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Former Milwaukee Road - Rapid City, SD branch West of Mitchell, SD

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Former Milwaukee Road - Rapid City, SD branch West of Mitchell, SD
Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 12:01 AM

Still work needs to be done but looks like SD has done a real decent job bringing this former weed choked Milwaukee Branch back from the dead.   Given the Western portion that enters Rapid City, SD is out of operation.    The line was in far worse shape when the Milwaukee Road was sold to Soo Line.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aksXSw2-D4Y

 

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Posted by Shrike Arghast on Thursday, April 8, 2021 12:38 PM

Do they eventually hope to reextend to Rapid City? Yes, that's a lot of mileage, but the roadbed is still there, and Rapid City looks like it generates a pretty decent car count from a number of industries. And it looks like the rails are still in place to about Kadoka, so it's only about ~100 miles...

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Posted by CMStPnP on Thursday, April 8, 2021 3:32 PM

Shrike Arghast

Do they eventually hope to reextend to Rapid City? Yes, that's a lot of mileage, but the roadbed is still there, and Rapid City looks like it generates a pretty decent car count from a number of industries. And it looks like the rails are still in place to about Kadoka, so it's only about ~100 miles...

OK, so here is the update as far as I know.   WATCO bought the line from the state and the name will be changed soon to something else.    As part of the purchase agreement WATCO committed to I think x $million a year dedicated to upgrading the track more.    SD also to kick in money in future track upgrades.    I believe that is only to operate the line to the current end of line, they did not say much about extending but WSOR has extended on bare roadbed before so I would not rule it out if new clients build and ask for them specifically.    There is always hope I guess.

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Thursday, April 8, 2021 4:09 PM

CMStPnP
 
Shrike Arghast

Do they eventually hope to reextend to Rapid City? Yes, that's a lot of mileage, but the roadbed is still there, and Rapid City looks like it generates a pretty decent car count from a number of industries. And it looks like the rails are still in place to about Kadoka, so it's only about ~100 miles...

 

OK, so here is the update as far as I know.   WATCO bought the line from the state and the name will be changed soon to something else.    As part of the purchase agreement WATCO committed to I think x $million a year dedicated to upgrading the track more.    SD also to kick in money in future track upgrades.    I believe that is only to operate the line to the current end of line, they did not say much about extending but WSOR has extended on bare roadbed before so I would not rule it out if new clients build and ask for them specifically.    There is always hope I guess.

 

I dunno. I'm and hour east of Mitchell and have driven past that line 100 times. Once you get west of the Missouri River, the land changes from corn and bean fields to wheat and cattle grazing. The people and the potential rail traffic thins out considerably. I'd say the end of the line will stay where it's at and grain will be trucked to there.

     The line will never extend to Rapid City for two reasons. The last couple miles of ROW into town have been covered by urban growth. Rapid City really doesn't have a lot of rail traffic. What is there, like wood pulp and bentonite from the northern Black Hills and Colony Wyoming is adequetly hauled by the existing Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad.

*grew up just east of Rapid City along the Milwaukee line near Murphy Siding*

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Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, April 8, 2021 6:59 PM

Is Kadoka the present end of service?

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Thursday, April 8, 2021 7:58 PM

MidlandMike

Is Kadoka the present end of service?

 

I think the end of the line is at Kennebec, about 85 miles east of Kadoka. There's a grain load-out there.

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Posted by VerMontanan on Friday, April 9, 2021 12:38 AM

While Kadoka is the official west end of the line, the track is paved over by US 83 near Vivian. The last revenue customer is the shuttle grain train facility at Presho.  Kennebec and Kimball are the other shuttle grain train facilities west of Mitchell.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Friday, April 9, 2021 12:57 PM

Murphy Siding

     The line will never extend to Rapid City for two reasons. The last couple miles of ROW into town have been covered by urban growth. Rapid City really doesn't have a lot of rail traffic. What is there, like wood pulp and bentonite from the northern Black Hills and Colony Wyoming is adequetly hauled by the existing Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad.

*grew up just east of Rapid City along the Milwaukee line near Murphy Siding*

Murphy,

I don't understand this.  Evidently the track is out of service from Mitchell to Rapid City and yet the RC,P&E is providing local rail freight service in the vicinity of Rapid City?  Is that correct?

Then how is the RC,P&E connecting to the outside rail system?  Is there another line into Rapid City?

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Friday, April 9, 2021 1:12 PM

Murphy,

I guess I already found the answer to my question here.  I found an online State Rail map that indicates that the former C&NW line to R.C. is active but the former MILW is only active to Kadoka.  That map might already be out of date since a couple of you have suggested it's not active that far.  Mark Meyer said it's paved over on U.S. 83

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Posted by chutton01 on Friday, April 9, 2021 1:12 PM

Fred M Cain
Then how is the RC,P&E connecting to the outside rail system?  Is there another line into Rapid City?

The RCPE is actually a fairly decent sized railroad (under G&W) spanning 3 states with a number of interchange connections.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Friday, April 9, 2021 1:51 PM

chutton01
Fred M Cain
Then how is the RC,P&E connecting to the outside rail system?  Is there another line into Rapid City?

 The RCPE is actually a fairly decent sized railroad (under G&W) spanning 3 states with a number of interchange connections.

 

 

The Official S.D. State Rail map shows the west end of the former Milwaukee line "railbanked" into Rapid City.  The fact that they show that on theeir map seems to suggest that they might've had a plan for it at one time.

But with the former C&NW line in operation by the RCP&E there is almost certainly insufficient demand for two lines to R.C.  Perhaps if some big industry would locate along there but that seems unlikely to happen.

Remember, a few years ago, The CPR planned to revive one of those lines to send their reach into the coal fields in Wyoming. I think maybe it was a shortline that started this (D&M maybe) then the CPR took over.  There was a big fuss over it.  The people of Rochester, MN raised hell over the possibility of coal trains rumbling through town.  There was litigation filed to try and kill the plan.

They fought so hard to stop it that the CPR finally just gave up.  And now with "climate change" anxiety growing among us, the future of Powder River coal looks bleak.

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Posted by chutton01 on Friday, April 9, 2021 2:21 PM

Looking on-line, it seems the DM&E was the 'shortline' planning to build into the Powder River Basin, and while they got approvals (I recall this saga pretty well, following it at the time), financing became the hold-up - such that CP eventually brought them out.  Then, in 2014, CP sold off much of the DM&E lines to G&W which formed...the RCPE!
I'm not seeing much of a call for increased capacity into the Powder River basin at this time, but who knows...

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Friday, April 9, 2021 2:49 PM

Fred M Cain

Murphy,

I guess I already found the answer to my question here.  I found an online State Rail map that indicates that the former C&NW line to R.C. is active but the former MILW is only active to Kadoka.  That map might already be out of date since a couple of you have suggested it's not active that far.  Mark Meyer said it's paved over on U.S. 83

 

The Dakota southern ends at Presho as Mark Meyer mentioned above. From there to Kadoka it's just an old, light weight, rusting, jointed-rail line in the weeds. Look at Google maps. As the line runs west from about the rapid City Regional airport into Rapid City, a lot of the ROW has been lost to highways, streets and buildings. 

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Friday, April 9, 2021 2:51 PM

Fred M Cain
 
chutton01
Fred M Cain
Then how is the RC,P&E connecting to the outside rail system?  Is there another line into Rapid City?

 The RCPE is actually a fairly decent sized railroad (under G&W) spanning 3 states with a number of interchange connections.

 

 

 

The Official S.D. State Rail map shows the west end of the former Milwaukee line "railbanked" into Rapid City.  The fact that they show that on theeir map seems to suggest that they might've had a plan for it at one time.

But with the former C&NW line in operation by the RCP&E there is almost certainly insufficient demand for two lines to R.C.  Perhaps if some big industry would locate along there but that seems unlikely to happen.

Remember, a few years ago, The CPR planned to revive one of those lines to send their reach into the coal fields in Wyoming. I think maybe it was a shortline that started this (D&M maybe) then the CPR took over.  There was a big fuss over it.  The people of Rochester, MN raised hell over the possibility of coal trains rumbling through town.  There was litigation filed to try and kill the plan.

They fought so hard to stop it that the CPR finally just gave up.  And now with "climate change" anxiety growing among us, the future of Powder River coal looks bleak.

 

It was lack of financing that stopped the DM&E line into the Powder River. Let's be honest, it's a good thing it didn't get built.

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Posted by VerMontanan on Friday, April 9, 2021 10:10 PM

Fred M Cain

Remember, a few years ago, The CPR planned to revive one of those lines to send their reach into the coal fields in Wyoming. I think maybe it was a shortline that started this (D&M maybe) then the CPR took over.  There was a big fuss over it.  The people of Rochester, MN raised hell over the possibility of coal trains rumbling through town.  There was litigation filed to try and kill the plan.

They fought so hard to stop it that the CPR finally just gave up.  And now with "climate change" anxiety growing among us, the future of Powder River coal looks bleak.

Almost entirely not true.

There is pretty much no actual evidence that CP bought the DM&E to access the Powder River Basin.  At the announcement in 2007, CP stated that any exploration of whether to build into the Powder River Basin "was at least a year off."  By 2012, CP took a $180 million write-off on the all the associated costs (including those from the DM&E) associated with this "proposal."

Of course, the argument could be made that the Great Recession of 2008 harpooned any thoughts of expansion, but the general consensus is that CP acquired the DM&E and subsidiary Iowa, Chicago, and Eastern for the latter's routes, including line from River Jct. (La Crosse) and Chicago to Kansas City.  Kansas City was not only the number 2 railroad location in the country, it also offered a direct connection to KCS.  And the recent announcement of CP's desire to purchase KCS tends to verify such a long-term strategy.  

The City of Rochester, Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic did fight the proposed expansion in the Powder River Basin, but Fred is dead wrong stating "they fought so hard to stop it that the CPR finally just gave up."  The most-heated conflicts were between Mayo and the DM&E, but when the sale of the railroad to the CP was in the works, the Mayo Clinic changed its tune:

https://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/mayo-clinic-changes-opposition-on-railroad/article_94700482-6c01-5228-971a-c1ef0f7d4560.html

Hard to know the real reason for the change of position.  Perhaps it was simply because CP would be a much more formidable opponent than a regional railroad.  Or, could it be that whoever finally got through to Mayo that this project was never going to happen in the first place?

And therein lies Mayo's big mistake: Believing that the DM&E had a snowball's chance of getting this project off the ground.  It never was to be, as BNSF and UP were well aware from the beginning, hence their largely silent stance on the issue over the years.

The plan was simply a fantasy by some at the DM&E, which trickled down to online communities and railfans eager for such thing.  But everyone else knew that there was no economic reason for doing so.  Even if D&ME could miraculously wrest a coal contract or two from BNSF or UP, it would hardly be enough to pay back a loan in the billions of dollars.  Undercutting BNSF and UP would be a near impossibility in itself, but the main problem with the DM&E was that it had just one way in and one way out, making routing 90+% of coal shipments more circuitous than using UP or BNSF.  That BNSF and UP had better routes for coal trains going to KCS at Kansas City than DM&E/IC&E would be one thing, but when one considers all the other places that BNSF and UP move coal which would be completely inaccessible to a DM&E routing (again, which is most of them), the DM&E plan could only be a fantasy.  (At the time - around 2007 - BNSF's largest coal customers were in Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and British Columbia; try working a DM&E route into any of those destinations without a huge degree of circuity!)

As Murphy points out, the DM&E never got any financing for the project.  After no one in the private sector would fall for it, DM&E petitioned the FRA that rejected the request because, basically, they didn't believe the DM&E could repay the loan:

https://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/article_3b38015d-54b9-55b7-a134-907895615772.html

And keep in mind that this was still before the Great Recession in 2008 and beyond and of course the current trends with coal demand.  Indeed, a mind-boggling "what-if" there!!!!

Mark Meyer

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Posted by VerMontanan on Friday, April 9, 2021 10:19 PM

chutton01
The RCPE is actually a fairly decent sized railroad (under G&W) spanning 3 states with a number of interchange connections.

Nitpick: RCP&E actually serves four states: Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota.  Wyoming, Nebraska, and Minnesota all have important trackage, but it's mostly a South Dakota show.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Monday, April 12, 2021 6:58 AM

Mark,

Your comments regarding my post are somewhat miscontrued or unfair.  You are correct that it was the DM&E trying to expand into Powder River.  You see, my details were fuzzy on this subject 'cause I was partly going by memory.  There were several Wall Street Journal articles about the fight but you are correct, it was the City of Rochester vs DM&E, not CPR.

Sorry about that, I should have gone back and reviewed that before I posted this.  However, I do recall reading in the WSJ that after the CPR bought the DM&E, there was speculation that they would still continue with the Powder River Project.  But that never came to pass so my statement that "CPR finally gave up" was not completly untrue.  Just inaccurate.

You are a real stickler for details, Mark, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Thanks for the correction.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Monday, April 12, 2021 7:03 AM

Murphy Siding

The Dakota southern ends at Presho as Mark Meyer mentioned above. From there to Kadoka it's just an old, light weight, rusting, jointed-rail line in the weeds. Look at Google maps. As the line runs west from about the rapid City Regional airport into Rapid City, a lot of the ROW has been lost to highways, streets and buildings. 

 

You know, I just happened to reread the short news article in the most recent issue of TRAINS yesterday and the way that's worded, it does sound like they plan to reactivate the entire line from Kadoka to Rapid City.  I am left wondering what the justification for that is.  Did they get a big wad of "stimulus" transportation funds that they're not sure what to do with?

Or, more likely, was the TRAINS article either inaccurate or just plain wrong.  If that were the case, then TRAINS should issue a correction in a future issue.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Monday, April 12, 2021 8:29 AM

Murphy Siding

  As the line runs west from about the rapid City Regional airport into Rapid City, a lot of the ROW has been lost to highways, streets and buildings. 

 

Murphy,

I tried flying over the line on Google Earth between Murphy and R.C. and the rails are definetly gone.  One Google Earth "Street View" showed the rails still intact but the image was probably out of date.

However, I was having trouble seeing where the right of way has been covered over with buildings and highways.  It looks like the roadbed is still there although all grade crossings have been removed (along with the rails).  I followed into the southeastern side of R.C. where it appeared to join another rail line with rails intact.

It's always hard for me to tell how old these satellite images are so you could very well be right and new buildings have indeed been built on the ROW.  But the Official State Rail map indicates that it is still there and "rail banked".

Here's the map I was looking at if you haven't seen it.  You really need to zoom in to read it:

https://dot.sd.gov/media/documents/railmap.pdf 

The question comes up, why would they rebuild this line *IF* that's even what they intend to do?  I can think of a number of lines I'd like to see rebuilt if the opportunity should ever arise.  I'd put this one pretty far down near the bottom of my list.

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Monday, April 12, 2021 10:41 AM

Fred M Cain

Mark,

Your comments regarding my post are somewhat miscontrued or unfair.  You are correct that it was the DM&E trying to expand into Powder River.  You see, my details were fuzzy on this subject 'cause I was partly going by memory.  There were several Wall Street Journal articles about the fight but you are correct, it was the City of Rochester vs DM&E, not CPR.

Sorry about that, I should have gone back and reviewed that before I posted this.  However, I do recall reading in the WSJ that after the CPR bought the DM&E, there was speculation that they would still continue with the Powder River Project.  But that never came to pass so my statement that "CPR finally gave up" was not completly untrue.  Just inaccurate.

You are a real stickler for details, Mark, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Thanks for the correction.

 

As I recall, CP bought DM&E for a set price, with an agreement that if CP ever did go forward with the PRB coal plan, they would pay DME entities another bucket of money. I felt this was sort of a face-saving move for DM&E. The reason DM&E sold to CP was because the PRB coal line was not going anywhere.

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Monday, April 12, 2021 11:54 AM

Fred M Cain
 
Murphy Siding

  As the line runs west from about the rapid City Regional airport into Rapid City, a lot of the ROW has been lost to highways, streets and buildings. 

 

 

Murphy,

I tried flying over the line on Google Earth between Murphy and R.C. and the rails are definetly gone.  One Google Earth "Street View" showed the rails still intact but the image was probably out of date.

However, I was having trouble seeing where the right of way has been covered over with buildings and highways.  It looks like the roadbed is still there although all grade crossings have been removed (along with the rails).  I followed into the southeastern side of R.C. where it appeared to join another rail line with rails intact.

It's always hard for me to tell how old these satellite images are so you could very well be right and new buildings have indeed been built on the ROW.  But the Official State Rail map indicates that it is still there and "rail banked".

Here's the map I was looking at if you haven't seen it.  You really need to zoom in to read it:

https://dot.sd.gov/media/documents/railmap.pdf 

The question comes up, why would they rebuild this line *IF* that's even what they intend to do?  I can think of a number of lines I'd like to see rebuilt if the opportunity should ever arise.  I'd put this one pretty far down near the bottom of my list.

 

I don't think the Google images are too current. The last time I was in Rapid City, there was a building over the ROW. It seems like it was between hwy 16 and Campbell Street? I truely don't remember.

      Speaking of hwy 16... The interchange with hwy 44 got rebuilt. If you look at Google images, the off-ramps and the ROW are at odds with each other. That would be pretty much a deal keller.

      There really is not enough incentive to rebuild this line into Rapid City. The only real traffic would be grain from the middle of the state, and that's not enough to make any huge investment.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Monday, April 12, 2021 12:24 PM

Murphy,

I still can't make this out.  It would appear to me that the new entrances to U.S. "Bypass" 16 were laid out at grade on what could be construed to be new grade crossings.  I say "construed" because I reall don't know and it's a puzzle.

I have an idea.  Why don't we try and contact the S.D. DOT and see what they're thinking?  Like I posted earlier, the short news article in my latest issue of TRAINS stated that they intend to reinstate rail service from Mitchell to Rapid City.  But that article could be flat wrong.

You stated that  There really is not enough incentive to rebuild this line into Rapid City..That's a good point.  So what are they thinking?  My guess is that if we try and contact them we'd be lucky to get a response at all.  And if we did get a response it would almost certainly be B.S.  Something along the lines of "we are currently reviewing all the transportation options in western South Dakota including rail freight transportation in order to provide the best service possible to our residents in southwestern South Dakota" Or, words to that effect.

This immesely long URL will probably break up but nonetheless, here is the intersection I looked at. It shows nothing covered up.  U.S. "Bypass" 16 passes over the ROW on an overpass and the entraces are at grade.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Rapid+City,+SD/@44.0643849,-103.1611732,495m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x877d42a59ebba5fb:0xc471615a3e93b7c7!8m2!3d44.0805434!4d-103.2310149 

If you continue to follow the line west-northwest from U.S. 16, you come to what looks like some kind of an industrial yard with structures.  The structures don't appear to be permanent but it's hard to tell.

I just had a better idea.  What about trying to contact TRAINS concerning the news brief.  They would be far more likely to answer us than S.D. DOT

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Monday, April 12, 2021 12:51 PM

Fred M Cain

Murphy,

I still can't make this out.  It would appear to me that the new entrances to U.S. "Bypass" 16 were laid out at grade on what could be construed to be new grade crossings.  I say "construed" because I reall don't know and it's a puzzle.

I have an idea.  Why don't we try and contact the S.D. DOT and see what they're thinking?  Like I posted earlier, the short news article in my latest issue of TRAINS stated that they intend to reinstate rail service from Mitchell to Rapid City.  But that article could be flat wrong.

You stated that  There really is not enough incentive to rebuild this line into Rapid City..That's a good point.  So what are they thinking?  My guess is that if we try and contact them we'd be lucky to get a response at all.  And if we did get a response it would almost certainly be B.S.  Something along the lines of "we are currently reviewing all the transportation options in western South Dakota including rail freight transportation in order to provide the best service possible to our residents in southwestern South Dakota" Or, words to that effect.

This immesely long URL will probably break up but nonetheless, here is the intersection I looked at. It shows nothing covered up.  U.S. "Bypass" 16 passes over the ROW on an overpass and the entraces are at grade.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Rapid+City,+SD/@44.0643849,-103.1611732,495m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x877d42a59ebba5fb:0xc471615a3e93b7c7!8m2!3d44.0805434!4d-103.2310149 

 

Technically, yes- the tracks could be restored, even over/under the hwy 16 bypass. There is no potential traffic that would justify the expense of restoring a line that went bust and was closed down 40 years ago.

      As far as the article goes, South Dakota has a history of people talking about reopening or rebuilding old rail lines. Maybe other states are the same? Our state grows a lot of grain. But it's a big state that's not very densely populated. The thinking goes, "if only we had better rail lines, we could be more competitive with other areas that have better rail lines and are closer to markets". If only.

     Typical is the line that goes from Napa Junction to Platte. That line has been out of service so long that there are 12" trees growing between the tracks and all the highway crossings are paved over. Yet every couple of years some group of farmers, a grain company, and ehtanol producer or a combination of the three wants to reopen the line. And every time they hit the same roadblock. There's not enough potential traffic to justify the investment. All that would be needed to make it work would be a whole bunch of free government money. If only.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Monday, April 12, 2021 1:00 PM

Murphy Siding

  

All that would be needed to make it work would be a whole bunch of free government money. If only.

 

Ah, Murphy, you might very well be onto something here.  Maybe they are hoping for a big infusion of money whether it comes from Joe Biden or whatever.

In other words, they might already be planning to spend money that they don't even have yet and might never get.

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Posted by Fred M Cain on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 9:00 AM
O.K.  So, here’s the final scoop on this.  The TRAINS news brief was just plain wrong.  But I can’t blame TRAINS too much since I found a number of online news articles which also stated that Watco bought the line and will be operating it between Mitchell and Rapid City.
 
So, I contacted a guy at SDDOT and asked them how will Watco be operating a line where the rails were removed?
 
He was kind enough to give me a quick response.  He stated that Watco plans to operate the line that “currently has shippers on it” which would be from Mitchell to Presho.  If they decide to operate west from Highway 83, they will have to rebuild the track.  He also said that they have no plans at the present time undertake that large of a construction project.
 
So, I hate to have to admit this, but Mark Meyer’s assessment was right on the money.
 
Murphy mentioned the Napa to Platte rail line.  A Google search turned up an online article on that subject.  Karla Engle of the South Dakota Rail Board stated in the article that they plan to seek authorization to remove the rails and rail bank the line.  She stated that the rails are much too light for modern freight cars anyways.  So, evidently, my interpretation is that if the line were to be reopened, the track would need to be torn out and heavier rail laid.
 
She also stated – and this is what really caught my eye – that "…it isn’t difficult to take a line out of railbank status".  Huh!  Really?  How many "railbanked" lines have ever been taken out of railbank status and restored?  Or, did she actually mean that it’s easy to take the easement out of railbank status and use it for something else other than railroad use?
 
Murphy, you have my condolences.  I’m afraid the line is dead along with the Presho-Rapid City line.

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