What is the 1880 train?
It's a two-hour, 20-mile narrated round trip between Hill City and Keystone. Passengers see views of Harney Peak, mining camps and participate in some good old-fashioned fun. Trains follow the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad's original route, built in the late 1880s to serve the mines and mills between Hill City and Keystone. The Black Hills Central Railroad is the nation's oldest continuously operating tour railroad, and operates three steam and two diesel locomotives throughout the season. One of our locomotives is over 100 years old!
Why is the railway called “Train of 1880”?
In 1957, the 1880 train was started by a man named William Heckman. He believed "there should be a working steam railway for boys of all ages who share America's fondness for the fast-disappearing steam engine." He wanted a railroad reminiscent of one from the 1880s. The name stuck, and the 1880 train has chugged through the Black Hills ever since. The 1880 train is the oldest continuous tourist train!
Which cities does the train depart from?
The train runs back and forth between Hill City Station and Keystone Station. You can start your ride from either end.
Is parking available at your depots?
Our Hill City depot has free parking. There is a municipal car park in Keystone close by. It is limited to three hours. The Borglum Story in Keystone also allows visitors to park in their lot all day for a fee of $5. We recommend Keystone passengers to park at Borglum Story.
How long does the journey take?
It's an hour's journey each way, with a 15-minute wait. Allow between 2-1/2 to 3 hours for a complete round trip, plus time to collect your tickets at least 30 minutes before your scheduled departure.
When will I get my train tickets?
Train tickets can only be picked up on the day of the train journey. Due to our ticketing system, we do not print tickets in advance. Tickets can be collected as soon as the previous train departs. If you're boarding the first train of the day, in most cases tickets can be picked up as soon as the gift shop opens. We recommend collecting tickets at least 30 minutes before departure and reserve the right to cancel uncollected tickets 15 minutes before departure. You can only pick up tickets at the depot your train departs from.
How can we make sure we're driving when the steam engines are in use?
Steam locomotives are intended for all summer trips after the completed restoration of our second large steam locomotive. Our vintage #63 diesel is featured during our Holiday Express departures. As with any railway, the design power is subject to change for mechanical reasons, including the use of the diesel locomotive for limited substitutions.
Are there assigned seats?
All places are taken! Reservations are recommended to ensure your group stays together and secure your desired seating.You can find seating options here.
How can we make sure our group can all sit together?
All seats are assigned. When purchasing your tickets, buy all the tickets together and choose your preferred seats. Once selected or assigned, seat assignments cannot be changed. The earlier you buy your tickets, the greater the chance that you will be seated together.
If you are attempting to be seated next to a party that has already purchased tickets, please call our office at 605.574.2222 and we will do our best to seat you as close as possible.
Do passengers have to ride with you on the immediate return journey or can they come back later?
Passengers can spend time in the city. However, tickets are time-sensitive and visitors must check their tickets for details or speak to a ticket agent about their plans.
How should I dress for my train journey?
Our train has both open and closed wagons. We drive a different combination of cars depending on the season. Our carriages do not have air conditioning, but the closed carriages have windows that you can open or close as you wish. We recommend that if you feel comfortable outside, you should also be comfortable on board the train. If you are unfamiliar with the Black Hills climate, be aware that we have very cool nights, so you may want to pack a pair of trousers, a pair of shoes other than sandals, and a sweatshirt or jacket.
Will my child enjoy the train ride?
Yes! The train is enjoyed by passengers of all ages. There are many sights and sounds for your kids to enjoy.
Can kids meet the engineer?
Yes, while the engine absorbs water.
Can a stroller, car seat or cool box be taken on the train?
Ask our conductor or brakeman for help if you want to stow a collapsible stroller on board the passenger car, or strollers can be stored at either depot. Car seats can be brought on board the train, however, passengers must hold the car seat or purchase a child ticket for the car seat. Freshly prepared onboard meals are available at our Hill City and Keystone depots, as well as an expanded menu at the High Liner Eatery. Beer, wine, water and soft drinks are available at our Hill City depot. All groceries purchased on the property can be taken on the train. Small personal coolers for infants or those with food allergies must be stored under the seat and not blocking the seats or aisle.
Can someone in a wheelchair ride the train?
Yes, we can accommodate up to two wheelchairs per departure. The BLUE BIRD passenger car is equipped with mobility aids such as wheelchair seats and a vertical lift for those who need additional boarding assistance. Rows 1-2 are specially reserved for families with wheelchairs - select seat 1A or 1D for wheelchair users if you cannot transfer to a regular seat. Wheelchair spaces are available on a first come, first served basis. Reservations are required to ensure availability.
Why is the train moving so slowly?
We have some of the steepest climbs in the US. The track has several sharp turns. It's hard work for the engine to get up the hills and we slowly descend the hills and corners to reduce the risk of accidents.
What will people see on a train journey?
The central Black Hills are rich in forests, meadows and wooded canyons. Much of the train route follows Battle Creek, home of prospectors before and during the turn of the century. The train travels through National Forest Service land on its way from station to station, and passengers can also see the remains of old mines and mining operations. Some of these mining claims have been converted to housing land, and some houses are visible from the train. County Road 323, along with some private driveways, crosses the railroad tracks several times, giving passengers the opportunity to enjoy the sound of a steam whistle.
What wild animals are there?
Many different species of forest animals call the Black Hills home. Most commonly, passengers see white-tailed deer, mule deer, wild turkey, woodlin, mallard, and cottontail.
Is the train journey told?
Yes, the train journey is narrated by a host, and a speaker system allows each carriage to hear its narration, which includes information about the train, the Black Hills, and also points of interest along the route. A guide is available at both depots and on board the train. This guide tells the story of the 1880 train, includes technical information about the equipment and has a section where you can follow the train's journey.
Is food served on the train?
Beverages, popcorn and candy bars are available onboard from Memorial Day through Labor Day. A wide selection of homemade wraps, salads, sandwiches and sweets are available at both depots and at the Highliner Eatery adjacent to the Hill City Depot. Beer, wine, water and soft drinks are available at our Hill City depot. All groceries purchased on the property can be taken on the train. We are committed to sourcing at least 50% of our food organically or locally!
Are there toilets on the train?
No. They are only available at train stations.
Are pets allowed on the train?
We only allow certified service animals on board the train.
Can passengers walk around while driving?
No, for the safety of our passengers, we ask all passengers to remain in their seats during the train journey. At the opposite station, passengers have the option of changing to another seat if they wish.
What oil does the train use?
The steam engines burn recycled engine oil.
Has the train ever gone to Deadwood?
Yes, special trips along the High Line to Deadwood were made before the rail line was removed to make Rails to Trails.
Where does the sand come from?
A few times per trip, the fireman throws sand into the firebox. This sand is pulled through the ducts to clean them and is discharged from the chimney. Some of this sand may fall on passengers, but it brushes off easily.
How much oil and water is used?
It takes about 200 gallons of oil and 1,000 gallons of water for a round trip on the #104 engine. Engine #7 uses nearly twice as much fuel, and engine #110 uses 200 gallons of oil and 2,000 gallons of water.
What does "narrow gauge" mean?
A standard gauge track has rails that are 4' 8 ½" apart. On most narrow gauge railroads, the rails are 3 feet apart - although there are other narrow gauge railroads.
Who owns the 1880 train?
The train is owned by the Black Hills Central Railroad, which was formed by a small group of shareholders interested in preserving the steam railway.