Headed for Oblivion.... The Black Hills Central Railroad's Compound Mallet Tanker has a few minutes to loaf as she runs across a wide open grassy plain. But her Engineer and Fireman had better not get too comfortable for just ahead lies yet another steep, 4% grade and the last one they'll have to tackle before the long, downhill drift to Keystone. The hill ahead is known as "Oblivion."
If the Black Hills Central's fleet of passenger cars don't look like conventional coaches, it's because they aren't. Virtually all of these cars are former interurban trolley cars, which have had the catenary equipment and traction motors removed. Some of the cars have been restored to more or less the same passenger configurations back in the day, while others have been modified as open-air excursion cars. The train offers a variety of very comfortable accommodations and the crews obviously keep them in tip-top shape for their customers. The combination of the rare power and the interurban passenger equipment makes this one of the most unique tourist trains that I've ever seen or ridden. And oh by the way, this railroad has quietly become the oldest, continuously operating steam tourist railroad in the country, celebrating its 60th anniversary, just days before my visit.