Railroads key piece of South Dakota's 125th birthday

Thursday, November 06, 2014

By Rapid City Journal

When the Dakota territories entered the union more than a century ago, the railroad systems that ran through the region were absolutely crucial to its settlement. Railroads provided a safe and reliable method of transportation that connected the frontier to the rest of the nation.

As generations passed and other methods of transportation gained popularity, the rail system lost its perch as the premier form of transportation in America. But it still plays a crucial role in shaping the South Dakota economy.

On Saturday, the day before South Dakota celebrated its quasquicentennial, Rick Mills, the director of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, gave a presentation called "Remembering South Dakota's Railroads" at the Hill City High School Theater.

The presentation featured a collage of railroad photographs showcasing how railroads shaped South Dakota 125 years ago and how they remain vital to the state today. 

The railway is far from its zenith in 1916, when South Dakota had 4,400 miles of railroad track and the nation had about 250,000 miles of track, Mills said. He estimated there are about 1,800 miles of track in South Dakota and somewhere around 160,000 miles nationwide.   

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