It’s a beautiful day in Hill City, departure station for the Black Hills Central Railway. Today we take an historic steam train between Hill City and Keystone through the Black Hills National Forest.
Our engine takes on water before the 20 mile journey ahead. We pull out of Hill City station on our way up to the first highlight of our journey – Tin Mill Hill with a steep 6% grade.
Oops! Tin Mill Hill’s steep grade of 6% was too much for our little engine – it blew a rod trying to get up the hill. We wait for a diesel engine to take us back to the station while the incapacitated steamer is towed away.
Another diesel is added to our train before we try again to make it over Tin Mill Hill. Once again, we pull out of Hill City station and head up the hills – this time with a more reliable but much less nostalgic diesel pulling us.
We pass by the Good Luck Tungsten Mine near Harney Mountain. The journey between Hill City and Keystone takes about 2 hours and winds through some picturesque scenery including three mountains and dense forests in the Black Hills National Forest area.
We make it to Keystone station and wait for a new diesel engine to be coupled up to our train to make the return journey to Hill City.
In 1957 the first official train operated on the Black Hills Central between Hill City and Oblivion, which is about half way along the current route to Keystone. The route was nicknamed “the 1880 TRAIN” and that name stuck to today.
We pull into the station at Hill City to mark the end of our journey on the 1880 train. Even though we lost our steam engine on Tin Mill Hill, we enjoyed our journey through a little part of Black Hills history.