Tracing the UMN’s Inter-Campus streetcar line


View UMN intercampus streetcar line in a larger map

Many people in the Twin Cities are familiar with the University of Minnesota bus transitway connecting its Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses (the latter actually being in the suburb of Falcon Heights). Since the 1990s, its exclusive access has allowed buses to shuttle quickly between campuses—parts of it also get used by buses to the Minnesota State Fair each year.

There was also a piece of dedicated track for getting to the St. Paul campus by streetcar between 1914 and 1954. A special “Inter-Campus” route shared track with the “Como-Harriet” streetcar line between Minneapolis and Saint Paul, though there were private extensions to reach each campus.

Students boarded at the traffic circle at Pleasant Street and Pillsbury Avenue on the Minneapolis campus, and the streetcar headed north on 15th Street to reach Como Avenue, which it followed until reaching Eustis Street in Saint Paul.  The line then turned north along Eustis before heading east at what is now Idaho Avenue in the small suburb of Lauderdale. From there, track was laid in an exclusive right-of-way which ran just north of Folwell Avenue to reach the campus. Streetcars ran along the south edge of the agricultural test fields before curving around the east side of campus and ending up near today’s St. Paul Student Center.

The line was unique among streetcar routes in the area because had a connection with the freight rail network and was used for small deliveries to the St. Paul campus, including coal for a campus power plant. The connection was a short piece of track which ran west of Eustis (across what is now Minnesota State Highway 280) to connect with the Minnesota Transfer Railway (now the Minnesota Commercial)

The Inter-Campus line was one of the last two streetcar routes in operation in the Twin Cities, and was replaced by buses on June 18, 1954.

Some remnants of the old private right-of-way still exist, though it is deteriorating. The main pieces still visible include a retaining wall, a staircase coming down from Folwell Avenue, and a few old concrete platforms for former stops. (Unlike today’s transitway where there aren’t any intermediate stops, the streetcar line did make stops along the way.) Here’s a slideshow of photos I took there a couple of weeks ago:

Streets.mn is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

6 Responses to Tracing the UMN’s Inter-Campus streetcar line

  1. Reuben Collins
    Reuben Collins April 20, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    Fascinating. Looking at Ramsey County property map online, it's hardly discernible that this line ever existed. It didn't leave behind any kind of independent ROW where it parallels Folwell.

    Can you give me a tip where I might look for that large set of stairs along Folwell? I can't seem to find it on a Google Map.

    Based on those photos, it looks like a great opportunity for a bike path (but, I say that about everything…)

    • Mike Hicks April 20, 2012 at 8:16 am #

      I'm not exactly sure where the stairs are, either. My best guess is that it's on the northeast "corner" of Folwell and Vincent. If you're using Google Maps, try disabling the 45-degree aerials if you haven't done so already. The straight-down aerial shots were taken at a time when the trees didn't have any leaves.

      I have to say I was surprised at how many people I saw along the path — seems like it gets used quite a bit already.

  2. Alex April 20, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    Awesome – I'm going to go check this out this weekend. Much as I love the reserved ROW, in some ways it would be nice to run intercampus transit through Como to pick up all the students living there. Do you know if there is a stop on today's transitway at Malcolm or Raymond?

    • hokan April 20, 2012 at 11:39 am #

      The present transitway has one stop at each end … and that's all.

  3. Xan April 21, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    Fantastic.

  4. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke April 25, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    so beautiful

Note on Comments

streets.mn welcomes opinions from many perspectives. Please refrain from attacking or disparaging others in your comments. streets.mn sees debate as a learning opportunity. Please share your perspective in a respectful manner. View our full comment policy to learn more.

Thanks for commenting on streets.mn!