Tag Archives: History

Steam, Steel, and Smoke

As we grow older we often find that we forget things from our past and our childhood, that even to this day when we think about it can still bring back a tiny spark of joy and excitement. For me, I had Hot Wheels, dinosaurs, and my favorite, trains! I love trains, still to this day I can’t help staring as those iron-clad cars as they “clickity-clack” across the track(again with the rhyme!) I love all trains, but my favorite era is when steam, rather than diesel, ruled the rails. cattle call

There’s nothing more thrilling than hearing that steam whistle from the belly of a 4-2 Baldwin steam locomotive and listen to the steam hiss in and out, like a heartbeat giving life to the mechanical marvel!

However long railroading history may be in the U.S. its’ history is pretty short in western South Dakota. The first locomotive was brought from the Missouri by bull train to the Homestake mine in 1879. In 1881 Homestake began working on the Black Hills Railroad which would later become the Black Hills and Ft. Pierre Railway. It wasn’t until 1889 that rail would extend from the Missouri to the western side of the state. Even then only two lines ran from Chamberlain and Pierre both crossing the Cheyenne River in Pennington County. 

The rails in our part of the state helped facilitate a population boom as towns were spaced some 10-15 miles apart to refill steam boilers. This is also true for most western states. As the rails progressed westward history sees a merger with the great cattle drives from Texas to the Dakotas. Rail allowed quicker delivery of cattle to the east, though many still preferred to drive their cattle to the steamships on the Missouri. RR

Westward expansion and railroad growth will forever be entwined in our historys’ mind(again with the rhyme) being hard to have one without the other. This is why we decided that Artist Ride was in need of its own railway. So in the summer of 2013 I stood before the commission and presented my case that it was of the utmost necessity and benefit to the blossoming region of western South Dakota that we…build…this…railroad!! Or at least that’s how I had it pictured in my daydream.  Needless to say our railroad is an awesome addition to Artist Ride. The locomotive is a future addition-I’ll have to check on Amazon-hmmm… I wonder if they ship UPS?

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