The Dream Keeps Chugging

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A member of the new generation of railroad fans, thanks to 1880 Train pioneer William Heckman.

South Dakota is full of examples of determined visionaries whose dedication to a dream have affected many: Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum, Crazy Horse sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and then there’s 1880 Train pioneer William B. Heckman.

Here’s a little of the story. . .

During the late 1940s, diesel engines had become more common than steam. After years of declining use, Heckman (a public relations man with railroad experience) decided to start a railroad run on steam.

He believed that “there should be in operation at least one working steam railroad, for boys of all ages who share America’s fondness for the rapidly vanishing steam locomotive.” (Today, this goes for girls too!)

On the morning of August 18, 1957, the first official train operated on the Black Hills Central. The route it took was nicknamed “the 1880 TRAIN,” as Heckman compared the trip to riding a train in the 1880s. While not quite historically accurate (Heckman was never a rigorous advocate of historic accuracy), the name stuck.

More than 50 years after its inception, the Black Hills Central Railroad is still providing what Heckman envisioned for thousands of passengers every year. It’s still a place where new generations experience a steam locomotive. The dream keeps chugging.

Article revised from the website.

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