The Black Hills Travel Blog

Northern Hills Railway Society

By • Oct 30th, 2009 • Category: Culture

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There’s always something new to discover here in the Black Hills. Even though I live and work here, I’m always learning about something new and surprising in the area. Yesterday, I heard about something right here in Deadwood that I never would have expected – a huge model train display.

I had a tough time imagining what it would look like, among all of the gambling halls and Old-West history in Deadwood, so I had to go check it out for myself. Hidden discreetly under Deadwood’s Main Street, just below the Lucky Nugget Gambling Hall, is the home of the Northern Hills Railway Society.

The society is a group of local railway enthusiasts and historians who have created the most impressive model train set-up I’ve ever seen. This thing is amazing! It takes up an entire room, has more than 50 locomotive engines and 400+ other train cars.

The display is surprisingly detailed and realistic as it houses replicas of actual railroad lines that have crossed South Dakota and the Black Hills region. Among the rail lines shown are the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern (DM&E).

Lining the walls around the display are photos of old railway cars and descriptions of historic South Dakota rail lines. It is sort of like a museum of regional rail history, that just happens to have this enormous model train set as a feature.

It’s a free attraction and definitely suitable for the whole family. It is open to view during all hours – just head in the front doors of the Lucky Nugget and ask about the model trains. The staff will direct you downstairs to the Northern Hills Railway Society’s display.

The society members meet on Wednesday and Saturday mornings to work on the display and often run the rail cars during that time. If you go, be sure to take a few quarters because if none of the members are there, you can still drop a couple of coins in the slot and watch the trains run for several minutes.

It’s a very cool attraction and I hope you all get the chance to see it next time you’re in Deadwood.

About the Author

is a resident of Spearfish, S.D. He grew up in the tall-corn state of Iowa, where he developed an early interest in all things outdoors. After high school he moved to Vermillion, S.D., where he earned his bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising. During his college years, two things caught his attention: the beauty of western South Dakota’s Black Hills and a girl from those Black Hills. After graduating from college, Joe traveled across the country as a recruiter for the University of South Dakota. He saw the sights from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas and everywhere in between, but it was the Black Hills (and the girl) that kept drawing him back. He and wife moved back to the Black Hills in 2008. He's an avid hiker, mountain biker and road cyclist whose future plans include trying to fit a pair of kayaks into the spare bedroom.
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