HILL CITY, South Dakota — The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad’s High Line between Edgemont and Deadwood was an important line connection for mining and timber companies in the Black Hills.
The line later hauled carving equipment for Mount Rushmore, as Keystone is the closest city to the national memorial.
In 1893, the railroad connected Hill City. At Hill City, the Keystone Branch diverged to its namesake city, Keystone, where it reached in January 1900.
Passenger trains operated over the High Line until 1949.
In the mid-1950s, a pair of steam enthusiasts proposed a narrow gauge heritage steam line and laid a third rail along a portion of the Keystone Branch to allow trains to operate. About halfway between Hill City and Keystone, the tourist line built a wye, a location known as Oblivion, to allow the trains to reverse.
On August 18, 1857, the first narrow gauge trains departed Hill City.
In 1970, the railroad began a tourist service between Hill City and Deadwood.
A 1972 flood destroyed a portion of the line connecting Hill City and Keystone, though the line was rebuilt, except for the final mile to Keystone. The last mile was restored in 2001.
In 1981, the Black Hills Central acquired the 10-mile-long Keystone Branch. In 1983, the railroad abandoned the line, and it lives on today as George S. Mickelson Trail following a rails-to-trails conversion in the 1990s.
Today, the 1880 Train operates on the former Keystone Branch, though it is no longer connected to the national rail network.