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dlagrua

South Dakota Passenger Rail

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This post is a about the possibility of passenger rail service in South Dakota. Having passenger service there is a long shot but IMO there is a demand. The state currently owns railroad lines that run across the state from the Eastern border at Sioux Falls to Kadoka in the West. The last part of the railroad line from Kadoka to Rapid City ( SD largest city) for 98.5 miles is no longer there but the ROW has been rail banked by the state.

Why would passenger rail be important there? Rapid City is very close to Mt Rushmore and that is a prime tourist area that brings millions of visitors there every year.. Passenger rail service from Sioux City to Rapid City would connect two of South Dakotas largest cities. Would not some visitors take the train? Lets also not rule out a motorcycle combo train to Sturgis?

How could this happen? Well it would not be by Amtrak. If you look at the railroad lines, they are owned by the state and the routes run by small freight railroads. The state would need to upgrade the line, replace the missing track to Rapid City and contract out the passenger service.

Why might this happen in the future? South Dakota receives generous federal funding. They own most of the tracks.

It would be great for tourism and perhaps provide a boom for business. It sure would be nice to get to Mt Rushmore by rail. Fifty years back the class 1's served Rapid City S.D. so maybe its time to at least look at bringing service back again.

Edited by dlagrua

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That would be pretty cool to have passenger trains there.

By the line do you mean from Sioux Falls southeast to Canton, then west to Kadoka, running south of Pierre? It would be nice to get passenger rail to Pierre (State capital of South Dakota).

And once you get to Rapid City, where would the train go next? Would it go south through Nebraska into Colorado to connect with CZ? Because I don't see any connecting rails to the Empire Builder, and it would be nice to get to Mt. Rushmore from the west rather than going to Sioux City, then north to Sioux Falls then back west to Rapid City.

 

Edit: I just researched some with the books I have. The track from Canton SD through Kadoka to Rapid City SD was formerly The Milwaukee Road, and west of Mitchell SD it is now all out of service, and west of Kadoka it's abandoned (as OP said).

The track from Rapid City SD south to Dakota Jct. NE west to Crawford NE was owned by C&NW, so I'm guessing it's UP trackage now. Track from Crawford NE thru Alliance NE, Sidney NE, down to Fort Morgan CO is all BNSF now, and I predict from Google Earth that part of that BNSF track is busy with coal trains from Wyoming (just guessing). That's all I know.

 

Does anyone know anything else?

Edited by maxbuskirk

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At one time So Dakota was served by the Great Northern , the Chicago and North Western that served the capitol central area to Rapid City and the Milwaukee Road that went across the state in a more direct southern route to Rapid City. There were routes that continued the lines further.

All provided passenger service until around 1969. The states rail lines were nearly comp!etely abandoned by 1980 and the state purchased them to save about 50% of them. Passenger rail was there before and if there is a will it could be there again. So Dakota is now a state without passenger rail and IMO if the state stepped in the people would enjoy passenger trains again.

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Passenger train in South Dakota?

Well....there's this... http://www.1880train.com/index.html :) It was a former CB&Q branchline...

 

The best train to cross SD had to be the MILW Olympian Hiawatha, while it lasted...

 

I would think the most likely route to receive passenger service, would be a train on the "mid-continent route"....Winnipeg-Fargo-Sioux Falls-Sioux City-Omaha-Kansas City-and points South.... line. It would just serve a sliver of SD....

Edited by railiner

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Passenger Train Service to South Dakota ended before most other states. The Dakota 400 of the C&NW had been cutback to Mankato, MN by the early 1960s. The Olympian Hiawatha lasted as a local train from Minneapolis to Aberdeen until later in the 1960s. A branch of Milkwaukee Road's Arrow from Chicago to Omaha that ran from Chicago to Sioux City and Sioux Falls ended in the mid 60s when RPOs were discontinued, My great Uncle lived in Huron South Dakota where the C&NW ran a local to Omaha that was discontinued in the mid 1950s. By A day on May 1, 1971, the closest train to South Dakota was Illinois Central's Hawkeye that ran coach only from Chicago to Sioux City, IA. The Hawkeye once had a branch to Sioux Falls. Every time a passenger train to South Dakota was discontinued, the ICC conducted a "Train Off" hearing where citizens could appear and protest the trains discontinuance. In South Dakota, very few citizens came to these hearings so train service was not important to those in South Dakota. The state has bought and banked rail lines to preserve freight railroads in case of future industrial expansion in South Dakota. Folks in South Dakota don't miss passenger trains because they have been gone so long. Is there a rail line from Fargo to Sioux Falls? In the 1970s when I was stationed at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, North Central Airlines operated 2 flights per day from Grand Forks to Fargo to Watertown,SD to Brookings, SD to Sioux Falls, SD to Sioux City, IA to Wapeton, NE to Omaha. Even those are long gone.

Edited by jphjaxfl

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Let's face it.... Road is King in that part of the country. No one gives two hoots about passenger rail. :( unless it runs on rickety tracks using pre-historic equipment for a few miles for the amusement of tourists.

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Passenger train in South Dakota?

Well....there's this... http://www.1880train.com/index.html :) It was a former CB&Q branchline...

I took a road trip to Mt. Rushmore last year and as part of the fun rode the 1880 train. I can now say I've ridden the rails in South Dakota. :)

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Didn't South Dakota receive twenty million dollars in Federal Amtrak related funds and used all or most of that amount for state aircraft/airport costs?

 

Yes, it appears that it did - see https://www.amtrakoig.gov/sites/default/files/reports/inv112709tra97funds.pdf

 

Each of the (then-) six states that did not have Amtrak service in 1997 received approx $23 million, ostensibly for intercity bus or intercity rail service. As I recall Maine used its portion to help establish Downeaster service and Oklahoma used its portion to set up Heartland Flyer service. Not sure about Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming.

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Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills are certainly a big draw, but you really need a car to fully experience the area. I mean, I guess if you had a train running from Chicago to Rapid City (or something like that) then you could pair that with robust rental car/motorcoach tour options, well...maybe it could work. But it's a highly seasonal tourist market. I think this firmly in the realm of fantasy-land. The population just isn't there.

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So. Dakota has three Important/Major cities; Sioux Falls. Pierre, and Rapid City. I do not believe that Amtrak would undertake restoring the Milwaukee Road or C&NW LD routes that would serve these cities, but if you examine where these cities are, its Eastern edge, Central and Western edge. That's where the population centers lie. Then consider Mt Rushmore draws 2 1/2 million visitors alone and the Rapid City/ Deadwood Black Hills area is loaded with tourist attractions and National Parks. The only way that passenger rail could happen (and I agree that its a long shot) is for intercity rail but at this point, it is not even being discussed. Just goes to show how far our passenger rail network has fallen.

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Denver to Rapid City? I believe those tracks are still operating.

 

And then Omaha - Sioux City - Sioux Falls - somewhere might be possible.

Edited by maxbuskirk

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At some point Minnesota had dreams of a passenger rail system reaching to Winnipeg, Des Moines, Sioux City and Omaha, and yes, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

 

Those routes are in Phase 2.

 

Alas, nothing has actually been done about Phase 1.

 

Of course, if they did anything, how would they get needed equipment? Not from Amtrak. Maybe from Nippon Sharyo ...

 

(Sorry, I had the map, but the image is not allowed on this site.)

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Alaska likely used the funds for the Alaska Railroad (which has not-insignificant passenger service which actually does, generally, make money...on direct costs per their report the margin is pretty fat, but that's also excluding a share of G&A, marketing, etc.).

 

Hawaii? Hell if I know.

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After researching this further; there was a Milwaukee Road passenger train called the Sioux that ran East to West across Southern South Dakota on its mainline. The Sioux originated at CUS and was a full service train on a long 990 mile route. The train would stop at many small towns along the route in SD (think US mail) Mitchell, Presho, Murdo, Belvidere, Kadoka, Interior Scenic and Rapid City. When the Milwaukee Road went bust the entire mainline was abandoned for both freight and passenger service and left to decay. The state stepped in, purchased the line and a new freight railroad called the Dakota Southern was formed. They were able to lease the tracks. With state and federal grants, the tracks were rebuilt and the Dakota Southern RR currently runs nearly half way across South Dakota to Presho within 30 miles of Murdo. It will be several more years before the railroad can get enough funds to repair the tracks to Kadoka. At that point they are about 50 miles from Rapid City. The tracks are gone West of Kadoka (through the Badlands) and maybe one day if there is demand rail will be on that right of way as well. All this is great for the mining, grain and seed industry but after passenger service ceased, many small towns along the mainline became ghost towns. The bottom line is that there is great potential for expanding freight RR service in South Dakota but I see little demand for passenger service.

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Ideally if you can reroute the Empire Builder west of Minneapolis to run closer to Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Boise before hitting Spokane rather than the route it takes now it would serve more purpose.

 

The North Coast Hiawatha (http://timetables.org/full.php?group=19790429&item=0043) was probably better than the EB in that aspect. It served Livingston and the schedule said "(Yellowstone)". I don't know how close that was to Yellowstone, it would have to be way closer than the EB gets to Yellowstone now.

 

The Pioneer was probably cheaper to run since you'd only have to run it from DEN-SEA and you'd still be serving Boise which you aren't serving now but you wouldn't be serving Spokane anymore if you lost the EB (I'm sure Amtrak would still have CHI-MSP service even if they dropped the EB, not sure about SPK).

 

I don't know if Amtrak has ever served South Dakota. As for Amtrak serving Chicago-Seattle/Portland, personally I could care less about going there. But if you do there are tourist attractions (Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore) and Boise that are unserved by Amtrak. Can we serve there instead of the current EB route while still serving MSP and SPK?

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Why are we cutting the Builder or rerouting a large portion of its route? It does well currently because of its route, and any reroute would almost certainly result in a drop in ridership.

 

What's the track speed on the southerly route? Currently the Builder runs mainly on BNSF mainline, which allows a fairly fast timetable. Given that the current competition is a slower US highway where snow can make travel treacherous every now and then, it seems odd to reroute it to compete against 80mph Interstate traffic.

 

Sent from my Moto G (4) using Tapatalk

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This post is a about the possibility of passenger rail service in South Dakota. Having passenger service there is a long shot but IMO there is a demand. The state currently owns railroad lines that run across the state from the Eastern border at Sioux Falls to Kadoka in the West. The last part of the railroad line from Kadoka to Rapid City ( SD largest city) for 98.5 miles is no longer there but the ROW has been rail banked by the state.

Why would passenger rail be important there? Rapid City is very close to Mt Rushmore and that is a prime tourist area that brings millions of visitors there every year.. Passenger rail service from Sioux City to Rapid City would connect two of South Dakotas largest cities. Would not some visitors take the train? Lets also not rule out a motorcycle combo train to Sturgis?

How could this happen? Well it would not be by Amtrak. If you look at the railroad lines, they are owned by the state and the routes run by small freight railroads. The state would need to upgrade the line, replace the missing track to Rapid City and contract out the passenger service.

Why might this happen in the future? South Dakota receives generous federal funding. They own most of the tracks.

It would be great for tourism and perhaps provide a boom for business. It sure would be nice to get to Mt Rushmore by rail. Fifty years back the class 1's served Rapid City S.D. so maybe its time to at least look at bringing service back again.

I doubt that Kadoka a to Rapid City would ever be rebuilt. Rapid City has already got rail access via DME (ex-CNW route) from Pierre. This is even more so because beyond Rapid City to the west it goes to nowhere - well, after Belle Fourche it just goes to a mine and ends there

 

The trans-South Dakota main route was ex-MILW route in the north, through Aberdeen and Mobridge, which is currently an active BNSF route as far as I can tell.

 

The other trans-South Dakota route is through Pierre and Rapid City to the south to Nebraska, which is currently an active DME route.

 

Why are we cutting the Builder or rerouting a large portion of its route? It does well currently because of its route, and any reroute would almost certainly result in a drop in ridership.

 

What's the track speed on the southerly route? Currently the Builder runs mainly on BNSF mainline, which allows a fairly fast timetable. Given that the current competition is a slower US highway where snow can make travel treacherous every now and then, it seems odd to reroute it to compete against 80mph Interstate traffic.

 

As usual, just like you need to kill the Cardinal to get a service from Philly to Chicago via Pittsburgh, you similarly need to kill the Empire Builder to restore service on the Northern Pacific (now Montana Rail Link) route. :P

 

There has been a study to restore what used to be the Amtrak North Coast Hiawatha. The cost estimate as usual is high. It would serve Livingston which is the norther gateway to Yellowstone. But it would not serve Butte since it is now unreachable from the east as service through Homestake Pass is not available any more. It will run through Helena instead, through Mullens Pass, which is the current active MRL route towards Missoula and on to Spokane.

 

In any case Montana will be very upset if anyone tries to discontinue the Empire builder, as we have seen happen repeatedly. They were not happy when it was briefly downgraded to three times a week either. So it is not going to happen, just like Cardinal is not going away either. ;)

 

BTW, I would strongly recommend that people actually look at rail maps to verify what is still around today, before starting to build castles in the air. ;)

Edited by jis

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In any case Montana will be very upset if anyone tries to discontinue the Empire builder, as we have seen happen repeatedly. They were not happy when it was briefly downgraded to three times a week either. So it is not going to happen, just like Cardinal is not going away either. ;)

 

 

 

 

Right and us in PA were thrilled to lose the Broadway Limited. Of course we don't matter do we? It's only the tiny irrelevant states that matter to Amtrak and AU right?

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Bottom line is, when it was time for PA to walk upto the plate and bat for the Broadway/Three Rivers, they were caught snoozing in the dugout. And there was nothing that could get them out of their stupor. It is not like many of us, who are not even from PA did not try. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

in contrast, Montanans have always been exceedingly vocal about their train as has Minnesota and North Dakota, and have even been willing to put their pockets where their mouth is, when push came to shove.

 

When PA has bothered to step upto the plate they have done fine in retaining and/or enhancing service.

 

But then again, this has nothing to do with South Dakota. The core point is there is absolutely no justification for rerouting the Empire Builder from its current route. Even when the NCH ran, the EB was the better performer, mainly because it serves an area that is not well served by the interstate road network. Only the basic two lane undivided Hwy 2 up there.

 

And restoring the NCH will bring no service to South Dakota anyway.

Edited by jis

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In any case Montana will be very upset if anyone tries to discontinue the Empire builder, as we have seen happen repeatedly. They were not happy when it was briefly downgraded to three times a week either. So it is not going to happen, just like Cardinal is not going away either. ;)

 

 

 

Right and us in PA were thrilled to lose the Broadway Limited. Of course we don't matter do we? It's only the tiny irrelevant states that matter to Amtrak and AU right?

Folks in Montana and North Dakota will beg to differ with you about their states being irrelevant. You might get a better audience here with some of your proposals if you weren't so insulting about it.

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In any case Montana will be very upset if anyone tries to discontinue the Empire builder, as we have seen happen repeatedly. They were not happy when it was briefly downgraded to three times a week either. So it is not going to happen, just like Cardinal is not going away either. ;)

 

 

 

 

Right and us in PA were thrilled to lose the Broadway Limited. Of course we don't matter do we? It's only the tiny irrelevant states that matter to Amtrak and AU right?

 

 

Philadelphia sees more trains in an hour than states such as West Virginia - which you imply carries greater importance - have in a week. Montana - one of the geographically larger states - is served by a single long-distance route; Pennsylvania has corridor, commuter, and long-distance train service, with four major routes between the Northeast and points west.

 

Yet, by not removing all service from several states just so Philadelphia can have a fifth ("one seat") way to Chicago, you conclude Pennsylvania doesn't matter. Seriously?

Edited by A Voice

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In any case Montana will be very upset if anyone tries to discontinue the Empire builder, as we have seen happen repeatedly. They were not happy when it was briefly downgraded to three times a week either. So it is not going to happen, just like Cardinal is not going away either. ;)

 

 

 

 

Right and us in PA were thrilled to lose the Broadway Limited. Of course we don't matter do we? It's only the tiny irrelevant states that matter to Amtrak and AU right?

 

 

 

Montana and South Dakota are both bigger than Pennsylvania so perhaps they deserve a train more than your small state.

 

 

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Even when the NCH ran, the EB was the better performer, mainly because it serves an area that is not well served by the interstate road network. Only the basic two lane undivided Hwy 2 up there.

 

 

 

But those 2 lane roads up in the Hi-line area have 70 mph speed limits! :) Kind of like Texas with snow. I once rode the EB to havre, rented a car, and then drove to Great Falls and Yellowstone.Drove 70 mph on the 2 lane highway to Great Falls, except when I had some blowing snow.

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