Thunder Butte

May 10, 2005

The Train Whistle Blows No More

The railroad helped settle the plains, and no less the rugged prairie around Thunder Butte. The line was completed into Dupree on December 16, 1910. The first train steamed into Faith in 1911. These trains were a part of the old Milwaukee Railroad System. The trains were a way for ranchers to get their cattle to Sioux City and Chicago. They were a way to get grain to market. They had box cars, coal cars, and passenger cars, as well. The trains were pulled by steam locomotives into the 1950’s, when they began to be replaced by diesel locomotives.

It’s amazing to think about it, today, when most of our notions about steam locomotives come from old Western movies. But, the steam locomotives were every bit as powerful as the diesel technology that followed. They had a much more voracious appetite for fuel and water, though, which spelled their doom in the end.

When John Crowley was young, he used to sit on top of Thunder Butte and listen to the old steam train pull in and out of Faith. According to John, “It was over 20 miles away. You couldn’t see the train but you could hear the whistle as it echoed across the plains—the most lonesome and mournful sound one could ever imagine.”

After World War II, more farmers, ranchers and people in the towns began to buy cars and trucks. Declining use of the trains had an impact on business. Passenger services were the first to go. Finally, railroad officials decided to cut all service to the area. Between 1979 and 1980, all of the rails and ties were pulled up on the Mobridge to Faith line. That was over 25 years ago. Still, it's sad to think that the train whistle will never be heard from the top of old Thunder Butte again.
Mike Crowley Tuesday, May 10, 2005


When I was called to active navy duty in WWII, I left Faith on that old train. The trip to Mobridge took all day, then a transfer and finally in to Omaha after three days. Years ago that little train was snowbound for several days out on the prairie---John Crowley

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