Soo Line FP7 No. 2500 pulling a special train in Duluth, July 12, 2014.

(Keon McGarvey, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Soo Line herald.


The Soo Line Railroad (reporting mark SOO) is one of the primary United States railroad subsidiaries for the CPKC Railway (reporting mark CPKC), one of six U.S. Class I railroads, controlled through the Soo Line Corporation. Although it is named for the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad (MStP&SSM), which was commonly known as the Soo Line after the phonetic spelling of Sault, it was formed in 1961 by the consolidation of that company with two other CPKC subsidiaries: The Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway, and the Wisconsin Central Railway. It is also the successor to other Class I railroads, including the Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway (acquired 1982) and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road, acquired at bankruptcy in 1985). On the other hand, a large amount of mileage was spun off in 1987 to Wisconsin Central Ltd., now part of the Canadian National Railway. The Soo Line Railroad and the Delaware and Hudson Railway, CPKC's other major subsidiary (before the 2008 DM&E acquisition), presently do business as the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). Most equipment has been repainted into the CP scheme, but the U.S. Surface Transportation Board groups all of the company's U.S. subsidiaries under the Soo Line name for reporting purposes. The Minneapolis headquarters are located in the Canadian Pacific Plaza building, having moved from the nearby Soo Line Building.

Map of the Soo Line Railroad. Red lines are former SOO trackage operated by CPKC; dark blue lines are former MILW trackage also now operated by CPKC; green lines are former SOO trackage spun off to WC and now part of CN. Grey lines in North Dakota are operated by Short Lines (DMVW and NPR) and dotted light blue lines are abandoned. (Elkman at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Soo modernized logo.

System description

The company's main line begins at Portal, North Dakota, on the Canada–U.S. border, and extends southeast along former MStP&SSM trackage to the Twin Cities (Minneapolis–Saint Paul). Ex-Milwaukee Road trackage takes the Soo Line from the Twin Cities to Chicago via Milwaukee. Between Chicago and Detroit, where the CPKC-owned Detroit River Tunnel connects back into Canada, the Soo Line has trackage rights over the Norfolk Southern Railway and haulage rights over CSX Transportation.

Major branches include a connection from the border at Noyes, Minnesota, to Glenwood and, until it was sold to the Indiana Rail Road in 1983, a line from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky.

Through trackage rights over the BNSF Railway, the Soo Line also serves Duluth from the Twin Cities.

At the end of 1970, the Soo Line operated 4,693 miles (7,553 km) of road on 6,104 miles (9,823 km) of track; that year it reported 8,249 million ton-miles of revenue freight and no passengers.


Soo Line 6022, an EMD SD60, pulls a train through Wisconsin Dells on June 20, 2004. (Slambo at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


A Soo Line boxcar, seen in 2010. (H. Michael Miley from Schaumburg, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


The present Soo Line Railroad was incorporated in Minnesota on October 19, 1949, as the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railroad, as part of the plan for reorganizing the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway (DSA) and subsidiary Mineral Range Railroad. When CP consolidated several subsidiaries on January 1, 1961, it used this company to merge the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad and the Wisconsin Central Railway into, and renamed it to the present name, the Soo Line Railroad. The Soo Line gained control of the Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway (MNS), a Twin Cities area shortline railroad, in June 1982.

Passenger service was mostly eliminated by the 1961 merger, but several trains remained for a few more years. These were a Saint Paul to Duluth daytime train known only as Trains 62 and 63 (discontinued June 1961), the overnight Chicago to Duluth Laker and its Saint Paul connection (both discontinued January 15, 1965), the Twin Cities to Winnipeg Winnipeger (discontinued March 25, 1967), and the Saint Paul to Portal, North Dakota Soo-Dominion that during the summer, ran through to Vancouver via a connection with Canadian Pacific's The Dominion at Moose Jaw. It was discontinued in December 1963, and the western Canada cars were handled on the Winnipeger for two more summers before they too were pulled. The Soo Line's last passenger train was the Copper Country Limited, a joint service with the Milwaukee Road inherited from the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic. This Chicago-Champion-Calumet service was discontinued May 8, 1968. In addition, there were several mixed trains, with additional ones created to enable the discontinuance of the Saint Paul to Portal passenger train. Some mixed train services gained notoriety because passengers were conveyed in one direction only.

In 1984, CP incorporated the Soo Line Corporation in Minnesota as a holding company, exchanging stock in December to give the Soo Line Corporation total control over the railroad. Two months later, on February 19, 1985, the Soo Line purchased the property of the bankrupt Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad and assigned it to a newly created subsidiary, The Milwaukee Road, Inc. This company and the MN&S were both merged into the Soo Line Railroad effective January 1, 1986. To cut costs, the Soo Line created the Lake States Transportation Division (LSTD) on February 10, 1986 to operate the less-important lines, including the ex-Wisconsin Central line between Chicago and the Twin Cities. Unable to implement its proposed labor rule changes, the Soo Line sold the approximately 2,000-mile (3,200 km) LSTD to a new regional railroad, Wisconsin Central Ltd., in 1987 for $133 million. (The WC folded into the Canadian National Railway in 2001). In 1990, CP gained full control of the Soo Line Corporation, of which it had previously owned about 56% of the common stock. In the 2000s, the Soo line was consolidated into CP. Only a few Soo Line locomotives remain in the old paint scheme; most have been repainted into CP paint or scrapped. Today, the Milwaukee Road and Soo Line's trackage make up the historically logical route of the Canadian Pacific Railway.


Named passenger trains

The railroad ran several long distance named trains.

  • Laker: Minneapolis, Minnesota – Duluth, Minnesota – Ashland, Wisconsin
  • Soo-Dominion: Chicago, Illinois – Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Winnipeger: Saint Paul, Minnesota – Winnipeg, Manitoba



The Presidents of the Soo Line Railroad were:

  • Leonard H. Murray, 1961–1978, previously President of the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway
  • Thomas M. Beckley, 1978–1983
  • Dennis Miles Cavanaugh, 1983–1986, 1987–1989
  • Robert C. Gilmore, 1986–1987
  • Edwin V. Dodge, 1989–1996


Soo Line 2645 steam locomotive (E-25 4-6-0) at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wisconsin.

(James St. John, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Soo Line locomotives

Included with the Soo Line locomotives are those of the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad, as well as those of the Wisconsin Central Railway, which it inherited on its lease in 1909. The M.St.P.&S.Ste.M. finally merged the WC and the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway on December 30, 1961 to form the Soo Line Railroad. The Soo Line later acquired the Milwaukee Road and became part of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Note that WC locomotives are shown as after they were re-numbered and reclassified into the Soo Line scheme, with WC locomotives having numbers 2000 higher and classes 20 higher than their M.St.P.&S.Ste.M. counterparts.

To see an extensive list of Soo Line locomotives, go to Soo Line Locomotives.


SOO 4598, an EMD GP39-2, trails on a train through Oconomowoc, Wisconsin on October 13, 2019.

(Cr4410, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Remaining locomotives


Some of the railroad's diesel locomotives have been preserved:

  • 500, an EMD FP7A, on display in Ladysmith, Wisconsin.
  • 700, an EMD GP30, at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, Minnesota. Restored for use on their North Shore Scenic Railroad.
  • 703, an EMD GP30, and 991, a Barney and Smith heavyweight passenger car, at the Colfax Railroad Museum in Colfax, Wisconsin.
  • 715, an EMD GP30, at the National Railroad Museum in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, although it wears a Wisconsin Central Ltd. paint scheme.
  • 2500, an EMD FP7A, at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth. Also restored for use on their North Shore Scenic Railroad.

In addition, a number of the railroad's 145 steel cabooses have been preserved.


A Soo Line Railroad Gallery


Soo Line EMD F7 No. 2202-A, February 1971. (©, Alameda, CA, Fair use, Title 17, Section 107, via W. Lenheim Collection)  


Soo Line 416, an Alco DL-640 (RS-27) 2400 hp road switcher. Photo courtesy Alco. (Audio-Visual Designs, Earlton, NY, Public Domain, via W. Lenheim Collection)


Soo Line 4437, an EMD GP38-2 at Minneapolis, MN, August 18, 1980. Photo by Carl H. Sturner Collection. (Audio-Visual Designs, Earlton, NY, Public Domain, via W. Lenheim Collection)


Soo Line Railroad's No. 1776, with America's first flag, ready to celebrate the bicentennial. Photo courtesy Soo Line Railroad. (© Mary Jayne's Railroad Specialties, Inc., Fair use, Title 17, Section 107, via W. Lenheim Collection)


Soo Line Caboose No. 224, a center cupola, single side window, wood sheathed car, at Stevens Point, WI in 1970. (©, Alameda, CA, Fair use, Title 17, Section 107, via W. Lenheim Collection)  

Rail trails

  • The Soo Line Trail in Minnesota was created from former pieces of the railroad which has extended down into the Lake Wobegon Trail. The trails are enjoyed by walkers, runners, and bikers in the area, and are prized for how flat they are.
  • The Copper Country Limited railroad lines in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, along with former lines owned by the Copper Range Railroad, have been turned into ATV trails. Some, like the 17-mile-long Jack Stevens Hancock-Calumet Trail, are multi-purpose and are enjoyably used by hikers and bikers year-round.
  • The Wolf River State Trail was created on a section of the Soo Line’s Shawano Subdivision. Tracks were removed in 2001 by Wisconsin Central between Shawano and Crandon, and a segment from White Lake to Crandon later became the Wolf River State Trail. It is open to ATV’s, Snowmobiles, Hikers and Horseback Riders.



Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Reporting mark: SOO
Locale: North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois
Dates of operation: 1961–1990 (as an independent railroad, present for CP ownership)
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge