The South Dakota State Railroad Museum, Ltd. is a 501c3 non-profit organization established to develop and operate a railroad museum which will serve as a central location from which to collect, interpret, preserve and display any and all objects, documents, photographic images, and artwork related to the various railroads that operated in the region now known as South Dakota; and to use any and all of these items to educate and inform the public of the vital role of railroads in South Dakota’s history in the past, present, and future.
In 1990, with new ownership of the Black Hills Central Railroad, a plan for a Museum was formalized and incorporation and organization began. Thus, in 1994 the South Dakota State Railroad Museum, Ltd, a not-for-profit 501c3 was established for the purposes of preservation, education, promotion. With the goal of interactive interpretation displays of railroad equipment and memorabilia expressing the ever-changing historical material specific to South Dakota and related American Railroads. Through several years of research and discussions with business people, tourism industry officials, railroad employees, and railroad history enthusiasts, it was concluded that Hill City would be the logical location for a South Dakota museum concentrating on railroads in the State. In 2004 phase one, to have a public presence, was completed and the museum found a home in an unused former Pullman sleeper on the 1880 Train's property in Hill City. Due to the constraints of the rail car, only small displays were shown and staff was completely volunteer. After many years of donations it was quickly realized the South Dakota State Railroad Museum was outgrowing the Pullman Sleeper fast. The Museum opened in its current custom-built facility next to the Black Hills Central Railroad at Hill City on May 1, 2010, where even now, with the generous support of the community, our growth seems to be unstoppable. The name of the Museum would suggest that funding is provided by the State of South Dakota, but all funds for operations, materials, and railroad items have all been donated along with grants and fundraising event and hours of volunteer participation.
Rick Mills: Museum Curator
Since he was a child Rick has been obsessed with trains. From history to train photography; if you have a questions related to trains you can bet he will have the answer for you.
SDSRM Board of Directors
SDSRM Board Members:
Mike Grimm, Rapid City
Jack Stengel, Sioux Falls
Lesta Turchen, Hill City
Curtis Tyler, Hill City
Jo Anna Warder, Hill City
Dorothy Fuller, Newcastle, Wyoming
SDSRM Advisory Board Members:
Marcia Mitchell, Hill City
David Salmen, Wessington Springs
Dwight Edstrom, Rapid City
Organizational Type: 501(c)(3) not-for-profit. Incorporated in 1994 under the Laws of South Dakota
Organizational Structure: Board of Directors elected by nomination; officers elected by Board of Directors
A letter from the Curator:
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.
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 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.