympian Hiawatha as seen from the Skytop Dome Cedar Rapids. Photo by Andrew Blaszczyk

The 186-mile round trip features several scenic highlights: the train will pass along the shores of Lake Minnetonka at Wayzata, where the train will stop to pick up passengers at the historic 1906 Great Northern passenger depot, now a museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The train will also travel along the southern shore of Howard Lake at the town of the same name, and pass through the rolling hills and small towns of central Minnesota. At Willmar, No. 261 will be turned on the former Great Northern turntable once used by GN steam locomotives.

The line has not seen regular passenger service since Amtrak rerouted the Empire Builder to the former Northern Pacific line through St. Cloud in 1979.

Oct. 13,:  No. 261 will pull an excursion train departing Minneapolis at 9 a.m. that will travel BNSF’s ex-Great Northern Hinckley Subdivision 124 miles north to the wye at Boylston, just south of Superior, Wis. After turning, the train will return to Minneapolis, with an approximate arrival time of 5 p.m. The train will operate a total round-trip of 250 miles over trackage that has not seen regular passenger service since Amtrak’s St. Paul-Duluth North Star was discontinued in April 1985.

The train will include coach, first class, and premium services. Premium class includes seating in the 1948 art deco style  Skytop observation lounge car Cedar Rapids  along with the full length Super Dome No. 53.

Tickets prices for the trips each day are: Coach Class Adult $149, Coach Class Children $99, First Class $249.00, and Premium Class $359.00.

Milwaukee Road 261 was built by Alco in 1944 and is owned by the non-profit Friends of the 261. The Friends completed an extensive, five-year overhaul of the locomotive this spring. The locomotive made its first public excursion since 2008 in May, pulling a two-day round trip from Minneapolis to Duluth.

For more information and to order tickets, go to

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2 Responses to Milwaukee Road 261 Fall Colors Excursions set for October

  1. BOB & KAY DUEBER says:


  2. BOB & KAY DUEBER says:

    love to see the new look as it passed out home on Oct. 13 2013 looks like a new ENGINE

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