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 railway that runs 189.7 miles (305.3 km) between Kadoka, South Dakota and Mitchell, South Dakota as well as the Napa 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 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]

The Dakota Southern also operated a line from Napa to Platte, South Dakota, from 1985-1989.[3]

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 goes all the way to Kadoka, 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 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.[6] Work began in late May 2011.[7] 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 .[8] After being rebuilt the line from Mitchell to Chamberlain carried 3,049 cars in 2013.[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.

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 - Platte line in southern South Dakota.[12] In November 2016 the South Dakota Railway Board agreed to terms on a 10 year contract with Dakota Southern to lease and restore service between Napa 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.[13] In addition a 35-40 million dollar grain facility has been proposed at Napa Junction to be served by Dakota Southern.[14]

Locomotive roster[edit]