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Railraod trestle on the Mickelson Trail
This trestle, now part of the Mickelson Trail, is one of may rail structructures still standing in the Black Hills.

Railroad History

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      A walk on a trail in the Black Hills could be a walk  through some local railroad history. Two major trails follow the lines of old railroads where at least some of the old railroad artifacts can still be found along the line.

     The George S. Mickelson  Trail is built on the old roadbed of the Grand Island & Wyoming Central Railroad (later the Burlington Northern Line) from Edgemont to Deadwood. It goes through some old rail tunnels and over more than a few high trestls. At Mystic the Mickelson and Deerfield trail share the roadbed for a distance from Mystic to Slate Creek.
 
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     If you stay on the Deerfield trail through Slate Canyon you eventually reach Rapid Creek and starting following the route of the Rapid City, Black Hills and Western rail line better known as the Crouch Line, from west of Canyon City downstream to Silver City.
 

     This interesting short line ran from Rapid City to Mystic and was called the crookedest (or craziest) line in America. SD 44 closely follows the old railroad bed from Rapid City to US385 north of Pactola. The portion between 385 and Silver City is now mostly under the waters of Pactola Reservoir. The roadbed west from Silver City follows along Rapid Creek to Mystic. In the days of the railroad, trains crossed the creek more than 100 times in less than 30 miles. The trail west from Silver City is now one of the finest hikes in the hills. Flat and level it's ideal for family outings.
 
      Rail service in the Black Hills reached its height in 1912 when nearly a dozen railroads served the region. They included the Chicago & Northwestern Railway; Chicago, Burlington  and Quincy Railway; Chicago, Milwaukee &  St. Paul Railroad; Wyoming and Missouri River Railroad; and the Rapid City, Black Hills and Western Railroad. Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company.
 
     The Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company entered the Hills at Rapid City running northwest through Black  Hawk, Piedmont, Tilford, Sturgis and Whitewood to Deadwood. From Deadwood to Lead the road was both narrow and standard gauge and throughout the mining area  narrow gauge roads were built to collect the gold ore from the mines.
 
     Passenger service between Lead and Deadwood was by narrow gauge trains operated with a crude-oil fired steam locomotive. Hourly service was maintained during the day between Deadwood and Lead by way of Central City.  From Whitewood the line extended through St. Onge to Belle Fourche to Fruitdale, Nisland and Newell.

     The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railway Company's branch to Deadwood leaves the main line at Edgemont and runs north through Custer, Hill City, Mystic, Englewood  and Pluma to Deadwood. From Deadwood to Lead, through Pluma, narrow gauge trolley cars were operated at 45 minute intervals during the day.
 

      The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad terminated at Rapid City. The Wyoming &  Missouri River Railroad extended from Belle Fourche to  the coal mining town of Alladin, Wyoming, a distance of 20  miles. The Rapid City, Black Hills and Western Railroad ran from Mystic where it connects with the Burlington  system east through Pactola to Rapid City where it connects with the Chicago and Northwestern and the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul roads. Passenger service was given with steam trains and gasoline motor cars.

      Another interesting route is the old Burlington Northern spur from Hill City to Keystone. This line is active today as the Black Hills Central Rail Road's 1880 Train. It's a fun ride, and the route is quite scenic.

     For more about railroads click HERE.
     
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