Thursday, August 22, 2019

Rail board wants to sell state-owned track in South Dakota

Someone has been mowing the right of way at Stamford on the former Milwaukee Road.

South Dakota's rail board is made up of two Democrats and five members of the American Nazi Party. A majority has voted to put all of the state-owned track up for sale.
South Dakota state government bought hundreds of miles of track in the late 1970s when the Milwaukee Road went bankrupt. “Forty years ago we were looking at the death of railroads,” Karla Engle, a lawyer for the department, told board members Wednesday. “So now we’re looking at it coming full circle.” The regional railroad authorities that lease the lines from state government, and the companies that operate over them, can decide if they want to answer questions, department officials said. Burlington Northern Santa Fe has purchased hundreds of miles of lines that state government previously owned. [KELOland teevee]
The move comes after catastrophic plunges in commodities prices, numerous wrecks and water breaches on track owned by Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad (RCPE), a subsidiary of Genesee and Wyoming. The railroad is probably fed up trying to move product at ten miles an hour between Wall and Fort Pierre where Cretaceous shale buckles track bed every year. GWRR itself has seen stock losses of over three percent in each quarter in the past five years.

In 1997 the red moocher state received $23 million from taxpayers for going without Amtrak service then TEApublican former governor Mike Rounds squandered it on an airplane for his personal use. This blog spoke to a RCPE executive in 2015. She said that the line between Crawford and Dakota Junction, Nebraska connecting to Rapid City is active and hauling bentonite south to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and to Union Pacific.

Building two east-west rail systems exclusively for freight in South Dakota is lunacy. The same geology that thwarts railroads and forces engineers to rebuild I-90 between Reliance and Rapid City and I-94 between Mandan, North Dakota and Billings, Montana every year also makes construction of the Keystone XL pipeline untenable.

In 1921 my maternal grandparents honeymooned in Hot Springs riding the train from Humphrey, Nebraska and my grandfather was a career conductor for the Union Pacific Railroad. I have at least one vague memory from my toddlerhood going over the Continental Divide in Colorado while riding the California Zephyr between Omaha and Emeryville, California near Castle AFB where my dad was stationed and the place of my birth. Meanwhile the Trump Organization is pledging to kill passenger rail service while traffic between the Black Hills and Denver continues to increase as does the volume between Denver and Santa Fe.

Yes, overcoming the task of building a bridge at Chamberlain across (under?) the Missouri River and over the Pierre Shale should lead to passenger service being built on the abandoned Milwaukee bed between Sioux Falls and Rapid City including access for rural communities then connect with a future line built to Colorado's rail line. It's not hard to imagine a future without passenger rail of some kind in the I-29 corridor.


  1. The same geology that plagues the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad also makes the proposed Keystone XL pipeline untenable. "Tourism, our number two economic driver, also has the potential to benefit from this infrastructure. The attractions of the Black Hills already attract millions of tourists (and their spending) annually; a passenger rail connection would allow many more visitors to see these world-class attractions along with increased tax revenue." --Dan Bilka Rail Passengers Association - South Dakota Representative

  2. Matt Walsh of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. proposed a $10 million cash offer for the Mitchell-Kadoka stretch of the MRC line. Walsh’s offer included extending its Wolsey lease 10 years through 2036 for $250,000 and offered to invest $7.4 million into the Mitchell line during the first year it would operate there. The Kadoka to Rapid City segment is closed. More at KELO teevee.

  3. The State of South Dakota should remand the real estate in the rail right of way west of Kadoka to the tribes signatory to the Fort Laramie Treaty.


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