Rails & Trails Pages

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Black Hills Central

On the way to a wedding in Crested Butte, Colorado, we took a little side trip to be able to ride the Black Hills Central Tourist Railroad, otherwise known as the 1880 Train.  It is the one featured in the May TRAINS magazine and runs between Hill City and Keystone, South Dakota .  To save time(and I figured there would be a lot of people in Hill City ), we caught the train in Keystone.
  On their first run they use a diesel while they fire up their classic 2-6-6-2T articulated steamer.  The GP7 diesel is the one they got recently from Progressive Rail, originally purchased by the C&O.   Since they are isolated from live rail, it was “railed” to Rapid City and then trucked to Keystone.  They have painted it gray from the black that Progressive had.  I expect them to add lettering in the future.
The trip is great, going up and down grades as much as 6% and passing through narrow rock cuts:
Here is the Good Luck Tungsten Mine which flourished in both World Wars.  Tungsten was used to harden steel:
Arriving in Hill City , we saw their base of operations.  Here’s the #104, a 2-6-2T tank engine.
They also have a 2-6-2.  Here is the Drover Waycar they restored.  Only two of these cars exist in the US .
They also have a 1940-vintage Whitcomb built for the Department of Defense:
Here’s the star of the RR, coupling to the train:
The railroad is located in the Black Hills .  The hills are covered with spruce trees that have a flat blade which does not reflect the sunlight so the trees look black.  Here’s a shot of Harney Peak, elevation 7,242 feet, the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Alps !!!
The track was dual gauged to this point at one time.  Here’s the remains of a narrow gauge caboose on the wye:
The train had over 350 passengers at $21 each!!!!!  A nice revenue trip and they still had several trips remaining that day.
There was a great flood in 1972 which washed away the last 3 miles or so of track which they rebuilt into Keystone.  That flood killed over 200 people in Rapid City .   All in all, a great trip—I heartily recommend riding it if you head out west!!!
The railroad is near a couple of other points of interest.  One is the Bad Lands.  It costs $15 to drive through this National Park but it’s well worth it.  Here’s a couple of pix:
Of course, a look at Mount Rushmore is a must!!
And nearby is the sculpture of Chief Crazy Horse, not yet complete:
Perhaps you heard of the big fire in the Black Hills .  We didn’t see the actual fire but there was plenty of smoke!!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Gandy Dancer Bike Trail

On Friday, June 22nd, Matt Whitmore and I biked the Gandy Dancer Train from Siren, WI to Danbury and back.  I really wanted to do this section for 2 reasons.  First, I had biked the section from St. Croix Falls to Siren so this last 16 mile stretch would complete the 47 mile trail.  Secondly, there is a 525-foot railroad trestle over the St. Croix River and it’s 75 feet high.  So we left Siren about 8 AM:
A beautiful morning as we head north:
Soon we come to a neat bridge crossing the Clam River , about 40 feet high:
The Soo Line’s handiwork still shows, even if the DNR has redone the decking:
Matt still looks chipper(and not sweating).  Of course, we’ve only gone 1 mile so far:
The first town we come to is Webster:
I wonder what the trackage looked like here in the 50s????   Where was the depot????
On the north side of Webster we found this neat old creamery:
It was obviously served by rail as evidenced by the NO CLEARANCE sign:
Just beyond that was a feed mile on the spur, both buildings now abandoned:
Heading north again, we cross the Yellow River , for the first time:
Then we pass by beautiful Yellow Lake :
Coming into Danbury , we cross over another high trestle:
You can see we’re up in the air pretty good by this shot:
We’re at the end of the bicycle portion of the trail, but we still have a little less than a mile to the big trestle.  The next part of the trail is ATV and is sand and rocks!!!   It was REALLY hard riding in it.  Matt said he worked harder riding this part of the trail than the first 15 miles combined!!
OK—there she is.  What we’ve come to see:
Enjoy these spectacular views of the trestle:
Matt wasn’t sure if there were railroad ties under the decking or not so he just had to check it out:
Evidence of the previous wood trestle still exists.  Can you imagine what this structure looked like when it was wood????
With that we headed back.  About a 33-mile round trip.  Even the deer flies weren’t TOO bad.  A fun day and a chance to pursue some more rail history.