© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Mid-Continental Railroad


Like most states, North Dakota was built on dreams. On this date in 1970, one of those dreams came to an end.

This North Dakota dream started around 1910, with the Midland Continental Railroad’s plan to connect Winnipeg, Canada, with the Gulf of Mexico. Anyone attempting travel from north to south in these early days was met with mile after endless mile of remote countryside. Executives at Midland believed that a north-south rail connection was as viable as the eleven east-west railroads that had been operating successfully for many years. Even the new railroad’s name, Midland Continental, seemed fitting, connecting the midsection of the nation.

The north-south railroad dream was well financed; envisioning the city of Jamestown, in Stutsman County as the continental headquarters; perhaps even rivaling Chicago as the major railroad hub. In its north-south run, it would make connections with existing railroad lines: the SOO Line at Wimbledon, in northwestern Barnes County, the Northern Pacific Railroad in Jamestown, and the Milwaukee Road Railroad in Edgely.

In 1912, some 200 people turned out for the opening ceremonies of the new seventy-one mile line. The Mid Continental Railroad was open for business!

The new north-south rail line flourished for a number of years, mainly transporting grain, the economic mainstay of the state. Most of the grain that the Mid Continental Railroad carried was grown within thirty miles on either side of this meandering rail line. The line ran through places like Johnson, Hurning, Homer, Sydney, Millartown, Nortonville, Franklin and Winal.

Like many North Dakota enterprises, the Midland Continental Railroad was at the mercy of the weather. Harsh climate and poor crop prices and production lead to its eventual demise. In 1969, more harsh weather, this time in the form of a major flood, destroyed the road bed. Those stations along the route were not able to recover. On October 29, 1970, after fifty-eight years of service, the north-to-south railroad dream came to an end when the last train operating on the Midland Continental’s line stopped service. The dream died quietly, with few people noticing.

In Ken Brovold’s book "Silent Town on the Prairie," he reminds us

There are no tombstones or monuments for dead dreams. Let us all be mindful of the wonderful little railroad that tried to make a difference in the development of the state, and the far off whistle that made dreamers of us all.*

Brovold, Ken C., Silent Towns on the Prairie, Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., (Missoula, Montana, 1999). Pg. 16

Written by Dave Seifert