This autumn the “Friends of the 261” in cooperation with Amtrak and BNSF Railway will operate two fall color excursion trains powered by Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261.
Saturday, Oct. 10th: “Friends of the 261” excursion train will depart Minneapolis at 9:00 a.m. and travel BNSF Railway’s ex-Great Northern Hinckley Subdivision 124 miles 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 1985.
Sunday, October 11th: Milwaukee Road 261 Fall Colors excursion will depart Minneapolis jct at 9:00 am. Milwaukee Road No. 261 will pull a round trip steam excursion from Minneapolis to Willmar, Minn. over the former Great Northern Railway main line, now BNSF Railway’s Wayzata Subdivision. This route was once used by the GN’s famed “Empire Builder” passenger train, and has not seen regularly scheduled passenger train service since 1979. The 186-mile round trip features several scenic highlights: the train will pass along the shores of Lake Minnetonka at Wayzata and Howard Lake at the town of the same name. At Willmar, No. 261 will be turned on the former Great Northern turntable once used by GN steam locomotives.
Both trips will include coach, first class and premium class. Premium class includes reserved seating in Milwaukee Road Skytop observation Cedar Rapids or Super Dome 53. All tickets are round trip to outline destination and back to Minneapolis Jct.
Joining the Fall Colors this year will be the Stampede Pass, which features a dome area with seating for 24 passengers for viewing as well tables for formal dining. Cherry paneled lounge seats 8 in booths and 10 in leather seats.
Premium Class tickets offer the opportunity to enjoy a ride in the famous Cedar Rapids observation car and the full-length Super Dome. Built in 1948, the Cedar Rapids was Frank Sinatra’s favorite car to ride. It’s easy to see why, with the smooth ride along and some of the most comfortable chairs you will ever sit in. This is topped off by the glass enclosed Skytop solarium at the rear of the car, which offers a great view of the scenic countryside as it passes by.
All funds raised by these trips go toward the continued maintenance and operation of No. 261 and fleet.