Adapting to our new COVID-19 normal

Julie Rath
Redwood Falls Gazette

Everyone has adapted in some way to COVID- 19 or has found a new way of doing what they did “normally” before.

For the Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority that has meant going to virtual meetings and learning a new technology like GoToMeeting or ZOOM, to take care of our monthly meetings.

So far that has been working out okay; however, it still is not the same or as effective as meeting in person. We did our last meeting in March in person.

We don’t take things for granted anymore, because there have been so many changes in the world we live in since March 18, 2020 when we all received the word about the stay-at-home order and to work from home if you can.

The work of freight railroads continues, which is to move goods and services for the businesses we serve in the 16 communities from Norwood Young America to Hanley Falls.

Most rail work is already done with social distancing. I have not seen a mask on our locomotives yet.

Since January, the Minnesota River bridge just west of Morton has had a complete bridge redecking with new timbers as well as the smaller bridge over Sulfur Lake.

Both bridge decks needed to have this done for safety purposes, as we are hauling several trains regularly over the track from the west moving corn and soybeans.

We have many storage cars on the west end of our track system which are currently out of service and needed a new home – parking them until their owner needs them in service again.

The heavy rains we received July 1-2, 2019 created numerous issues for us with culvert washouts, slope erosion and down trees. We did a complete tree trimming of our line through the Minnesota River Valley from Franklin to Delhi, removing any tree overhang in our 50-foot right of way.

The Crow Creek Bridge moved a foot from the pressure of tree debris and high volume of water against the bridge. This repair work has now been completed. As the water receded in that area we found some additional work needed to be done to firm up the piers of the bridge.

Looking to the future, we have a request in the 2020 bonding bill for replacement rail from Gibbon to Delhi and are looking at potential grant opportunities with the Federal Rail Administration and the federal EDA.

Due to COVID 19, the NARCOA (North American Rail Car Operators of America) did not make its trip here with the speeder cars in June. They love riding our track from Redwood Falls to Hamburg and back.

Hopefully, a year from now, they will look at coming back again. Many of their trips across the USA have been canceled for this year. This type of trip requires permission from the MVRRA board.

Regarding photography on our track, or any track for that matter, it is illegal.

Please visit Operation Lifesaver at for details on this program.

Together, we can save lives at railroad crossings and on train tracks. 

As a reminder, from Gibbon east to Norwood Young America, we have completed 40 miles of track modernization so we can now move our trains at no less than 30 miles per hour on smooth continuous welded rail.

Speaking of right of way, outside of city limits, our ROW is 50 feet from center on both side of the tracks. Within city limits it can vary from 100 inches to 200 feet.

We have information on our Web site about our right of way application process.

Please visit us at, or call our office at (507) 637-4082.

Be safe.

Stop at all railroad tracks.

Wear a mask for your own safety and the safety of others.

– Julie Rath is the administrator for the Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority