July 19, 2019

Railroads are still evolving in U.S. - Daily Leader Extra : Editorials

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Railroads are still evolving in U.S.

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Posted: Monday, July 8, 2019 3:25 pm

Rick Mills, curator of the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, spoke to an audience at Prairie Village Saturday about the history of railroad development in this region.

The presentation focused on events more than a century ago, but railroading in the U.S. is evolving and creating new history all the time.

It's been decades since passenger service ended in Madison, but people still apparently enjoy riding trains. Railroad Days and the Steam Threshing Jamboree at Prairie Village demonstrate that.

Meanwhile, major cities are building new passenger rail lines (known as light rail because no freight is hauled). The closest to us is Minneapolis/St. Paul, which has built several lines and is in the process of extending service to the southwest suburbs.

In some communities, trolley service is returning, sometimes running very short distances, and usually as part of a tourist-driven area. In other cities, like Sioux Falls, vehicles intended to look like rail trolleys run on the streets.

Nationally, Amtrak continues to evolve. Under former Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson, the system is focusing more on commuter lines connecting northeast cities and reducing service to rural states. South Dakota is one of only two states in the continental U.S. without Amtrak service. Our nearest connection points are Omaha, Fargo and Minneapolis.

On the freight side, railroads are changing dramatically, shifting the entire model of how freight is staged, transferred and delivered.

We love to hear and read about railroad history, but new stories and history are being created right now.

-- Jon M. Hunter