A piece of history makes its way between Hill City and Keystone. From May to December, the 1880 Train offers a scenic ride through the black hills for families and steam engine enthusiasts alike.

“It’s really an opportunity to step back in time and enjoy a simpler time, and see how transportation was in the earlier days,” said Holli Edwards, business development manager.

The 10-mile ride is narrated and accompanied by a host who points out different sights along the way, giving passengers an insight into the history of the area. It takes roughly an hour, but during Thursday evening runs, it may take a bit longer as passengers experience a wild west train hijacking.

Actors dressed in old-time regalia treat passengers to a show in Hill City, and halfway through the ride, the train is descended upon by bandits in a place called “Oblivion.” After the sheriff shows up, a gunfight ensues.

“Usually after the shootout, some of the guys pick up their spent shells and hand them out to the kids. The kids really enjoy that,” said Scott Harlan, assistant maintenance operations manager and conductor on the train.

Besides the train-jacking, there are many other events put on throughout the season.

The Mother’s Day Express special featured live entertainment, cupcakes, and a mimosa or sparkling juice. Later in the summer is Rails & Ales, where local breweries serve samples during happy hour and local barbecue will be served on board as well.

“Tons of people come back every year,” said Edwards. “They plan their long weekend around those events. It’s really fun to see.”

Edwards said many people also stop by to simply ride a steam engine.

“Foamers” or steam engine enthusiasts travel all around the world to ride steam engines, Edwards said. But because federal government regulations, they can only run the steam engine for a certain amount of time during the year. For the rest of the time they use a diesel engine.

Due to the demand, they are currently working on a second steam engine, and hope they’ll be able to ditch the diesel engine sometime within the next two years.

Since steam engine parts are so hard to get, almost everything is machined on site. The shop is open to anyone who has an interest in learning more about the parts and the work that goes into maintaining century-old technology. Although they don’t like people randomly walking into the shop, Harlan said they would be happy to give a tour to anyone who expresses interest.

For more information, visit 1880train.com.


June 15
Prairies to Peaks Iron Horse Rail Summer Camp
An educational camp for ages 11-15 to educate young people on different crafts that are necessary to operate a railroad and to expose them to the opportunities available in the rail industry.

Aug. 18
Rails & Ales
Enjoy local beer and the beauty of the Black Hills as only seen on a historic steam engine. Live music will be provided by The Hill City Slickers during the social hour, then board the train where you’ll enjoy a unique ride on a steam engine while sipping craft beer paired with local fare.

Sept. 15
Wine Express
Experience the Black Hills on an authentic steam engine while sipping local wines paired with food courses. Live entertainment will be provided by musician Brent Morris

Sept. 29
Oktoberfest Express
Celebrate Oktoberfest on board the 1880 Train with German foods, seasonal beer, and polka music.


June 21 & 28
6:45 p.m. departure

July 1, 2, 3, 5, 12, 19, 26
6:45 p.m. departure

August 16
3:45 p.m. departure

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