This railway line between Watertown and Leola was constructed in 1906 by the Minneapolis and Saint Louis Railroad, which merged into the Chicago and North Western Railroad in 1960. The C&NW abandoned the Stratford-Leola segment in 1968 and the remainder of the route the following year.
Watertown to Leola, SD
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This line continued east northeast out of Watertown and into Minnesota. The only RR building left in Watertown was originally joint Rock Island/M&Stl depot.
The RI Watertown branch, which was the first RR to leave, ran east southeast from its namesake into Minnesota.
This line extended northwest for a few years in the 1920s to Long Lake.
The portion track which existed from Leola to Long Lake was the Mound City and Eastern Railway,1929-1949, which was supposed to continue from Long Lake SD, through southern ND and then back into SD to Mound City. Other sections were graded but funding ran out.
My grandfather was the depot agent for the Leola Depot in the 1920s and worked for Minneapolis St. Louis Railway. His name was Vern Hinds.
There never was a last train on the Aberdeen to Leola line. There was eleven cars on the line when line was approved for abandonment but heavy rains weaken the the frail roadbed and CNW would not allow a locomotive over the tracks to get the remaining cars so a farmer was hired who pulled the cars back to Aberdeen with a tractor.
Leola to Long Lake was Aberdeen, Bismarck & North Western which graded the entire distance but never laid a rail. AB&NW chartered in 1883, lay defunct and was acquired by MStPSSM in 1888. Soo railed Ashley to Bismark by 1902. Mound City & Eastern graded about 15 miles east from Mound City to the middle of nowhere around the turn of the century and also never laid a rail. M&StL acquired the MC&E charter and did connect to the old AB&NW at Leola and in 1929 (pre-crash) laid rails from Leola to Long Lake under the auspices of the acquired MC&E. Rails remained into the 1940's.
The M&StL and the Milwaukee reached the Missouri River about the same time in the early 1900s. But, the stronger Milwaukee beat M&StL across the river ending M&StL's western expansion at Le Beau. The M&StL would retrench eastward and Leola would be the western terminus until after the Great Depression when the route was trimmed back to Watertown. Passenger service would remain to Watertown in to 1960 just months before the merger with C&NW after which the tried and true C&NW tactic of denying service would give it cause to abandon service wherever it decided to deny service. The rails would be pulled all the way back to Madison, MN by 1980.
The line that went to Le Beau was part of the line leaving Watertown and the switch was at Conde. Everything west of Conde was pulled up in 1940.