South Dakota rail line

Ask Trains from the November 2015 issue
TRNAT1115_03
In May 1995, a westbound Dakota Southern freight with a (former Long Island) Alco C420 and an SD7 rolls slowly into the setting sun, west of Chamberlain, S.D.
Tom Danneman
Q The line in Chamberlain, S.D., was abandoned, I thought, but coal cars with BNSF markings are sitting in various parts of the line. Is it abandoned or not? – Eric Salway, Rapid City, S.D.

A The Milwaukee embargoed the line through Chamberlain, but never abandoned it. The Rapid City branch was part of South Dakota’s initial purchase of about 760 miles of branch and secondary lines from the bankruptcy trustee in 1980. Burlington Northern operated the line as far west as Chamberlain as part of the state-owned Core System until 1986, when it was reclassified. About that time, the state rail banked the line west of Kadoka, salvaging the rails and usable ties. Short line Dakota Southern has operated the line intermittently since BN left, and still does to this day. In 2011, with a $16 million U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant, Dakota Southern started work to completely rebuild the line to Chamberlain to resume service to on-line grain elevators with 286,000-pound cars. The BNSF coal cars you saw were being stored on the line. – Jerry Huddleston, historian
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