October 04 2007

Dakota Southern locomotive heads to Presho

Posted by Kim
A Dakota Southern locomotive pulls eleven empty grain cars into Presho Saturday, Sept. 29.

By Lucy Halverson
Seven years ago, when the Dakota Southern Railway pulled its last loaded train out of Lyman County, few thought train service would ever return. But, that changed this past week when a Dakota Southern Railway locomotive pulling a ballast car of crushed rock arrived in Presho, followed shortly by the arrival of a dozen empty grain cars. Fifty-one cars will be brought to Presho, filled with wheat purchased from Dakota Mill & Grain, then pulled back to Mitchell.

"All the cars will be filled, that’s about 165,000 bushels of wheat, before they start pulling them back to Mitchell," stated Ron Mitzel, vice-president of Dakota Mill & Grain of Rapid City. Mitzel stated that he didn’t know where the grain was headed after it gets to Mitchell, possibilities include a flour mill or for export.

Alex Huff of the Dakota Southern confirmed that a New York State grain broker, who had access to grain cars, approached him about hauling wheat. The deal was negotiated in late spring but the cars didn’t arriving in Mitchell until the end of June, then they still needed to be pulled to Chamberlain and on to Presho.

When Huff was asked about the track needing repairs he replied, "It’s been seven years since loaded cars were run on the track. Yes, we made repairs. It took an entire ballast car of rock between Chamberlain and Reliance to make repairs." They also encounter some difficulties with sidings. "The only place we have to pass cars (working siding) is at Chamberlain. At Presho the tracks were damaged during the demolition of the old elevators. According to Huff it took some maneuvering but with the use of a long heavy cable they were able to pull and push cars through Presho in order to get the locomotive headed back east to pick up more cars.

Huff added that if this first trip goes good, Dakota Southern could continue to haul grain from Lyman County east to Mitchell.

Huff went on to explain that what made this deal possible was the sale of the State owned Core railroad line to BNSF Railway (a subsidiary of Burlington, Northern, Santa Fe Corporation) in November of 2005. The sale required that BNSF give access rights to the Core line to smaller South Dakota based railroads like Dakota Southern.

Asked how a grain broker from New York find Dakota Southern Huff stated, "Following the BNSF sale we put the word out that we were looking for loads and they contacted us."

Other elevators along the line including the Farmers Union Coop Elevator at Kennebec were approached about loading cars. Stan Collins, general manager, stated they chose to wait and see. "If the line is reliable we would consider shipping on it." Currently, the Kennebec elevator trucks grain to their own rail line loading facility at Highmore.

Producers are cashing in on record-breaking wheat prices. As of Monday, the elevator in Kennebec was paying just $6.26 for nearby wheat but offering $8.52 on Feb. delivery. Collins stated that the elevator is nearly full and with fall harvest underway they don’t have space to take wheat right now.

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