Rails Around Siouxland

Eastern South Dakota, Southwestern Minnesota, 2011


A family trip  to Sioux Falls, South Dakota provided a few opportunities to go out and photograph rail subjects in the area.  I had not been to this region before, so it was a nice change of pace.

The area is primarily granger in character, with thousands of square miles of soybeans and corn growing in alternating fields in every direction.   BNSF is the dominant carrier (Twin Cities Division), though other railroads such as the Dakota and Iowa (DAIR) and the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern (DM&E) Railroad have operations near here. Union Pacific and CN both have lines to the east and south (Iowa, Minnesota).

I managed to get photos on the BNSF near Ruthton, MN and in Sioux Falls over a couple of days, plus grabbed a couple of other miscellaneous items in the area.

Day 1- September 28, 2011

BNSF's  line running south from Sioux Falls travels to Canton and connects to the DAIR there.  The DAIR runs trains over this track, evidently, as seen below.  The line runs through a nice residential section of the Sioux Falls, passing several parks along Southeastern Avenue. Here I caught one in the late afternoon, sun on the wrong side and dealing with camera issues. Nevertheless I managed a couple of interesting images.

DAIR # 2513 was leading the train. It's a GP50, ex-C&NW.  This has to be classified as an "art shot" since I didn't quite catch the unit in the clear.  Right after this my memory card filled up...


An enhanced version of the backlit photo, we can identify another one of the five locomotives-- #23, a GP9 that came from the Northern Pacific a long time ago.  The three trailing units are all similar models, judging by the round roofs.  Sadly I couldn't get better photos.  Right after this my memory card filled up...
The train was a long unit train of these LGEX open hoppers.  They seemed to be carrying plain old gravel.  (I had quickly deleted a couple of images from the camera by this time, but the power was long gone and I was on foot...)

Day 2- September 29, 2011

Next day we ventured into Minnesota to see Walnut Grove, one of the sites described by Laura Ingalls in her books. Which is NOTHING like the TV series, by the way (thankfully, in my opinion).  On the way back I photographed a static display in Tracy, MN and witnessed a meet in Ruthton.

This 0-6-0 steam locomotive is parked at a small outdoor museum in Tracy, Minnesota, along with an outside-brace boxcar and a bay-window caboose, all lettered Chicago & Northwestern.  The spark-arresting stack is interesting, but I found myself wondering if it were genuine or not...
Here's the caboose. You could go inside and they have a dummy set up in the window to play the part of the rear brakeman. Not much to see in there, actually.

The DM&E line runs through Tracy, just south of this location, and also hits Walnut Grove (for the "Little House" fans).

As we proceeded west we paralleled the BNSF line on highway 23. In the distance I saw a moving train, which turned out to be a westbound ballast train. Even better, an eastbound freight was parked in the siding.  We got ahead of the ballast train in time to witness the meet.

(It turns out it's hard to get good focus through the tinted rear windows of a van, and I didn't want to inconvenience my elderly mother-in-law by making her get out of the car for me. Sometimes you just have to deal with life, ya know?  )

Here the westbound ballast train slows as it approaches the east switch of the siding. A nice pair of C44-9W's (i.e. paint is not faded) are on the point.
Waiting in the siding is the eastbound freight with C44-9W No. 4616 on the point. Next in line is my catch-of-the-day, an SD60M in BN colors.
Here's the SD60M, now numbered 8103.
Here the ballast train rolls past the waiting freight. The ballast hoppers are equipped with solar panels to power their automatic dumping system; very hi-tech and interesting to see.
Over at Ihlen, MN, we passed this switcher, Great Southwest Railway No. 103.  It actually belongs to Farmers Cooperative Elevator, but still retains its paint from the GSW in Texas whence it came.  It's an SW9, and is 60 years old at time of this photo.

Day 3- October 1, 2011

Our final day in town I caught a BNSF train headed south, in the same location as the DAIR train above. This time, though, the light was ideal, plus the train was creeping to a halt in a perfect location for photos.  It had a pair of Ferromex (Ferrocarril Mexocano) ES44AC's in the consist, and the train was primarily BNSF covered hoppers.

Here the train is just easing to a stop along Southeastern Ave., fifty yards shy of the Marson Drive crossing. The leaves are just barely starting to turn.
Second unit in line is this sharp-looking Ferromex ES44AC, FXE 4675.
The trailing locomotive was FXE 4604, with paint much faded as compared to its brother to the left.


There was a lot more rail activity, and a lot more variety of it, than I was expecting in this area. I was told that it was a good time of year for it, since all the seasonal agricultural product was shipping. There is an interesting variety of shortline and Class II action, and I barely scratched the surface. I hope I can get back soon.


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