This historic railroad grade formerly connected all the small towns between here and Rapid City, including Kadoka (see photo of Kadoka mill above), Interior, Scenic and probably some others (Conata, Weta) that are now just dusty names on a map. This leg of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Murdo to Rapid City) was built in 1907 and hauled passengers, agricultural products, you name it. The age of the railroad officially ended in 1980. Some of the small reservoirs along the route, now used by grazing cattle, were once used for the steam locomotives. In some ways, the great era of trains on the Great Plains started to decline way back in the era of the dust bowls, when it had just begun a few decades earlier. Many trestles are standing, but some were in tough shape. No evidence that this is being used as a rails-to-trails route yet. PS: I noticed that the old train station in Kadoka has been turned into a museum.
I’m going to share this link to a song called “The L&N don’t stop here anymore” as covered by Johnny Cash, since I was listening to Johnny Cash yesterday as I drove the White River Road. I originally learned the song through Michelle Shocked’s version. The song is specifically set in a former coal-mining town, where men were covered in black coal dust, but it resonates for me since I grew up on a farm where we could once hear the whistle of passing trains, and there was a feed mill down at crossing. At the grain mill in the next town, I remember, our neighbor worked — his head and arms floured white with grain dust. Those rails are long gone, as is the mill, except the indelible part preserved like a fossil in my memory.