Each year the Lyon County Historical Society has featured a “ghost” or small town at the Round Barn at the fairgrounds during the Lyon County Fair in July. However, this year, we are “departing from the norm” and are planning on featuring a small, nearly forgotten, railroad, the Bonnie Doon. I know that many of our older readers have their own memories, stories, or pictures of the Bonnie Doon, and we would appreciate your sharing them with us.

The first railroad to enter Lyon County was to Beloit in 1878. The people of Rock Rapids were disappointed that the rail line didn’t reach Rock Rapids, so the city fathers contacted the officials of the St. Paul and Sioux City Railroad about establishing a line from Luverne, Minnesota, through Rock Rapids and Lakewood and south to Doon. Consequently, a meeting was held, and it was estimated that the railroad, as designated, would cost $60,000 for the 30 miles of track. A vote was held which approved of the venture. The money was to be raised by taxation. The contract was let with the Worthington and Sioux Falls Railroad, and the line was to be completed during 1879.

The October 8, 1979, issue of the Rock Rapids newspaper had the headline, “The Iron Horse Is Here!” The story told of the arrival of the Worthington and Sioux Falls line with the first train coming into Rock Rapids on that date! The train had 21 flat cars and freight cars. All of the Rock Rapids business places closed; the population of the area turned out in full force, and the band was on hand to greet the train as it puffed into town. The next day, the first passenger train which was a “special” arrived. This was proclaimed a “festive occasion” as the train included the president of the railroad line’s special coach. The train also carried newsmen, railroad officials, politicians, and even foreign dignitaries. Plans called for a great railroad ball (dance) to be held at the county courthouse on November 5, 1879.

The Bonnie Doon made daily trips from Doon to Luverne and back to Doon in the evening. The trip out of Doon followed the east side of the Rock River, stopped at Lakewood, and then followed a course of least elevation and crossed the Rock River a mile northeast of Lakewood. The rail line continued on the west side of the river through Rock Rapids and then on to Luverne. Headquarters for the Bonnie Doon were in the terminal at Doon where it was kept in the roundhouse overnight. The Bonnie Doon stopped running in 1933, after operating for 54 years. Memories are growing dim of the first, colorful little train that daily traversed the surrounding countryside. We can only hold in memory the sound of the steam whistle announcing the train’s approach to towns and road crossings. Somehow those old steam-driven trains had a nostalgic sound of their own.

If any of our readers have a special memory of the Bonnie Doon, we would appreciate a note or call from you.

Provided by Evelyn Halverson

Transcribed by Roseanna Zehner

Stories Index