FAMILY AFFAIR: Sisters make history, direct trips on 1880 Train

For the first time in The 1880 Trains history, two women, sisters Lori and Kirston, drove the train.

HILL CITY, S.D. — It began as a normal day of prep work for the 1880 train in Hill City, but ended as an historic one.

For the first time in its history, two women, sisters as a matter of fact – drove the train

And with this pair, it was a day to remember.


“My little sister firing the engine while I got to drive, it was fun,” said Kirston Hilpert, a Conductor with the 1880 Train.

Lori and Kirston Hilpert, aside from being siblings – are also best friends.

1880 Crew 3

Kirston has been working for the train for seven years while Lori works at the station once a week, but it was on Saturday, July 18 that the two would work together, even though it didn’t happen by accident.

“I wrote the schedule, so I purposely designed it that way so that her and I could have a day together, but then the realization that it was going to be the first time that two women were on engine crew in the history of the 1880 train was really really awesome,” Kirston Hilpert said.

They’ve been working with steam equipment for a while.

“For as long as old as we wouldn’t burn ourselves, then we were allowed to work on steam equipment,” Kirston said.

With Lori being a little more green, she leans on her sister who leans back – especially as Lori controls key things like boiler pressure.

While Kirston may be the conductor, it’s Lori’s job that keeps it working smoothly.

“Her job is probably the most important on the entire train cause if she’s not doing what she’s supposed to correctly, we don’t go anywhere,” Kirston said. “We would just sit in station.”

They handled two trips and both will tell that if not for their relationship, it may not have went the way it did.

“It was really, really nice to be able to have that support and the knowledge that she has,” Lori Hilpert said. “It’s just amazing.”

“It also helps that as sisters, we can have an entire conversation just by like a glance,” Kirston said. “Yeah, cause the cab is loud.”

Sisters calling the shots for a day on the 1880 Train.

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