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The history of Railroads can be very tricky, with a plethora of spurs and stations and changes in ownership to keep track of.  Information in brackets provide alternate dates, etc.  Please contact us if you have an additions or corrections.


The Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, and Dubuque Electric Traction Co., universally known as the Dan Patch Electric Railway, was incorporated in 1907 by Col. Marion Willis "Will" Savage of Minneapolis (2600 Portland Ave.).  It was intended to be an electric line, but the cost was prohibitive, so the cars were gas-electric.  In fact, the line had the first gas-electric freight locomotive used by an American railroad.

The train was nicknamed the "Dan Patch" for Savage's famous racehorse (see below). Indeed the symbol of the Dan Patch Electric Line was a lightning bolt on a horseshoe.  The line originally ran from Minneapolis south to Savage's 750 acre farm in... Savage. The 1,700 acres of land he owned outside of St. Paul had been called Hamilton, but he renamed it Savage in 1904.

Construction of the new railroad began in 1908, and the first train ran on July 4, 1910.  It ran from 54th and Nicollet to Antler's Park in Lakeville.  It reached Northfield on December 1, 1910.

The line came to St. Louis Park in 1913, when a presentation to the Village Council was made on September 30. Representing the railroad were D.S. Smith, General Manager; Albert Graber, Engineer; and R.T. Boardman, Attorney. The line was approved by the Council with the provisions that the fare be reduced, and that steam was prohibited. An article in the Journal dated November 2, 1913 indicated that the line was currently under construction.  [In 1914, the company was ordered not to take dirt from the middle of 41st Street between Brookside and Zarthan after a request to close that road was denied.]

The line began at what was called Auto Club Junction, which was near the clubhouse of the Minneapolis Auto Club on the Mississippi River Bluffs.  [It traveled through Edina and St. Louis Park, and ended at the juncture of Glenwood Ave. and Highways 100 and 55.] 

Passenger service started in 1915. The St. Louis Park section started at Superior Blvd (394), traveling to Cedar Lake Road, Park Manor (Dakota), Lake Street, Broadway (Walker), and Goodrich.  Stations on the middle section were set up at Foster’s Place (?), Excelsior Ave., Goodrich Ave., Lake Street, and Minnetonka Blvd. The southern leg crossed Alabama Ave., Excelsior Blvd., 41st St., 42nd St., Brookside north of the Creek and Brookside south of the Creek. There was a passenger station on Brookside Ave. between Division Street and Interlachen Blvd. A short spur ran north from behind the Brookside station but was removed in 1928 at the behest of citizens who wanted to create a park.

It took 15 minutes and 5 cents to get from St. Louis Park to the passenger depot at Third Ave. No. and Seventh Street No. in Minneapolis.

Although its charter called for electric lines for passenger traffic only, on June 3, 1915 the line requested permission to use steam. With or without the Council’s approval, they started to run steam trains and haul freight in 1916. The trains were noisy and left behind black, oily smoke that clung to laundry hanging in back yards.

On July 16, 1916, the line went into receivership and was reorganized as the Minneapolis, Northfield, and Southern.

In 1920, auto dealers Win Stephens and Harry Pence bought the line to transport their cars from Detroit.

Passenger service was discontinued in 1942.

In 1982, the Soo Line bought the line - and the Milwaukee Road in 1985. The team track at Excelsior Blvd. was discontinued and leased to Fred G. Anderson in the 1980s.

The Soo Line was purchased by the Canadian Pacific in 1990. 

No matter the current owner, many people still refer to it as the Dan Patch.

See the timeline written by Doug Johnson. 

Also see the article on the Dan Patch Railroad in the Re-Echo.




In 1904 harness racing was a big sport and the most famous horse was Dan Patch. In 145 races, he lost only two. He was so fast that other owners would not race against him. At expositions he had to race against the clock. He was racing against the clock when he set the world record of a 1:55 minute mile. at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on September 8, 1906.  It was the first of 14 times breaking the world’s record. It took 32 years for his record to be broken. 

Dan Patch was a dark brown pacer, born in Indiana in 1896.  This amazing harness-racing horse had been purchased in December 1902 by Col. M.W. Savage, owner of the International Stock Food Company in Minneapolis, which manufactured and sold animal feed. As advertising for this company, he highly promoted Dan Patch wherever he appeared. Savage's home was on the Minnesota River, approximately where the Masonic Home is today.


Dan Patch lived like a king in the town of Savage (originally Hamilton), in a heated barn called the Taj Mahal.  The complex also included a one-mile track and a half-mile covered track. He retired from racing in 1909.  He was a merchandising phenomenon, with his name on cars, toys, cigars, coffee, and even a washing machine.  A movie was made about him in 1949.  Dan Patch died on July 11, 1916, and they say Savage died of a broken heart the next day.  


Dan Patch may have had another connection to St. Louis Park. Some remember a racetrack in the vicinity of Webster/Xenwood. Mrs. Ora Baston remembers Dan Patch being trained at a track "in the heart of the Park."  




This information comes from a variety of sources: newspapers, books, yearbooks, phone directories, interviews, etc. Given the varied sources, we cannot guarantee that all of this information is correct, and welcome any additions and corrections. Please contact us with your contributions and comments.