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Steam & Excursion > Audio: Prairie Days, Part 1 - Black Hills Central 7


Date: 03/03/21 07:22
Audio: Prairie Days, Part 1 - Black Hills Central 7
Author: MaryMcPherson

On an May day in 1994, my partner and I drove up to Hill City, South Dakota, so I could check out Black Hills Central 2-6-2 #7.  I had seen brochures around, but that fake balloon stack and boxy headlight that had been left behind following some Hollywood work had dropped it way down on my priority list.

Well, THAT was a mistake as it turned out.  That stack was quickly forgotten about the first time I heard #7 blasting up Tin Mill Hill on the departure from Hill City.

A little background...

In the summer of 1994, I was working at KILI Radio (90.1 FM; the voice of the Lakota Nation).  While it was technically a volunteer gig, the $20 stipend per show for those of us that worked weekdays really translated near what the post-tax minimum wage would have been.  Between my income and my partner's SSI benefits, we were actually doing fairly well considering we lived in what was (and still is) the poorest county in the lower 48.  Even though it was only a little over two hours from home, a visit to the Black Hills Central was akin to a cross-country vacation.

Back to the topic at hand...

#7 is a standard off-the-shelf Baldwin 2-6-2, and was half the railroad's operable steam fleet in 1994.  In talking to the engine crew, they said they liked having the balloon stack in place because it acted a bit as a muffler for those in the cab.  As I quickly found out, the locomotive working up a four percent grade was LOUD.

May was the beginning of the season for the Black Hills Central, and there was only a single run each day at the time of our first visit.  Was chased the train on the first day and then stayed the night with friends in Rapid City.  The next day, the 22nd, we followed the train from Hill City to Keystone Junction again.  By this time, the crew had seen me around and we had chatted both mornings.

When the train arrived at Keystone Junction, I already had the go-ahead to climb aboard and set my recording gear atop the tender of #7 for the return trip to Hill City.  The engine was oriented to run tender first on the return run.  With the recorder set up, I headed back to the car and we leap-frogged the train back to Hill City.  Every time the train passed, I was checking the tender deck.

"Yup.  Still there."

This recording is the last climb of the return trip as the train climbs out of Palmer Gulch to the summit of Tin Mill Hill, where the steep descent into Hill City begins.

The image shows the equipment I was using in 1994.  Fancy it was not, but it did the job.

Mary McPherson
Dongola, IL
Diverging Clear Productions

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Date: 03/03/21 17:54
Re: Audio: Prairie Days, Part 1 - Black Hills Central 7
Author: zoohogger

BHC #7 has always sounded good. Thanks for taking us for a ride.

rick Z



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