1880 Train back on track with locomotive renovations

HILL CITY, S.D. — It was a major milestone, and a project that has been years in the making.

The 1880 Train Operations Manager, Mike Grimm, was an integral part of the project to get the steam engine running and functional.

“We just needed extra power, because in order to keep the maintenance up on one steam engine, you have to take it out of service a certain amount of time every week, and especially every month,” Grimm said. “So, we’re a steam railroad and we want to keep steam in service everyday, so now that we have two operating locomotives that will pull the train, now that’s possible that we can keep steam in service everyday.”

This is significant because it will now allow for maximum flexibility between the two full-sized steam engines daily. But the project to restore the train has not only been focused on the engine, but also the train cars.

“Really a 20 year effort to first purchase (Train no.) 110, 20 plus years ago, restore it, restore an additional probably 5 or 6 passenger cars,” said Nate Anderson, the Business Operations Manager of the 1880 Train. “All in all, I think we have about 10 restored passenger cars in those 20 years that accompany those 2 engines. And then adding (No.) 108 really completed the package and allows us that flexibility as maintenance happens on one.”

In the 20 years it took to restore the engines and train cars, the train has doubled it’s capacity for passengers. As for how, The 1880 Train will conduct business with the threat of COVID-19 still lingering, however, precautions have been put in place for visitors.

Currently hand sanitizing stations are placed around the train, and families and groups are now seated in clusters rather than spread across the aisle to help keep some distancing.  The train is also running once a day, but continues to monitor customer response and has plans to add a second train ride on Monday, June 8.

From there, the station will assess what is best and hopes to be fully up and running by the fourth of July and for the rest of the season.

“It’s been a hard long spring, you know, and people are starting to show up and I’m really optimistic that we’re gonna be able to save the season, somewhat anyway,” Grimm said. 

As for events this year, there are still plans to host The Wine Train in September, Oktoberfest, and for the first time, a steam doubleheader featuring both large locomotives in October.

To learn more, you can go to The 1880 Train’s website here.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News