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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.

Burlington Northern caboose 12268, built by International Car in 1979, was on display.

The Custer Chamber of Commerce building with statues of buffalos around it. As we drove out of town there more buffalo statues all over in many 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

A tender of unknown origin.

Maintenance-of-way crew car.

Maintenance-of-way tool car.

Black Hills Central tank car X101, nee Louisiana & Arkansas.

Northern Pacific caboose 1764 built by Pacific Car and Foundry in 1921.

Northern Pacific box car 1858.

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific caboose 17053 built by International Car in 1964.

Black Hills Central Express Car 350, ex. Vernonia, South Park & Pacific, 124, nee Oregon Electric 350, built by St. Louis Car Company in 1913.

Maintenance-of-way part boxcar, part gondola 714.

Tender from Duluth and Northeastern 0-6-0 30 built by American Locomotive Company as Lake Superior and Terminal Transfer Rwy as 21 in 1921; and lettered for Black Hills Central Railroad.

Oregon Electric coach 139 built by American Car in 1913.

Great Western Railway caboose 1002.

Silver Falls Timber Company 2-6-2T 103 built by Baldwin 1922 as Silver Falls Timber Company 103 in Silverton, Oregon. It 1938, it was sold as Alaska Junk Company at Portland, Oregon then in the 1940's, became Peninsula Terminal Company 103 at North Portland, Oregon before being sold to William Heckman in 1965. This steam engine is used as a parts source for sister steam engine 104.

Black Hills Central Railroad coach "Addie Camp", nee Oregon Electric 133, built by American Car in 1913. "Addie Camp" is one of the original passenger car restorations of the Black Hills Central and was a workhorse for many years. In a unique twist, itp now serves as a one-of-a-kind restaurant in Soldotna, Alaska - still proudly bearing her Black Hills Central Railroad markings far from her home rails.

Burlington Northern caboose 11454, nee Chicago, Burlington and Quincy 13509, built by Chicago, Burlington and Quincy in 1930.

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. It currently operates the 1880 Train on the former Keystone Branch of the Burlington Northern Railroad between Hill City and Keystone. 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.

Our Visit and Ride

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

Black Hills Railroad 80 ton switcher 1, ex. Black Hills Light and Power 1, exx. US Army 7379, nee Stone and Webster 60086 built by Whitcomb in 1942.

Locomotive cab of Colorado & Southern 620.

A railroad display.

Northern Pacific caboose 1639 built in 1906.

My first view of the power for our trip, Black Hills Central Railroad 2-6-6-2T 110, built by Baldwin in 1928 for the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company to work on its Vail, Washington, line. After over twenty-five years working at at Vail, 110 was sold to the Rayonier Lumber Company in 1954 where it operated on the Grays Harbor line until 1966. During that time, it was fitted with a tender from Rayonier 2-8-2 101. Rayonier retired 110 in 1968 and it was sold to the Promontory Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. In 1971, the locomotive was transferred to the Wasatch Railroad Museum and placed on display at Heber City, Utah. Then, in 1993, it was sold to the Nevada State Railway Museum and was placed in storage at Boulder City, Nevada. Six years later, in 1999, it was sold to the Black Hills Central and trucked from Nevada to South Dakota on four semi-trailers. Work then began to restore the mallet to operating condition and it returned to steam in January 2001.

Black Hills Central Railroad 2-6-2T 108 built by Baldwin in 1926 as Potlach Lumber Company 24 at Bovill, Idaho. Two years later, it was moved to Elk River, Idaho then in a 1931 corporate sale became Potlach Forests, Incorporated 24. In 1934, it was sold as Weyerhauser Timber Company 108 in Longview, Washington and the company name changed to Weyerhauser Company in 1959. It was donated to the Puget Sound Railway Historical Society in 1964 and was purchased by Black Hills Central from the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, Washington in 2016. It is the sister to BHCR 110 and is under restoration and expected to be in service in 2018.

Black Hills Central Railroad coach 125 "Keystone" built by the American Car Company in 1913 as Oregon Electric Railway 125. It later worked on the Pacific Great Eastern before being acquired by Black Hills Central in the 1970's.

Chicago & Northwestern coach 10800 "Hillyo" is a Drover Waycar, built by American Car and Foundry in 1909, and is one of only two such cars remaining in the United States.

A track gauge display.

Black Hills Central Railroad open air coach 1 out by the highway.

Black Hills Central 2-6-2 7 built by Baldwin in 1919 as Ozan-Graysonia Lumber Company 2 in Prescott, Arkansas and named "George Teat". The Ozan-Graysonia was formed from the merger of the Ozan Lumber Company in Prescott and the Grayson-McLeod Company of Graysonia, Arkansas, in 1915. It was later sold to the Caddo & Choctaw in Rosboro, Arkansas and re-numbered 7, then to the Prescott & Northwestern in 1938. The P&NWR ran thirty-one miles north from Prescott to access timber for the Ozan Lumber Company. The Prescott & Northwestern later sold 7 to the Higgins Shipbuilding Company in New Orleans, Louisana then was bought by Elliott Donnelley and leased to the Black Hills Central in 1961. The BHC acquired outright ownership in 1975.

When the Black Hills Central first started operating, it laid a third rail from Hill City to Oblivion to run narrow gauge trains on the standard gauge Chicago, Burlington and Quincy line. The CB&Q was still operating freight trains over the line at the time, so three foot gauge steam operated alongside standard gauge diesels for several years. From 1962, 7 pulled a standard gauge tourist train from Keystone to Oblivion, where it met the narrow gauge train. When that became too expensive to operate, 7 pulled the train the entire distance between Hill City and Keystone. It was used in an episode of the Walt Disney TV series "Gunsmoke" in 1970, the funnel stack was added for the Disney movie "Scandalous John" in 1971 and, most recently, it appeared in Steven Spielberg's 2005 TV series "Into the West". The steam engine is now on display as it can only pull four cars.

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 was 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 2-6-2T 104 built by Baldwin in 1926 as Silver Falls Timber Company 104 at Silverton, Oregon. It was sold in 1938 to Alaska Junk Company at Portland, Oregon then in the 1940's, sold as Peninsula Terminal Company 104 at North Portland, Oregon. It was purchased by William Heckman in 1967 and now runs onto the Black Hills Central Railroad.

Black Hills Central Railroad coach "Keystone".

Chicago & North Western 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 GP9 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 detrained, the three of us would board this train for the first time. Our train had a consist of Black Hills Central Railroad 110, coach "Edward Gillette", coach "Blue Bird", open air coach "Redfearn", coach "Oreville", coach "Barnet Canyon", open air coach "Harney Canyon", open air coach "Mystic" and coach "Battle Creek". Once everyone was aboard, 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 GP9 63, ex. Progressive Rail 63, exx. Chillicothe Brunswick 63, exxx. Northeast Kansas and Missouri 63, exxxx. Indiana and Ohio 63, nee Chesapeake and Ohio 6178 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1956, 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 four to six percent, 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.

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!