625 SE 1st Street Madison, South Dakota 57042
It is said the only difference between men and boys is the size
of their toys. Considering this is written for the Iron-Men
Album magazine and I’m a woman, I still consider this to
be true in my case, as my biggest toy weighs approximately 70 tons
and is an 0-6-0 steam switch engine. Let me give you a brief
history of our railroad and then I’ll explain how I got
involved in such big toys.
The Prairie Village, Herman and Milwaukee Railroad had its
beginnings in 1969 with the purchase of a 2-foot gauge,
German-built railroad locomotive. Wilhelmine Victoria No. 7 was
built in 1927 by Orenstien & Koppel of Berlin. This company
still exists, producing agricultural equipment. Wilhelmine is an
8-ton locomotive with an 0-4-0T wheel arrangement. Wilhelmine
operates on about 150 lbs. of steam pressure. Ten of these
locomotives were imported to the U. S. and one of them found its
way to Prairie Village.
In 1976 a group of Madison businessmen acquired an 0-6-0 Lima
built switcher and some rolling stock in order to create a tourist
train to run from Madison, South Dakota, to Junius, South
Dakotaabout seven miles to the west. The 70 ton, coal fired train
operated well, but the venture was financially unsuccessful,
running for only one season, 1976. The locomotive then sat at
Prairie Village as a static display until the fall of 1987, when
one of the owners of No. 29 decided to steam it for the annual
Threshing Jamboree. The Loco needed only a minimum of work to put
it back into operation, and it performed flawlessly on the only
track left to it at that time a 1000 foot section of rail owned by
Prairie Historical Society. This train was purchased by the museum
in 1988 and plans were begun to acquire the rail and roadbed needed
to extend the track. One of the volunteers had been a civil
engineer working for the Great Northern for 16 years, and he now
undertook the responsibility to survey and plan the work. At this
time a major donation came to the Village in the form of a 15-ton
Burro railroad crane. This crane became instrumental in building
the two mile track around the perimeter of the 80 acre Village
grounds. The track encircles the entire Prairie Village grounds and
is built using about a half-mile of original Chicago, Milwaukee,
St. Paul, & Pacific track. The track passes through the site of
an 1879 ghost town, Herman. This brings us to the origin of our
name. The railroad starts at Prairie Village, runs to Herman, and
then back to Prairie Village on the Milwaukee Railroad.
Our newest locomotive is No. 11, built in 1924 by Alco at their
Cooke Works in Pennsylvania. An 0-4-0T, it carries its water and
fuel on the locomotive itself rather than in a tender behind it. It
weighs 35 tons and operates at 150 lbs. of steam pressure. No. 11
was acquired from the Historic Deadwood Central Railroad in
Deadwood, South Dakota. She was loaded on flatbed semi trucks for
the trip to Prairie Village in the summer of 1992.
Besides our engines, we have a collection of rolling stock. We
have several cabooses, tank car, boxcar, combo car, snow plow, and
a very rare chapel car. Also included are a number of motorcars
used for track maintenance, and a diesel powered track mobile used
for yard arrangement. This is a very handy vehicle as it has both
rail and rubber wheels. We have a rail bus for rides also.
We have three depots for both display and loading of passengers.
One of these is a rare union depot. The depot is home for a
collection of model trains and also houses a hand pump track car
like you see on so many cartoons, and a foot pedaled velocipede. We
are in the process of installing a turntable and small round house.
Completion of that will be dependent on donations.
Now back to how I got involved with these big toys. Machines and
motors have always been a fascination for me. Growing up on a farm
with tractors and trucks, I could always be found helping my dad
with something mechanical. Anytime we went to town I was always
thrilled if I was lucky enough to see a train come to town. I loved
the sound of the tremendous power, but never in my wildest dreams
did I ever believe I would someday be an engineer on one of those
fascinating machines. That brings us up to about five years ago
when my husband bought himself a motorcar. I must admit I
wasn’t entirely thrilled with his purchase at first, but once
he had it cleaned up and running on the track, it wasn’t too
long before I had my hand on the throttle. Anyway an older
gentleman friend told me I would look really good up in the cab of
old No. 29. So I took to the books and studied all I could about
steam operation and learned the basics on our steam-powered
merry-go-round. Next I graduated to our narrow gauge Wilhelmine and
now finally I engineer and fire the big toys alongside the big boys
and I love every exciting minute.
Prairie Village, located two miles west of Madison, South
Dakota, is operated by the Prairie Historical Society, a non-profit
organization, and maintained by volunteer workers.