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Big Boy steam engine train makes stop in Northfield

The Union Pacific Big Boy train nears the Northfield Depot Wednesday afternoon. The train stopped in Owatonna beforehand and is on a multi-state trip after being renovated to mark the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad. (Photos by Sam Wilmes/Northfield News)

For Robert Thorpe, the arrival of the Union Pacific Big Boy steam engine train in Northfield gave him the chance to see something he hadn’t seen since his childhood in 1950s Nebraska.

The Lonsdale resident was in attendance, along with many others near the Northfield Depot Wednesday, as the train departed from Owatonna to Northfield.

“We grew up on it,” he said.

Thorpe’s daughter, who lives near a railroad in Farmington, planned to capture footage of the train passing by her house.

“I told my grandson, ‘You go out and take a picture of that,’” Thorpe said. “‘You’re probably never going to see one again.’”

The train stopped in Northfield for approximately 15 minutes before leaving for St. Paul’s Union Depot, where it set to be on display from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 19.

Union Pacific restored the Big Boy, one of the world’s largest steam locomotives, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

People take pictures of the train and marvel at the sheer size of it Wednesday near the Northfield Depot.

The locomotive is the lone Big Boy operating of the 25 built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad, the first of which was delivered in 1941. There are eight in existence. Those are on public display in St. Louis, Missouri; Dallas, Omaha, Denver, Scranton, Pennsylvania; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The Northfield stop came after a brief respite at the Glendale Street Crossing near Sterling Pharmacy in Owatonna as part of the “Great Race Across the Midwest.”

Minneapolis resident Fred Loso attended the Northfield event with his grandson. Loso worked in the railroad industry in the Twin Cities for four years in his late teen years and early 20s, and his father, a World War II veteran, originally worked on steam engines before transitioning to diesel.

To Loso, many factors make Big Boys impressive machines.

“They’re history, their size, the power,” he said. “It was unbelievable. People don’t realize how much a train carries relative to a semi-truck.”

Union Pacific said it took more than two years to prepare No. 4014 for the rails. The specific Big Boy was delivered to Union Pacific in December 1941, with its last run on July 21, 1959. The locomotive traveled 1.03 million miles in its more than 18 years of service. It was officially retired in December 1961.

In its current journey, No. 4014 first left Cheyenne, Wyoming, where the restoration took place, on July 8, and began its trek that will take it through Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.

Raggin' at the Depot performs a free brass quintet concert Wednesday before the arrival of the train. (Sam Wilmes/Northfield News)

Northfield resident Donna May said the appearance of the train “was definitely worth waiting for.”

“The size, I think, was the most shocking thing, and how loud it was,” she said. “I thought it would be as big as two engines, but it is more massive than that.”


News
Residents push back on moratorium disallowing new homes in Greenvale Twp.

The Greenvale Township Board of Supervisors received pushback Tuesday on its temporary moratorium on single-family home construction in the township.

The discussion at a township board meeting took place more than one month after the moratorium was enacted during a special meeting.

Jane Dilley, whose request to build a home on the 28000 block of Dunbar Avenue to replace the former house on the site was not acted on by the Planning Commission last week due to the moratorium, requested the board remove the moratorium so the building can be constructed. She noted the farm site has been in her family for 75 years.

“I want to build a house, and I cannot due to the moratorium,” she said. At one point, she asked the few dozen people who attended the meeting to raise their hand if they approved of the moratorium, which was met with few signals of approval.

According to the resolution putting the ordinance into effect, the prohibition allows the township to study amending its comprehensive plan, zoning and subdivision ordinances and other controls for regulating the creation of single-family residential dwelling units in light of recent growth and development within the township.

According to the resolution, the moratorium will allow the township to evaluate development standards and infrastructure requirements to ensure future single-family homes enhance the township.

The moratorium has been in place since Board of Supervisors’ approval June 15. The lawsuit cited as a reason for the moratorium by Board Chair Greg Langer was filed by TK Properties of Northfield, LLC in early May after the company sought to acquire two Greenvale Township properties, one 32 acres with a home on it and the other land spanning 8 acres. The company went to the board asking for a statement saying that the 8-acre parcel was buildable, but the board denied the request.

Dilley took issue with that explanation for the moratorium.

“You’re not hurting him,” she said. “You’re hurting me.”

Dilley expressed concern over what would happen if a resident lost a home to a fire or natural disaster. She requested a copy of the minutes of the special meeting and asked the board to rescind the moratorium.

Ryan Wilson said contractors have been set up for a construction project he is involved in and didn’t understand why his work needed to be affected.

“It puts us in a big bind,” he said.

After the meeting, Langer said he “disagreed with what they’re saying” in response to the statements of disapproval for the moratorium and declined further comment.


News
5,500 gallons of wastewater discharged into Cannon River

Approximately 5,500 gallons of wastewater is believed to have been discharged into the Cannon River Monday morning after sludge tanks began overfilling at the Northfield wastewater treatment plant.

Northfield City Engineer David Bennett announced the discharge in an email to city staff and the Northfield City Council. He said staff are reviewing the cause and have notified the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

“Staff do not believe any public health concerns exist related to the discharge due to the volume that was released and the Cannon River being in flood stage,” Bennett said. “For perspective, when the pipe broke last June, roughly 1 million gallons was released. When samples were taken for public health concerns, we didn’t find levels that exceeded the public health standards.”

According to the city, equipment is in place to prevent the overflow.

“The alarm, notifying staff of elevated tank levels, did not work properly and is scheduled for repair,” the city stated in a press release. “Staff notified Minnesota Pollution Control Agency immediately and took water samples. The results show higher levels upstream of the plant than below where the release occurred.”

The city is conducting an internal investigation. Northfield Administrator Ben Martig said more information will be available once the investigation is completed.

The incident occurred while the Cannon River is in flood stage and comes one year after a troubling series of incidents at the plant. Last year’s problems began in January when a pipe plug came loose, causing about 5 feet of flooding in the lower level of the biologically aerated filtration building. The council declared a local emergency, so staff could get to work on making necessary repairs.

Months later, a fire started in the biosolids building, causing up to $5 million in damage. It meant the city had to haul sludge normally processed in the building to other communities.

Then the city had to issue an advisory to the public when a pipe at the plant broke, causing approximately 1 million gallons of wastewater to pour into the Cannon River.

The city plans to conduct an operational analysis of the plant in the coming months.

Look to the News for more information as it is released.


News
spotlight
Council considering underpasses for Jefferson Pkwy., Highway 246 roundabout

The Northfield City Council is being presented with several options for the planned roundabout at the intersection of Jefferson Parkway and Minnesota Highway 246.

The first option includes two underpasses and a $2.97 million price tag. The second alternative would cost $3.32 million and include four underpasses. The third, $3.36 million option includes the presence of underpasses that would go to the center of the roundabout, and the fourth alternative, featuring only above-grade crossings, is $1.9 million.

The preferred option is expected to be selected in early September.

The city says the intersection of Jefferson Parkway and Minnesota Highway 246 has operational issues causing lengthy backups and delays at peak traffic hours. The city says there is a lack of pedestrian crossings and infrastructure, making accessibility to schools difficult.

Part of the goal of the project is to alleviate that congestion and improve vehicle, pedestrian and bike access to and from Northfield Middle and High schools.

With the high cost of including underpasses, Councilor Brad Ness asked if that cost would be added on top of projects or would result in the pushing off of other work.

Northfield City Administrator Ben Martig replied that the extra cost would not result in other project delays.

Councilor Jessica Peterson White said the underpass needs to look inviting for users and requested they be wider than 14 feet.

Martig

Councilor Suzie Nakasian asked if the high school could be a design/financial partner due to the impact the project will have on the district.

Nakasian

Fellow Councilor David DeLong said it would be “confusing” to have pedestrian crossings and at-grade crossings. He suggested an either/or approach to the plan.

DeLong

In 2016, the city approved an intersection control evaluation and traffic impact analysis for the proposed project. The City Council adopted the roundabout concept as the preferred option.

In 2017-18, the city was awarded $483,480 from the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Local Partnership Program and $900,000 from MnDOT’s Local Road Improvement Program.

Earlier this year, the council adopted the option for the Mill Towns Trail route to follow Jefferson Parkway on the south side of the city, connecting city schools and parks. The route heads east along Jefferson Parkway past Highway 246 and the city’s soccer fields and just past Prairie Creek Drive. It then heads north, eventually running parallel along Spring Creek Road on its journey to Highway 47.

Construction is expected to begin next year.

According to the presentation to the council, the roundabout option is seen as the best for traffic flow and has been shown to cause fewer and less-severe crashes.

According to statistics presented to the council, roundabouts result in fewer severe crashes and overall crashes.


DeLong


Nakasian


Martig