Any possibility of Amtrak serving South Dakota?

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Aug 3, 2004
As with all statistics, you can make the answer fit your agenda/position.
  • If you're a train advocate - the towns died when the trains left
  • If you're train hater - the trains left because the towns died
Nothing to do with being an “advocate” or a “hater.” If one does the research (which, granted, I have not, because the history of South Dakota towns isn’t really one of my interests), I’m sure one can actually trace the economic development of towns and railroads in the area.

As Just-Thinking-51 noted, development of a highway could cause railroad service to die. Development of highways can also change the population growth and travel patterns in ways that are unfavorable to the small towns the railroads serve. Same with other technology and infrastructure, which may have been more readily available in cities than in small towns whose primary way in/out was the railroad.

And yes, there probably were a few places that only existed because 120 years ago you needed a place to service steam locomotive, but otherwise, there was no real reason to have a collection of people there (for the same reason that vast amounts of other nearby locations never had a town at all, and just remained undeveloped land which, honestly, is perfectly fine).

Anthony V

Service Attendant
Mar 10, 2016
The way I see it, the most feasible way for Amtrak to serve South Dakota would be with a train running from Sioux Falls to Sioux City and Omaha, where it would connect with the California Zephyr. Connections to LD trains are important for the survival of corridors. This corridor would also have to be multi-frequency to be worthwhile. Due to the low population on the route, I don't even see this proposal happening.


OBS Chief
AU Supporter
Mar 30, 2019
A parallel highway is also a reason why a railroad would fail, but a boom for the towns along the route.
If it's a limited access highway, for example, the Interstate network, there will be a boom for some points and not the others. The faster access to larger centers with their variety of services and jobs sucks the life out of the weaker communities. That is often true with conventional highway improvements. And yes, Stilgoes' Metropolitan Corridor describes the rail age equivalent experience.

This has been going on since the dawn of the highway industrial complex in the WWI era, so a lot of data and anecdotes are available. What also has not changed is that elected officials and project promoters are unwilling to face the fact that they can't have the Main Street that they remember from childhood AND drive to the Wal-Mart in a regional center.

Changes in the cost of trucking are also part of this, particularly in a state like South Dakota, or in the Canadian prairies. The Denver Art Museum had a photo exhibit a few years ago of Canadian prairie town centres. The docent admitted that she was puzzled by one especially grim looking town versus another that looked prosperous. I went home and pulled out an old Official Guide and the grim one was on a classic prairie grain collection line with Mixed Train service at one time, but was gone now. The prosperous one was on the CN main line, with a big new elevator. I am sure that the folks in the grim one cheered the improvements in their highway and never gave a thought to the fact that it would divert farmers and their Main Street spending to the main line elevator.