North Shore Scenic Railroad
The North Shore Scenic Railroad operates excursions along the historic Lakefront Line, a 26-mile section of rail between Duluth and Two Harbors. This rail corridor served a vital link in the transportation system for over 100 years. Known originally as the Lake Division, it connected the isolated Duluth and Iron Range Railway with America's expanding rail network. In 1886, when the Lakefront Line was first built, it was joined by a one-mile extension of the St. Paul and Duluth Railway at Fifth Avenue East in Duluth, providing the D&IR with access to downtown Duluth as well as to other railroad carriers at the Head of the Lakes.
As the iron ore industry developed in Minnesota, this new connection provided an all-rail route for the timely delivery of supplies, materials, and personnel to the rapidly growing settlements of the Vermilion Range. It also played a critical role in the development of the Mesabi Range. Before the Lake Division was constructed, prospectors, explorers, and entrepreneurs interested in the exciting prospects of the Mesabi Range had to travel over long and dangerous routes, either by canoe on the St. Louis-Embarrass River chain or on foot or horseback over the Vermilion Trail. From 1886 until 1892, when construction of the Duluth, Mesabi and Northern Railway was finally completed, all transportation moved over the Duluth and Iron Range Railway and its Lake Division to the boom town, Mesabi, where travelers and their supplies were transferred to horse and wagon for a bumpy journey over the Mesabi Trail to the far reaches of the Mesabi Range.
Over the years the Lake Division became known as the Lakefront Line. During its long history, a general merchandise train, the Ely Local, transported freight from Endion Yard to Two Harbors and to communities on the Vermilion Range. Cars destined for Mesabi Range cities were set out at Two Harbors to be carried to their destinations by the Virginia Local. During the heyday of logging, thousands of trains carried pine logs to the sawmills in Duluth. One of the principal log suppliers was the Duluth and Northern Minnesota Railroad, which interchanged trains with the D&IR Railway on the Lakefront Line at Knife River. Pulpwood shipments continued over the line until the late 1970s, when highly-competitive over-the-road trucks became the chosen mode of transportation.
My wife and I bought tickets for the holiday train on Friday night, to take our 1 ½ year old to the Bentleyville Tour of Lights the following Saturday. Our Duluth trip and Bentleyville have become an annual tradition, but we had not yet taken the train. By Sunday afternoon, our son was displaying symptoms of hand, foot, and mouth disease (which can be contagious for 1-3 weeks). We decided to do the right thing, and cancel our plans, so as not to expose the other children on the train to the highly contagious virus. First thing Monday morning, I spoke with the Station Master, who informed me that there was a no refund policy, and that the best he could do was to refund all but a $5.00 per ticket charge (He did also offer a re-schedule, but we are not from the area). So, we were refunded $4.50, and the North Shore Scenic Railroad kept $10.00. Thanks, North Shore Scenic Railroad, what could have become a wonderful annual tradition for me and my family, and a recurring and multiplying dollar amount (as our family grows) for you, has ended up being the only $10.00 you will ever see from us! Happy Holidays!
This was just plain awful. Not worth the money, at all!! My family was extremely bored. The route was anything but "scenic." None of us have ever been on a train and we were quite excited but this has ended up being a huge disappointment for All 5 OF US! Don't waste your money if you are second guessing going. Also couldn't hear the recorded tour guide due to it being so noisy. I don't normally leave negative reviews but was too disappointed not to on this one. Sincerely, Disappointed.
We purchased first class dome car tickets for the 1 and a half hour excursion. It was quite annoying that when we got to the dome car there were so many sets of three people that literally the only place for me and my partner to sit were on opposite ends of the car. When brought up in passing the response of the guide was "Well looks like you might have to learn to make friends." While I absolutely love meeting new people this is still an experience I would like to share with the people I arrive with. The tour was mediocre at best, we spent most the time with a view that was less than satisfactory. Long story short....take the north shore scenic drive with you car and don't waste your money or time on this piddley tour. If anything go all out for the day trip ride to Two Harbors.
We did the Pizza Train mostly for the experience of our kids getting to ride the train. We were not on it for the scenery as it doesn't offer much on the short ride. The train ride was fun for our boys (3 & 6). The pizza was not great, but we expected it to be that way. The live local musician was amazing. The best was hanging out in the concession car, listening to the live music and seeing the smiles on our boys' faces as they waved at people.
We loved our dome car experience and very much enjoyed seeing the lake from on top! Our car host Jerry was so accommodating which enhanced our trip! Conductor Jerry is so authentic and added to the charm of this amazing scenic train ride! Definitely recommend it!!