In the 1960s and early 1970s, Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (Rock Island) was an important railroad that linked Chicago to Denver. However, the road fell victim to bankruptcy in 1979 and was left abandoned for several years.
After three different entities attempted to restore operations on the Rock Island, a group of businessmen formed The Mid States Port Authority and rehabilitated a 500-mile (805-kilometer) portion of the Rock Island line that today is G&W’s Kyle Railroad (KYLE), allowing Northcentral Kansas farmers to continue getting their crops to market. Willis B. Kyle, who had already owned several other railroad properties in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, purchased the line in 1982 just in time for the Northern Kansas harvest season.
During its first year of operations, KYLE yielded nearly 8,000 carloads. Ten years later, the line was generating more than 20,000 carloads per year. At first, the traffic mainly consisted of Hard Red Winter Wheat, used for baking the majority of rolls, bread and sweets in the U.S., during late summer. The way in which wheat is harvested, stored and sold has since changed, and today wheat ships along the KYLE year-round. Other crops, including milo, corn and sunflower seeds, as well as fertilizer, sunflower oil and roofing products, also generate traffic flow for the railroad.
After Kyle passed away in 1990, an entrepreneur named Lynn Cecil took over KYLE’s operations in addition to the other rail properties that Kyle owned. In 1997, StatesRail purchased KYLE, and 10 years later, RailAmerica purchased StatesRail. G&W took over ownership of KYLE when it acquired RailAmerica in 2012.
Today, KYLE serves as an important link between the U.S. Wheat Belt and national markets, interchanging with BNSF, UP and the Nebraska Kansas Colorado Railway.