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The Black Hills Central Railroad 7/14/2016

by Chris Guenzler

Robin Bowers, Chris Parker and I checked out of the Sundowner Inn and crossed the street to get some food for breakfast. We drove from Newcastle to Custer, our first stop of the morning.

BN caboose 12263 was on display.

The Custer Chamber of Commerce building with statues of buffalos around it. As we drove out of town there were statues of buffalos all over town in all kinds of colors. Next we headed for Hill City but would make one stop on the way there.

We pulled off the highway to see the Crazy Horse carving from a highway pullout. They have not done much work on it since my last visit here.

The sign shows how the finished carving will look when completed. From here we drove to Hill City.

South Dakota Railroad Museum

Here is the unmarked railroad equipment of the South Dakota Railroad Museum.

The unmarked railroad equipment. Now we will see the equipment that has reporting marks.

Peninsula Terminal Co. No. 103 2-6-2T built in 1922.

An express car.

Black Hills Central Railroad coach Addie Camp.

BN caboose 11454.

South Dakota Railroad Museum scenes. Now I will see what the Black Hills Central Railroad has here in Hill City.

Black Hills Central Railroad Preservation history

The Black Hills Central Railroad is a heritage railroad that operates in South Dakota, United States. It currently operates the 1880 Train on the former Keystone Branch of the Burlington Northern Railroad between Hill City, South Dakota and Keystone, South Dakota. This railroad line was originally built by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad as a mining railroad for gold in the Black Hills. It reached Keystone on January 20, 1900 and was later used to haul equipment for carving nearby Mount Rushmore.

In 1957, William Heckman and Robert Freer started the Black Hills Central Railroad which began operating a tourist passenger excursion train service on this line. In 1972, the Black Hills flood destroyed the last mile of the Burlington Northern/Black Hills Central line in Keystone, which was later restored in 2001.

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

Trains operate between early May and early October over the scenic 9.5-mile line.

Preserved equipment

The BHCR operates rare, well-preserved, and operational steam locomotives:

Prescott & Northwestern (Caddo & Choctaw) Baldwin 2-6-2 7, built 1919.
PT Baldwin 2-6-2T 103, built 1922.
PT Baldwin 2-6-2T tank locomotive 104, built 1926.
Rayonier (Weyerhaeuser) Baldwin 2-6-6-2T 110, built 1928.

The Black Hills Central Railroad also has a diesel locomotive on its engine roster:

EMD GP9 63 formerly Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O).
Whitcomb Locomotive Works 80DE5 6657, built 1943.

Our Visit and Ride

I picked up our tickets and bought a T-shirt before I started looking around.

Black Hills Central Railroad Whitcomb locomotive 1 built in 1940.

Locomotive cab of Colorado & Southern 620.

A railroad display.

Burlington wooden caboose 10866 built in 1906.

My first view of the power for our trip, the Black Hills Central Railroad 2-6-6-2T 110 built in 1928 for the Weyerhauser Lumber Company in Vail, Washington.

Black Hills Central Railroad 2-6-2T 108 is the sister to BHCR 110 which is under restoration and expected to be in service in 2018.

Black Hills Central Railroad coach Keystone.

Chicago & Northwestern coach Hillyo 10800 is a Drover Waycar and is one of only two cars still remaining in the United States.

A track gauge display.

Black Hills Central Railroad coach 1 out by the highway.

Black Hills Central Railroad 2-6-2 7 is the movie star of this railroad having been used in the film Orphan Train.

Railroad equipment behind the shop building.

Black Hills Central Railroad 2-6-6-2T 110.

Black Hills Central Railroad flat car with logs display.

Black Hills Central Railroad scenes. Now we will watch the 110 as it comes out of the engine house area to be in postion to pull our train this morning.

Black Hills Central Railroad 110 will be ready to pull our 10:00 AM departure for Keystone. I asked the engineeer if we could go see the other engine at the shop and he said to go there and find Rocky which we did and he was agreeable.

A Black Hills Central Railroad scene on a beautiful morning in the Black Hills.

Black Hills Central Railroad 2-6-2 T 104 was built in 1926 for the Silver Falls Timber Company.

Black Hills Central Railroad coach Keystone.

Chicago & Northwestern coach Hillyo 10800.

Two Black Hills Central Railroad scenes.

A Black Hills Central Railroad passenger car being rebuilt in the Hill City shop building. We thanked Rocky for allowing us here and then we set up to photograph the diesel train with Black Hills Central Railroad GP- 9 63 pulling its train into the Hill City station.

The Black Hills Central Railroad diesel train returned to Hill City from Keystone. Once their passengers had detrainedwe would board this train for the first time in our lives. Our train had a consist of Black Hills Central Railroad 110, Edward Gillette coach, Blue Bird coach, Red Fern open air coach, Oreville coach, Barnet Canyon coach, Harney Canyon open air coach, Mystic open air coach and Battle Creek coach. Once everyone was on the train we left Hill City for Keystone with us all on new mileage.

The train first went by the Black Hills Central Railroad shop building.

Black Hills Central Railroad GP- 9 63 waited in Hill City for its next assignment.

We crossed the creek and steamed out of town starting the climb up the Tin Mine Hill with grades of 4-6%, one of the steepest grades used in the United States.

The train climbed Tin Mine Hill.

Harney Peak is the higheast peak east of the Rocky Mountains at 7,242 feet tall.

Rolling through the South Dakota forest.

Interesting colorful rock formation on the north side of the train.

A Black Hills ranch.

The train took another curve on the way to Keystone.

The views are pretty incredible for this train.

The forest of the Black Hills.

The train took this curve.

There is a deer grazing by this building.

The Good Luck Tungsten Mine.

Rolled hay in this valley.

Elkhorn Mountain.

A great looking home overlooking the railroad.

The train took these curves.

Click here for Part 2 of this story!