Welcome aboard the Black Hills Central Railroad 1880 Train!

Dave & I like trains so we drove to Keystone to ride an old steam train. The 2 1/2 hour roundtrip adventure took us through the South Dakota Black Hills between Keystone and Hill City.

They use water and recycled oil to power the engine, which creates a lot of white smoke.  

 The Black Hills Central Railroad restores early twentieth century-era locomotives and train cars and the train has been featured on television shows such as the Gunsmoke,  “Snow Train”, General Hospital and the TNT mini-series Into the West. It also appeared in the movie Orphan Train.  Quite The Celebrity!

Since the Black Hills has many changes in elevation, the train has to maneuver 4 – 6% grades, which is very difficult for any train, actually it’s the third steepest railroad grade in the country. It goes through some of the oldest rock formations, near the highest peak East of the Rocky Mountains and along the back side of Mount Rushmore. 

Keystone Depot where we got on.


The route it takes is the one built by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in the late nineteenth century when the Black Hills were undergoing a mining boom.  The first steam engine arrived in this area in 1879, five years after the gold mining boom began. The route the 1880 train follows was built during the 1890s. These rail lines were also used to haul materials to Mount Rushmore during its carving in the 1930s. Commercial use of this route stopped in the early 1950s.

Our 1st stop Hill City train depot

Last picture the Engineer is putting the recycled oil & water mixture into the engine. We got aboard and headed ack to Keystone.

The train had to left off some steam. Quote for the day:  “The introduction of so powerful of an agent as steam to a carriage on wheels will make a great change in the situation of man.” – Thomas Jefferson

As steam engines were being replaced by diesel engines, a group of local railroad men decided to do what they could to preserve the heritage of the steam locomotive. But they did not want to limit it to a non-functioning display that would only be looked at as part of a museum or park.

The Black Hills Central Railroad opened to the public in 1957 with a steam engine and two open-air passenger coaches. It is also called the 1880 Train because one of the founders believed it would give folks the experience of what it was like to ride on a passenger train during the 1880s.

Today, the Black Hills Central Railroad owns three steam locomotives, two diesel locomotives, and twelve other cars.

It was really a neat experience riding on the train, we let them do the driving and navigating! It was also neat to hear the train whistle blowing and the clatter of the train going down the tracks.

We had dinner at the Ruby House restaurant in Keystone, which was very nice.

2 thoughts on “Welcome aboard the Black Hills Central Railroad 1880 Train!

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