This Spring I have been researching little-known or forgotten towns in southwest North Dakota. Here are few examples, that most younger North Dakotans have never heard of: Daglum, Pierce, DeSart, Bessie, Havelock, Whetstone Butte. Each of these towns are not far from the town of New England.
In a previous blog post article, I explained that from time-to-time when I had been driving on back-roads in western North Dakota, I had passed a small old abandoned cemetery, small church, or schoolhouse, that made me realize there was once a town here, in what is now the middle of nowhere.
Both in my reading and in discussions with local North Dakotans, it had been pointed out to me several times that a railroad once passed through New England. I put this information in my head, but I didn’t think much more about the railroad. It was common knowledge that towns in the western United States sprung up adjacent to railroads, especially when there was a train depot with scheduled stops.
After several motorcycle rides this Spring, sightseeing through the abandoned and forgotten towns that I named at the beginning of this article, I thought that it would be fun to ride the abandoned railroad easement out of New England, and follow it to wherever it went. But when I began driving around trying to spot the old railroad easement, I couldn’t find it.
When I began looking on the internet to find out where the supposed/alleged railroad had been in New England, I was surprised at the things that I found and learned. The town of New England had been the last stop, the end of the line for what was known as the “Milwaukee Road” railroad.
Due to nostalgia and the great enthusiasm that some people have for railroads, there is an abundance of information on the “Milwaukee Road” railroad. This railroad company filed for bankruptcy in 1977, and the railroad tracks themselves were kind of abandoned by 1982. I say “kind of abandoned”, because I have not yet been able to determine if in addition to railroad tracks having obviously been torn up, if the land easements were sold off or turned over to anyone.
What I was trying to find out, was where the Milwaukee Road railroad had been, and whether or not the railroad bed/easement was something that I could ride on with my motorcycle. Had the land been turned over to local farmers since 1982?
The following internet site was one of the most useful in obtaining information about the Milwaukee Road railroad, more officially known as the “Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad”: https://www.american-rails.com/nd.html
The internet site given in the link above has information on all of the railroads that were built in North Dakota. Using some of the menu options, first selecting “Milwaukee Road”, then “System Map (1966)”, here is a 1966 map that shows the railroad line to New England, North Dakota, and that this line was was completed in 1910: https://www.american-rails.com/milw.html#Map
If you click on the link to this 1966 Milwaukee Road railroad system map, in order to see the railroad line as it travels from New England, to Regent, to Mott, you will probably have to go to the three vertical dots on the upper righthand corner of your browser, and enlarge your computer screen all the way up to 300%.
What I also found, was on the following MapQuest map, there is a light grey color line, that goes from New England, to Regent, to Mott, showing the route of the abandoned Milwaukee Road railroad line. Please click on this link, and then zoom-in using the map icon until you can see the light grey color line exiting New England heading southeast. https://www.mapquest.com/us/north-dakota/new-england-nd-282033684
When you look at this MapQuest map after having zoomed-in to New England, and if you follow the light grey color line to Regent, you will realize that New England, Regent, and Mott were laid out around the railroad line. This is important, did you know that the North Dakota towns of New England, Regent, and Mott were actually created and platted by the Milwaukee Road railroad company?
When writing this blog post article, and trying to explain/document what I learned, I accidentally found something that is much more important than this blog post article, it is an online digital scan of the “Standard Atlas, Hettinger County, ND, 1917”: http://www.digitalhorizonsonline.org/digital/collection/p16921coll2/id/2326/
I can’t believe that I found this 1917 Standard Atlas of Hettinger County!
The reason why I am so excited, if you click on or type in the “digitial horizons online” website address for this 1917 Hettinger County Atlas, it shows EVERY forgotten town, and its PLAT!!!
From page 9 of this 1917 Hettinger County Atlas, it shows the plat of the town of New England, please look at this plat and see that all of the land is labelled “Milwaukee Land Co’s”: http://www.digitalhorizonsonline.org/digital/collection/p16921coll2/id/2254