Though I grew up in the Black Hills, I had not ridden the 1880 train. My husband likes steam trains, so we decided to give it a try. The train cars are clean and well-maintained, and the engines are authentic. The grounds of the Black Hills Central Railroad are quite nice--the buildings are well-maintained, and the grounds appeared to be clean and well-kept. The gift shop had a number of unique, attractive, and interesting items, in addition to the requisite gift-shop offerings of t-shirts and souvenirs. There is also a railroad museum, which we did not have a chance to visit on the day of our train ride, but which we would like to check out at some point.
The ride itself was quite nice. There are several cars, all of which appeared to be well-maintained. The process of boarding and deboarding passengers was efficient. Staff were courteous and businesslike, which I appreciated. The scenery was terrific. As someone who grew up in the area, I really enjoyed the historical context, as well as the scenery: this is a route less-traveled through the Hills, even if you live in a town nearby, such as Rapid City, so I enjoyed seeing a part of the Black Hills that I had not seen before.
Of the previous reviewers who were less than thrilled with their experience, a few admitted that they had high expectations based on similar train rides in other parts of the country, such as Colorado. Of course, it is not fair to compare this train ride to one in another part of the country. The Black Hills scenery is beautiful in its own right, and this particular path provided a good representation of the various landscapes, geology, and plant life in the Black Hills.
As for those who complained that the ride was "boring", that the route was not very interesting, or that they didn't like the fact that they were looking into some people's backyards on the trip, it's important to remember that this rail line has been in the region for over 125 years (hence the name: "1880 Train"). As with any historic location, change occurs in the area around it. People live in the vicinity of the tracks, and have been for decades. Is the Management of the 1880 Train supposed to clear out the people who have moved into the area around the train tracks? The route is of historical significance; for those who aren't interested in the history, scenery, rock formations, and experience of riding on such a train, there's always Disneyland--or video games for those teenagers who found the trip "boring".
At Keystone, I saw a number of passengers get off the train. One little girl in one family exclaimed to her family as they walked to the depot, "That was FUN!!!" She was probably around 3 or 4, and just looked so thrilled with the whole adventure. Older folks enjoyed it as well.
In a place where tourist traps and other faux "Old West" establishments are all common, the 1880 Train stands out as more authentic, relaxing, and enjoyable experience. Definitely check it out if you are in the area.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC