The 1880 Train is a delightful heritage steam train which runs on the Black Hills Central Railroad in South Dakota. It makes the 20-mile round journey through the stunningly scenic countryside that lies between Hill City and Keystone, passing through beautiful forests that change dramatically depending on the time of year. From the muted browns and yellows of autumn, to the ripe, verdant greens of summer, passengers are treated to a picture-perfect view throughout the year, whilst riding in attractive restored carriages pulled by one of three vintage steam locomotives, or, when the steam boiler is being washed, a diesel engine.
The mining boom in the Black Hills began in the late 1800s, after gold was discovered in the area. By 1900 the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company had established the original line between Hill City and Keystone, which was built as a mining railroad to haul precious cargo from the Black Hills. In 1957, the Black Hills Central Railroad was founded by a group who were dedicated to preserving steam railroading. Unhappy with the increasing prevalence of diesel engines since the 1940s, the group, led by William Heckman, was formed to ensure that "there should be in operation at least one working steam railroad, for boys of all ages who share America's fondness for the rapidly vanishing steam locomotive." After its inception, the journey, along with its locomotives, were nicknamed 'the 1880 Train' by Heckman, who likened the trip to the nostalgic train rides of the 1800s. The Black Hills Central Railroad experienced a rebirth in 1990, with the line and facilities thoroughly cleaned and upgraded, and the existing locomotives restored to prime condition. The charming line now holds the title as one of the United States' longest continuously running tourist trains, and remains a popular attraction for visitors to the area.
Passengers enjoy a one-way trip on the 1880 Train from Hill City, the oldest city in Pennington County, South Dakota, to the old mining town of Keystone, on a pleasant 10-mile journey which lasts an hour. Enjoy a relaxed, leisurely journey as the train slowly winds through the scenic Black Hills of western South Dakota, following the route of Battle Creek. The rugged countryside is a joy to behold as the train meanders through the hills and National Forest Service land, with views of towering forests, pretty meadows and trickling creeks, as well as the remnants of old mines, which allows a nostalgic glimpse into the remarkable mining history of the region. Animal lovers will appreciate the local wildlife often seen from the carriages windows; woodland animals including white tail and mule deer, wild turkey, mallard ducks and cottontail rabbits make their homes in the environment surrounding the line. And, with over 15 road crossings on route, passengers are provided with many opportunities to hear the unique and nostalgic sound of the train's steam whistle.
The 1880 train boasts beautifully restored carriages with bench style seating. There are open air cars with wooden seats, and enclosed cars with padded seats and windows which can be opened, both of which pay homage to a bygone age. The train is wheelchair accessible, accommodating up to two wheelchairs per journey. The scenic trip is also accompanied by on-board narration, which educates passengers on the history of the train and railway line, and highlights points of interest along the route. There is also have the opportunity to purchase an informative guide book at each station and on board the train itself, which includes more historical and technical information. Refreshments including drinks, sweets and popcorn are available on board, and the High-Liner Snack Shoppe at the station in Hill City sells an assortment of typical American snack-style fare, including burgers, hot dogs, nachos and ice cream, all of which can be taken and enjoyed on board.