South Dakota State Railroad Museum, Hill City

#3 of 7 in Museums in Hill City
History Museum · Hidden Gem · Museum
The South Dakota State Railroad Museum brings to life the financial and political intrigue, the machinery, the people, the mythology, and the pure joy of perhaps the most romantic mode of transportation ever built.

Museums like this connect us to everything we know— and to what we have yet to learn— reminding us of times, places and things, and of innovations that have shaped our past and present, and will shape our future.

Americans have always had a love for railroads—there is nothing else like them. The building of the American railroads was a special combination of steel, timber, and sweat which linked our nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific. As explorers, entrepreneurs, and immigrants from across the world sought freedom and opportunity, the railroads and our nation grew up together.

South Dakota’s unique landscape spawned one of the most unusual and complex railroad histories in our nation; a history that has helped define us as a people and as a state. The rails have carried our hopes, our dreams, our riches, our bounty, our cultural treasures, and our families from past to present.

By the time the Dakota Territory was carved into North and South in 1889, the railroad and the High Plains were intertwined. Agriculture on the plains relied on the railroads, as did mining and timbering in the Black Hills. South Dakota was realized, in large part, thanks to the men, women, investment, and machines of the railroad.

Automobiles, Interstate highways, and aircraft, however, shook the railroad system to its core. By 1969, one hundred years after the completion of the transcontinental railroad, South Dakota had lost it’s last passenger service.

In the next two decades, corporate mergers helped to bolster railroad operations. The times had changed, our needs had changed, but the value and importance of the South Dakota railroads had not.

Like all of America, South Dakota is far from through with trains.

Today’s fascination with trains remains romantic and stalwart. We are reminded of our history as we see long trains rolling across our state. We ride steam trains with excitement and a strong sense of nostalgia.

In Hill City, which boasts our premier recreational passenger train, the 1880 TRAIN, we will celebrate our colorful and varied history on rails with this historic enterprise. Hill City has also become a thriving center of tourism and art, and is located within 15 miles of both the popular tourism destinations of Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Memorial.

Along with the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, other associated South Dakota and regional museums, authentic railroad depots, and related historic sites will continue to provide South Dakota’s unique story of regional railroading.

Please join us for a singular journey on the “high iron.” Join us on a journey that began a century and a half ago, and remains a constant source of interest and importance today.
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South Dakota State Railroad Museum reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
77 reviews
  • Lots of regional history with many exhibits and a great model railroad. Located near to steam train station so easy to do both in a day.  more »
  • Took the train to Keystone very enjoyable! It takes you back in time to a more relaxed period of our history!  more »
  • For only $5 an adult (kids get in free) it offered exactly what I had expected. It only has a single room of stuff but its filled to the brim w/ classic train stuff, lots of history, some books to read from, etc. The model train town was nice enough and my kid - a train enthusiast - enjoyed it thoroughly. It was a nice peek into south dakota history.
  • Really nice little museum. very educational. The staff was very friendly and helpful.

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