The railroad began operations on March 14, 2009. Great Sandhills Railway owns and operates on former Canadian Pacific Railway's Empress Subdivision, Burstall Subdivision and Hazlet Spur (collectively known as the "Empress Short Line"). Great Sandhills Railway also operates on the McNeil Spur, but this track is owned by a wholly owned subsidiary of Great Sandhills Terminal. The purchase price for the Empress Short Line and the McNeil spur was $6.3 million, with $1,907,200 funded by a provincial loan under the Short Line Financial Assistance Program. The Great Sandhills Terminal is the major shareholder while other shareholders include local producers and businesses.