Welcome to Minnesota, and the Hiawatha Line

 
Map of the Hiawatha Line in a horizontal format. The line runs roughly north-south, so everything has been rotated to display the stations this way.

When it comes to travel, I am always a fan of the odd and interesting – generally off the beaten track. After all, one doesn’t normally consider burning towns, sketchy Zimbabwean train stations, or big blocks of ice customary destinations for diversion. So when I recently decided to visit Minneapolis, I had been asked by at least one person why. Had I run out of interesting places to go? No, not really. While I am looking to visit the few states I haven’t yet been to (one of which was Minnesota), I honestly thought that the Minneapolis area sounded interesting. I had made plans to check out the Mall of America (and their rollercoasters!), and of course, to ride the light rail. At the time I didn’t realize how much I would love Minneapolis’ light rail system… and I am totally admitting it here. I love the Hiawatha Line.

Admittedly, from railroading point of view, a light rail system like the Hiawatha Line isn’t the most interesting thing to watch. But Minneapolis is big into public art, and obviously their fairly new rail system would be no exception to that. I think it is the blend of rail infrastructure and aesthetic beauty that has captured my interest. Everything about the system, right down to the bricks on the platform, seems designed to be visually pleasing. It is amazing how simple things, like a few colored windows, or the aforementioned bricks arranged into colorful patterns, make such a great impact! But not everything would fall into the category of “little things” – in some instances the station artwork is huge. Downtown East – Metrodome station, for example, has towering patterned arches that dwarf the station itself. The piece evokes the image of the historical Stone Arch Bridge, only a few blocks away. Trains, art, and nods to history? No wonder why I love this place!

The next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing many of the photos I took while riding the Hiawatha Line. I managed to get to more than half of the stations, and a few of the attractions located near the train. An awesome thing to note is that there are actually self-guided city tours designed around the Hiawatha Line, which I made use of on my first day wandering around. Along with an audio device, the tour gives you a pass to ride the rails all day, allowing you to roam and disembark wherever you desire. The tours even work if you are in Minneapolis for just a short time, like an airport layover, since the airport is well-connected to the train line.

So here’s a short photographic intro to the Hiawatha Line… many more photos to come!


Typical area of operation for the Hiawatha Line. Much of the trackage runs parallel to streets, including Hiawatha Avenue, from which the line’s name derives. Other portions of the line, especially at the south end in Bloomington, are at the center of divided highways. The line is just over 12 miles, yet by my count has 39 grade crossings (FYI, the Harlem Line has fewer grade crossings, and is 82 miles long!).

   
 

Typical view of the inside of a Hiawatha Line train car, which are produced by Bombardier. Most times two car trains are the norm, but special events (like Twins games) will warrant trains with additional cars.

 

Typical ticket machine on the Hiawatha Line. Machines are programmed to work in four different languages: English, Spanish, Somali, and Hmong.

  

Platform views on the Hiawatha Line. An important part of the system is the low-level platforms, which match up with trains with very low floors. The gap is almost non-existant as well, allowing people in wheelchairs to board trains without assistance.

 

Another important feature of the system is the public art. Most stations have some sort of artistic flair, if not obvious works of art, like the above arches at Downtown East – Metrodome station.

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Annoy Your Fellow Train Riders…

When I first began commuting, I always thought it would be incredibly amusing (or rather, incredibly annoying) to record the noise that the M7A trains make before announcing stops, and use it as a text message alert on my phone. I never actually did it until recently, since the trains I usually ride are of the older variety. Friday I happened to leave work early and ended up on an M7A, so I made a little recording. It is now my text message alert. It could be yours too… I decided to put the noise up for download. Enjoy!

M7 / M7A Ding Dong

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