Dakota Southern Railway

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Dakota Southern Railway
Reporting mark DSRC
Locale South Dakota
Dates of operation 1985–
Predecessor Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters Chamberlain, South Dakota

The Dakota Southern Railway (reporting mark DSRC) is a railroad that runs 189.7 miles (305.3 km) between Kadoka, South Dakota and Mitchell, South Dakota as well as the Napa Junction-Platte Line, which is owned by the South Dakota Department of Transportation, that runs 54.5 miles (87.7 km) between Napa Junction and Platte, South Dakota.[1][2] It connects with the BNSF Railway in Mitchell and Napa Junction respectively.[3]


The Mitchell-Kadoka line is part of a former Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (CMStP&P) secondary built between Marquette, Iowa and Rapid City, South Dakota during the period of 1880 and 1907.[3] The line lost profitability and was embargoed in 1980 and subsequently bought by the South Dakota Department of Transportation, which still owns the tracks.[4] The purchase was orchestrated by Governor Bill Janklow.[5]

Dakota Southern also operated a line from Napa Junction to Platte, South Dakota, which was also constructed and owned by the Chicago, Milwakuee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad,The operation lasted from 1985 to1989 before Dakota Southern stopped operating the line.[3]Dakota Southern has since reinstated operations on this line as far as Tabor, almost 30 years after the last train left the line.

The railway originally hauled large amounts of grain, but this business became unprofitable in the late 1990s. Between 2000 and 2007, the railway had just one customer—a box factory in Mitchell, South Dakota, and thus no trains passed that point. In 2005, however, the railway obtained a haulage agreement with BNSF to allow it to operate to Sioux City, where it could interchange with the Union Pacific Railroad and the Canadian National Railway, making grain service profitable again. After track repairs, service briefly resumed as far as Presho, South Dakota in the fall of 2007. While the line still officially operates all the way to Kadoka, as the Kadoka-Rapid City portion was rail-banked in 1996, [6]a grade crossing in Vivian is currently paved over, as well as one in Belvidere.[5]

New Ownership & Revitalization of the Line[edit]

On October 1, 2009, new owners Mike Williams and Stan Patterson took over the day-to-day operations of the railroad. They both own other rail lines in the country. Mike Williams owns the Bountiful Grain and Craig Mountain Railroad, Ozark Valley Railroad and the Iowa River Railroad. Stan Patterson operates the Washington and Idaho Railway. Initially they planned to rehabilitate the line as far as Murdo, 140 miles west of Mitchell, over three years. The first year was to be from Mitchell to White Lake, the second year to Chamberlain and in the third year rehabilitation would be carried out to Murdo.

In the spring of 2011 a 16 million dollar federal Tiger grant was secured to help finance the 28 million dollar rebuild of 61.6 miles of the line between Mitchell and Chamberlain.[7] Work began in late May 2011.[8] According to former railroad owner Alex Huff, the 65 pound rail was to be replaced with 136, 132 and 115 pound rail. As a result of the rebuilding, two competing companies proposed building 110 car shuttle loading facilities near Kimball, South Dakota.[9]In mid-September 2012 the first regularly scheduled service west of Mitchell since the late 1990s began with twice weekly unit trains of inbound fertilizer and outbound grain to the newly built Liberty Grain elevator east of Kimball.[10]

In Fall 2014 Dakota Southern received a Federal Tiger grant to help fund rebuilding an additional 42 miles of the line from Chamberlain to one mile west of Presho. South Dakota Wheat Growers started construction on an agronomy services & shuttle loader facility in the fall of 2014 in Kennebec.[11] The reconstructed line opened and the first 115 car shuttle train arrived and was loaded in Kennebec in October 2016.

Before being rehabilitated the line carried 687 cars in 2010, 3,049 cars in 2013 after rehabilitation between Mitchell and Chamberlain and 9,580 in 2017 after rehabilitation to Presho.[12]

In 2018, Dakota Southern had expressed reinterest in rehabilitating the line to Murdo, and possibly beyond all the way to Kadoka.[13]

Platte Line Operator[edit]

In September 2015, 27 years after Dakota Southern stopped operating the line, Dakota Southern was chosen by the State Railway Board to again operate the long out-of-service Napa Junction - Platte line in southern South Dakota.[14] In November 2016, the South Dakota Railway Board agreed with terms on a 10 year contract with Dakota Southern to lease and restore service between Napa Junction and Ravinia. Plans were made to replace 2,000 ties so that the railroad could operate the first 10 miles of track, as far as Tabor within 30 days.[15] In addition a 35-40 million dollar grain facility has been proposed at Napa Junction to be served by Dakota Southern.[16]

Locomotive roster[edit]


In December 2017, Dakota Southern Railway was found to have stored rail cars full of liquid natural gas, more commonly known as Butane on a siding at the South Dakota Wheat Growers Facility in Kennebec. A federal inspection found that they had been sitting there far too long, and cited 11 counts of hazardous material violations.

Further invesitgation found that Mike Willams, one of the co-owners of Dakota Southern, had signed a contract giving away 1.4 miles of siding to Bruce Terminaling LLC, a company that Mike Willams also owns. This contract was not presented to the South Dakota State Rail Board, and due to this, a discussion about terminating the lease of Dakota Southern on the Rapid City-Mitchell (MRC) line came about, but Dakota Southern still currently holds the lease.[17][18][19][20]


  1. ^ "SDDOT / Transportation / Railroads / Rail Carriers / Dakota Southern" (aspx). Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  2. ^ "Icherald.com: News/Comments/Dakota Southern locomotive heads to Presho" (php). Retrieved 2007-10-11.
  3. ^ a b c d Lewis, Edward A. (1996). American Shortline Railway Guide. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. ISBN 0-89024-290-9.
  4. ^ "SDDOT/Railroads/Current Rail System/Basic Mileage" (asp). Retrieved 2007-10-11.
  5. ^ a b "Dakota Southern reopens service to grain shippers after seven years". Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  6. ^ "South Dakota Department of Transportation - Current Rail System". www.sddot.com. Retrieved 2017-12-24.
  7. ^ |http://www.lcherald.com./print.php?news.1469
  8. ^ http://www.dakotabroadcasting.com/1077/news&sid=3825
  9. ^ http://sdsrm.org/uncategorized/dakota-southern-rebuilding-details
  10. ^ |http://futures.tradingcharts.com/news/futures/Kimball_to_see_more_businesses_near_new_elevator_185467042.html
  11. ^ http://rapidcityjournal.com/blog/pierre-review/rail-rehab-will-cover-chamberlain-to-presho/article_8ee9b37c-3f3c-11e4-8ee7-6b2f6984ce3b.html
  12. ^ https://www.farmforum.net/2017/12/26/sd-rail-board-wants-to-know-about-side-deals
  13. ^ Bureau, Bob Mercer State Capitol. "Rail groups seek support by state for federal grants". Capital Journal. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  14. ^ http://www.mitchellrepublic.com/news/state/3841028-state-board-selects-dakota-southern-hold-lease-napa-platte-rail-line
  15. ^ http://www.capjournal.com/news/dakota-southern-railway-to-start-rolling-on-part-of-sd/article_8c1e65b4-ac88-11e6-a7d4-2bf0ffc3e077.html
  16. ^ http://www.yankton.net/community/article_3827bb06-68b7-11e5-9b05-7ff323553679.html
  17. ^ Editor, FF (2017-12-26). "SD Rail Board wants to know about side deals". Farm Forum. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  18. ^ Bureau, Bob Mercer State Capitol. "Dakota Southern still has sublease on state rail line". Capital Journal. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  19. ^ Bureau, Bob Mercer, Public Opinion Capitol. "Dakota Southern still has sublease on state rail line". Watertown Public Opinion. Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  20. ^ Bureau, Bob Mercer, Public Opinion Capitol. "State rail board wants to know when lessees agree to side deals". Watertown Public Opinion. Retrieved 2018-01-12.