Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Northern Lights Express

Proposed passenger rail service between Minneapolis and Duluth, MN

Timeline of the Arrowhead, North Star and Northern Lights Express lines

August 2013

The Federal Railroad Administration issued a Finding of No Significant Impact for the NLX Tier 1 service level environment assessment.

April 2013

A public hearing and open house is held in Cambridge, MN to present the project and take public comments on the NLX Tier 1 service level environmental assessment.

March 2013

The NLX Tier 1 service level environmental assessment is completed.

September 2012

The NLX Hinckley Loop Feasibility and Scoping Study are initiated to assess the practicality of a direct connecting passenger rail route to the Grand Casino, Hinckley.

February 2011

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe joined the Alliance as a full voting member. A change in state law allows the transition from financial supporter to full partner in the project.

May 2011

The U.S. DOT announced funding for preliminary engineering and Tier 2 project level environmental assessments on NLX pending Federal approval of the Tier 1 service level environmental assessment.

December 2011

The NLX Light Detection and Ranging Flights/Mapping and Service Development Plan for the route between the Twin Cities and Duluth is conducted.

January 2010

NLX is identified as a Phase I priority corridor in the Minnesota Comprehensive Freight and Passenger Rail Plan.

July 2009

Environmental review and engineering begins. The project is funded with a Federal Railroad Administration grant, with the remainder provided by state bond and Alliance funds.

February 2008

A Joint Powers Board, the Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Passenger Rail Alliance is formed to collaboratively discuss study, promote and facilitate the development of intercity passenger rail service between the Twin Cities and Duluth. Initial members included Regional Rail Authorities of Hennepin, Anoka, Isanti, Pine and St. Louis & Lake Counties and the cities of Minneapolis and Duluth. In addition, Douglas County, Wisconsin and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe participated.

December 2007

St. Louis and Lake Counties Regional Railroad Authority commissioned the Minneapolis-Duluth/Superior Restoration of Intercity Passenger Rail Service Comprehensive Feasibility Study and Business Plan to further study the Twin Cities to Duluth corridor.

February 2000

The Study of Restoring Passenger Service to Duluth and the Iron Range is completed on the feasibility of returning traditional passenger train service between Duluth and the Twin Cities. The study provided a preliminary evaluation and potential for restoring passenger rail service.

April 1985

April 7, 1985, after ten years of service, AMTRAK discontinued service between the Twin Cities and Duluth.

October 1981

Due to cost cutting measures, the North Star service was converted to a Twin Cities-Duluth local.

April 1978

Amtrak replaced the Arrowhead and the Twin Cities Hiawatha (a Chicago-Minneapolis train) with the North Star, a Chicago-Minneapolis-Duluth sleeper. The North Star covered 573 miles in 13 hours, with a 30 minute layover in St. Paul. Amtrak moved Twin Cities operations from the Great Northern Depot in Minneapolis to Midway station in St. Paul.


Service was extended to Duluth, eliminating the bus connection.

Duluth Depot
Duluth Depot, Duluth, MN.

Winter 1975

Additional station stops were added at Sandstone and Cambridge.

April 1975

AMTRAK returns railroad passenger service from Minneapolis to the Twin Ports. Initially known as the Arrowhead, the daily all-coach train ran the 144 mile route non-stop from Superior, WI to Minneapolis. A bus covered the final 4 miles to Duluth. The service consisted of one round-trip per day, averaging 48 miles an hour with a three and a half hour trip time.