Hill City’s Holiday Express brings cheer to all aboard


Holiday Express SignHILL CITY, S.D. – From the end of November through Christmas Eve, Hill City becomes an important stop for Christmas festivities.

Now in it’s 15th year, the Holiday Express delights visitors with a very special trip.

“The train runs from our Hill City depot. It runs up to our halfway point, where we have a north pole village set up, and Santa will be waiting for the train as it pulls in,” Business Operations Manager for 1880 Train Nathan Anderson explained. “He’ll be waving to all of the kids as the train rolls in and then jump on board the train and he’ll talk to everybody on the ride back into Hill City.”

The trip lasts approximately one hour, where families enjoy hot chocolate and cookies as they take the ride. Christmas carols are also played in the cars, with many singing along.

Some 1,000 people take the ride each day, equating to around 11,000 combined over the season.

Certain days offer special options such as the first class car, where more benefits are added onto a person’s ticket such as unlimited hot chocolate. And for those over the age of 21, the Holiday Express Spiked car.

However, the excitement and magic of the trip brings joy to all on board.

“I think the best part is when the kids first see Santa Claus. When we first pull up to our North Pole village,” Anderson explained. “They’ll just jump to the window and they’re all waving out the window, and just excited. All of our staff on-board the train really enjoy watching the kids react to that experience.”

Despite it not having been around nearly as long as the railroad or the 1880 Train, the Holiday Express has grown into a tradition for many.

Visitors come not just from the surrounding area to have a good time, but also from surrounding states like Wyoming and Minnesota.

And even though some may not have been able to take the ride last year, people were buzzing with excitement to be back in the train cars once more.

“I think that we got a lot of passengers who probably skipped last year,” Ryan, an elf aboard one of the train cars explained. “And having more and more people on the train just makes it more festive and more jolly. Get to sing a lot louder. That kind of thing.”

The Holiday Express train is currently sold out for the remaining weekends left in the season.

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