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The railroad began with the purchase of an 0-4-0T narrow gauge locomotive from Earl Grice of Mankato, Minnesota in 1969. The Whilimine Victoria No. 7 was built by Orenstein & Koppel in 1927 in Berlin. Whilimine has a 19,800 weight, 24″ drivers and 170 lb. boiler pressure. She was used to give rides to school children and their chaperons who tour the village in the spring until restoration work put her in the roundhouse.
In 1987 the track was laid using the original rail from the Madison, SD switch yard. The first rail laid was stamped 1887 – one hundred years after first being laid in Madison. This track renewed interest in the little train and in the possibility of laying track to include the entire Village grounds, about 2 miles, including passing through the original town site of Herman Township by the shores of Lake Herman.
About this time, a 15-ton Burro Railroad crane was donated to the village. A local railroad group restored the crane and it was valuable in building the 2 miles of track around the village – fulfilling a dream of the village founding fathers.
In 1976 a group of men organized the Historic Dakota Central Railroad and acquired the locomotive, No. 29 (0-6-0). The Historic Dakota Central ran from Madison to Junius, SD – several miles west, running one season. No. 29 sat as a display until 1987 when she was steamed for the Annual Jamboree. She was then purchased by the village in 1988 and plans began to extend the track around the village.
No. 29 was built by Lima in 1944, builders #8381, war department #4047 and started service in the Army than renumbered #144 for Bay City Terminal in Cleveland, Ohio. It is coal fired and weighs 77 tons. Iron & Steel Processing in Chicago, IL and Duluth & N.Eastern bought the locomotive after service in Ohio and finally in 1963 was retired from service and bought by Earl Grice of Mankato, Minn. where Prairie Village bought the locomotive. No. 29’s sister locomotive is located in Calgary, Canada at Heritage Park and is operational and numbered 2023, war dept. #4076. After 12 years and much needed work on the firebox and grates, #29 was able to run during the 2013 & 2014 Jamboree under its own power.
The most recent acquired locomotive is No. 11 (0-4-0T), built in 1924 by Alco at the Cooks Works in Pennsylvania. She carries water and fuel on the locomotive itself rather than in a tender hooked on behind. She is also coal fired, weighs 35 tons, and is easy to operate and keep up steam. No. 11 was purchased in the summer of 1992 from the Historic Deadwood Central railroad in Deadwood, South Dakota. It has operated on the Kelley Island Lime & Transport Co., Rockport, MI as No. 13. It was sold to A. Fivenson Iron & Metal Co. in Alpena, MI. Starting in 1964 it operated on the Cadillac & Lake City Railroad in MI. In 1973 it was moved to the Reese Central Railroad and Museum in Reese, MI. In 1979 it was sold to Jerry Jacobson, Southwest Virginia Scenic Railroad in Hiltons, VA where it was changed into a 2-4-0 and given a tender. It then operated for two seasons on the Deadwood Central Railroad in South Dakota.
Maintenance equipment include nine railroad motorcars, pump car and velocipede. Pump car and Velocipede rides are available during Railroad Days and The Steam Threshing Jamboree at the Roundhouse north of the Wentworth Depot. Motorcar and doodlebug tickets can be purchased at the depot during Railroad Days and Jamboree when cars are available for rides. Reconstructed in 2010, the South Dakota Central doodlebug carried passengers between Wentworth and Watertown in the early 1900’s.
In recent years a 66 foot bridge turntable built by Chicago’s Lassig Bridge & Iron Works was built into a pit in front of the new 3 stall Roundhouse and is used to move equipment to the mainline. The 35 ton turntable is manually turned by a pipe and well balanced on a center bearing assembly to reduce weight drag. The turntable was removed from the Sioux Falls railroad next to Falls Park and is an original Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Turntable. During Railroad Days and Jamboree you can catch turntable demonstrations that give visitors an opportunity to operate and see the turntable working.