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.
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 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.
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 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!!
I really hate to do this as I love rail excursions, but this was the most boring ride I've ever taken. You'll spend way too much of the time switching back and forth to move the locomotive back to the front. Not sure why they don't just push. Secondly, the scenery. For a small part of the trip you can actually see the lake. Most of the time is looking at trees. Finally, the narrative they provide for the trip is bad. Literally spent 2 minutes talking about a middle school. Also told us about a mansion that you can't actually see. If you want to say you've ridden a train, this would be fine. If you are a Railfan, pass.