Adventurers in the Rockies
Black Hills Central Railroad, Storybook Island, SD and
Ponderosa Ranch, Crawford, NE
July 14, 2016
Text and Photos by Author
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Chris G., Chris P.,
and I checked out of the Sundowner Inn then went across the
street to a filling station with a snack shop. Our breakfast was
coffee and some of those delicious snacks found in every gas
station across this land. We then left Newcastle and the Wyoming
border on US 16 heading east. After crossing into South Dakota
and the Black Hills National Forest, we continued on US 16 to
the town of Custer City. Along the way the scenery was
spectacular and ever changing.
Custer City, SD
Harbach Centennial Park
is a 1.14 acre park located on Washington Street between
6th and 7th Street, across from the Custer Chamber of Commerce
with a small creek with fish, bridge that crosses the creek,
memorial trees, caboose rail car, and trail head for the
The park was built about 30
years ago as part of a city improvement in the floodplain.
The109-mile-long George S.
Mickelson Trail was originally the Burlington Northern line than
took trains from Edgemont, SD to the northern Black Hills and
the gold mines of Deadwood area. The trail traverses the
beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. The line was abandoned in
1983. A group of outdoor enthusiasts recognized the trails
potential, and with the support of then Governor Mickelson, it
became the states' first rails to trails project.
BN caboose 12263 on display
Custer Area Chamber of Commerce.
In 1874 Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer led the 7th Cavalry on a
scientific expedition into the Black Hills to seek out a site for
a future military post and to explore the terrain. The party found
gold on the banks of French Creek and also discovered the beauty
of the southern Black Hills.
Crazy Horse Memorial
Crazy Horse doesn't attract
the same attention as Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, just 17
miles away, but the two are inextricably linked. Had it not been
for Gutzon Borglum's enormous sculpture of four exalted white
leaders, Crazy Horse never would have happened.
In 1939, determined to make a
statement of their own, Lakota elders approached Polish American
sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski with a request to carve a mountain
for them. My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to
know the red man has great heroes too, "Chief Henry Standing
Bear wrote to Ziolkowski. The hero they chose was Crazy Horse,
the Oglala Sioux leader who helped lead his people to victory
over Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's forces at Little Bighorn
in 1878, only to be stabbed to death in the next year by a guard
after surrendering to the US Army.
If and when it's completed, the memorial will lay claim to being
the largest sculpture in the world: 641 feet wide and 563 feet
high. The nine -story-high face of Crazy Horse is complete.
After our drive by of Crazy Horse, we continued north on US 16- US
385 to Hill City.
Black Hills Central Railroad, Hill City, SD
Home of the 1880 Train and the South Dakota State Railroad Museum.
Black Hills Central Railroad Whitcomb loco 1 built in 1940;
South Dakota Railroad Museum
The unmarked railroad equipment of the South Dakota Railroad
Black Hills Central Railroad coach Addie Camp.
An express car.
Baldwin steam engine 5 builder number 139853 built in 1922.
Summer finds motorcycles and their riders flocking to South
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
Trains operate between early
May and early October over the scenic 9.5-mile line.
The BHCR operates rare, well-preserved, and operational steam
Prescott & Northwestern (Caddo & Choctaw) Baldwin 2-6-2 7,
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.
Power for our trip today, Black Hills Central Railroad 2-6-6-2T
#110 built in 1928 for the Weyerhauser Lumber Company in Vail
Black Hills Central Railroad 2-6-2T is the sister to BHCR 110 and
is under restoration and expected to be in service in 2018.
Chicago & Northwestern coach Hillyo 10800 is a Drover
Waycar and is one of only two cars still remaining in the United
Black Hills Central Railroad coach Keystone.
Engine House in background.
Black Hills Central Railroad 2-6-2 T 104 was built in 1926 for the
Silver Falls Timber Company.
Chris G. asked the 110 engineer if we could go see the other
engine at the shop and he said to go there and find Scotty which
we did and he was inviting and hosted a great tour.
Inside the Engine House.
We thanked Scotty for allowing us in here for a nice tour and then
we set up to photograph the diesel train with Black Central
Railroad GP-9 63 pulling its train into the Hill City Station.
Burlington wooden caboose 10866 built in 1906.
View from Highliner Snack Shoppe.
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 detrained we 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.
Harney Peak is the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains at
7,242 feet tall.
The Good Luck Tungsten Mine.
Narrow gauge wye train at
Oblivion. While the original railroad was standard gauge, a
third rail was added at the start of this tourist train and
Oblivion was the eastern destination from Hill City in those
A slip and slide at the Judson Rapist Camp.
The engine performs a blow down at this point of the trip.
Arriving in Keystone.
Loco moving from the front to the rear of train so as to be the
point on the return trip.
The engine ran around the train
after taking on water. This is when the trouble started. The
steam line to the braking system was blocked so we could not use
Black Hills Central Railroad 110 on the trip back to Hill City.
Black Hills Central Railroad GP-9 63 will come from Hill City to
Keystone to save us. We would depart once the engine arrived
sometime around 12:30 PM. They turned the passengers loose on
Keystone and Chris P. went for food while Chris G. and I
Black Hills Central Railroad 110 was placed on the now rear of the
train to get it back to Hill City and we waited for departure.
At 12:27 PM Black Hills Central Railroad 63 arrived in Keystone
and once all passengers had returned the train left Keystone.
The white building is a Sears and Roebuck house kit from 1912.
The steam engine is trailing along the rear of our train.
Black Hills wildlife, a deer and her fawn. We returned to Hill
City and it had been an interesting trip aboard the Black Hills
Central Railroad. We had lunch at the Highliner Snack Shoppe. We
then left Hill City to Keystone over the route we would have
chased the steam train had it run another trip which it did not.
We got to Keystone then turned onto US 16A.
Black Hills Central Railroad 2-6-2, 7 is the movie star of this
railroad having been used in the film Orphan Train (TV Movie
Shortly after leaving Hill City, Chris G. announced that due to
the break down of loco 110 and the subsequent lateness in arriving
at the Hill City station, we would have to cancel our stop at Mt.
Rushmore to order to get back on schedule. Both Chris P. and I
understood the situation but we were very disappointed as we both
were looking forward to seeing the mountain.
So as near as I can tell, we were somewhere near this place by the
fence on our way to Rapid City.
Storybook Island, Rapid City, SD
Storybrook Island has colorful, detailed settings that depict
nursery rhymes and fairy tales.
Homestake Mining Company 18 inch gauge 0-4-0 24 is a
compressed air locomotive.
South Dakota Cement Plant 0-4-0T, built by H.K. Porter Co.
Pittsburgh in 1911 as 4979.
Chris G. said this is not a real train because it lacks tracks.
Leaving Storybook Island we stopped at Dollar General for some
supplies and then crossed the street to a Safeway for food for our
two night stay at the Ponderosa Ranch. I use my Von's card from
So. California and received my shoppers discount here. From here
we were on our way to the ranch.
The Milwaukee Road freight house in Rapid City. We then went east
to the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern rail yards.
Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern SD-40-2 6431.
Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern SD-40-2 3429 and SD-40-2 6432.
Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern snow plow 1001 with 1002 in
Another set of Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern power here. From
here we drove to Dakota Jct.
Nebraska Northwestern Railroad SD-9 303 at Dakota Jct. We then
continued south on US 385 to Chardon, NE stopping at a Subway
store to pick up dinner to have at the ranch. From here we went
west on US 20 to Crawford, NE
At Crawford we went south on Rt 2-71 about 2.5 miles to Sawlog
Our first dirt road after Rt 2-71on the way to our bunk house.
Our next road on the way to our nights rest.
View from our bunk house porch while we eat our dinner.
Back of our bunk house with kitchen window on left and bath on
right. Chris P is checking out the clouds and sunset.
Bunk room window with front porch on right.
Chris P. getting acquainted with one of the ranch residents.
Thanks for reading.
Next Chapter Fifteen - Carhenge,
Alliance; Crawford Hill and Ponderosa Ranch, NE
Text and Photos by Author
author retains all rights. No reproductions are
allowed without the author's consent.