Miners struck gold in South Dakota in the 1870s, and this changed the wild landscape forever. As mining encampments popped up, train lines also began to make their appearance in the region. One of the most significant to lay their claim was the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad, which began construction through the Black Hills in the 1890s. This line continued in operation through the first part of the 20th century and was even used to haul equipment for Mount Rushmore's carving before its closure and dismantling. When the Black Hills Central Railroad group began construction on their line, they chose to follow a portion of the Burlington's course, departing from Hill City, South Dakota. Because the line was meant to recall train travel in the 1880s, it was quickly nicknamed the 1880 Train.
The 1880 Train operates between May and October each season and transports passengers back in time. For comfort, the rolling stock changes with the season to ensure a fondly memorable journey for each guest. Each of these carriages features padded bench-style seating, with one bench on either side of a central aisle.
Antique steam engines head the journey for most runs throughout the season. The Black Hills Central Railroad owns four, the oldest of which is over 100 years and is on permanent display at the Hill City Depot. The three remaining steam engines in the fleet are nearly as old and rotate assignments throughout the operating season. On occasion, the rail line instead utilizes one of its two mid-century diesel engines for the journey.