A week ago while searching Ebay for interesting artifacts, I stumbled on a fun little piece of railroad history in the form of a tourist pamphlet for the Rapid Canyon Line. The Rapid Canyon Line was one of many names for what’s commonly called the “Crouch Line” in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The official, original name of the railroad is the Rapid City Black Hills and Western. The line ran from Rapid City westward into the Black Hills to meet the CBQ’s Deadwood-Lead branchline at the town of Mystic. While it was a bridge line that allowed freight cars to pass between the CBQ and the CNW, tourism was equally important. I’lll be putting up a PDF scan of this pamphlet for people to read, but for the time being I just want to include the text of the document since it is an excellent description of an obscure railroad.
“The Rapid Canyon Line
One hundred five -105- bridges in a distance of 35 miles, crossing and recrossing Rapid Creek.
Fourteen -14- complete circles, if the sum of all curves were added together in 35 miles.
A trip of 35 miles through beautiful and rugged mountain scenery, one of the most picturesque canyons in the Black Hills.
These are many things you will see by taking a trip on the Rapid Canyon Line Railroad, the crookedest railroad on earth. While the air distance from Rapid City to Mystic, terminal points of the Rapid Canyon Line, is only 19 1/2 miles, it is necessary for the train to travel 35 miles through the mountainous country between these two points.
The train follows a route along the bottom of Rapid River Canyon for the entire distance, crossing and re-crossing the creek, and winding through the deep gorge cut into the rocky mountains that are the Black Hills. The track goes around so many curves and over so many bridges that this railroad has been aptly named, ‘the road of a thousand turns and a hundred bridges.’
The passenger on the Rapid Canyon Line, in the open observation cars, sees an ever-changing panorama of beauty spread before his eyes, scenes painted in colors that no artist has ever been able to reproduce. The changing greens of the pines, cedars, spruces, and other trees on the hillsides, together with the reds, browns, and whites of the rocks and soil provide a color scheme that is never wearisome or monotonous. The rippling of the river over the rocky bed and and the sighing of the winds through the trees and canyons composes a lullaby that is hard to resist.
Beautiful camp sites with an abundance of cool, fresh spring water, fresh from mountain springs, and wood conveniently at hand, may be found all along the way and there are numerous places in which cottages may be rented. There are also several lodges where accommodations can be had, with excellent meals and good beds.
Rapid River Canyon, in the gold rush days of ’76, was known as one of the best placer mining sections of the Black Hills and during the height of that hectic and history-making period. the First National Bank of Rapid City paid over two million dollars for gold taken from Rapid Canyon. The placer miner with his pack burro loaded with grub, pick axe and gold pan, was one of the picturesque characters of the early days in Rapid Canyon, but his old familiar haunts see him no more. Instead, the picnicker with head laden lunch basket and thermos bottle, the fisherman with rod and creel, the lumberman with axe or saw over his shoulder, and the farmer or rancher, may be seen daily, going about their work or seeking pleasure in this rich and beautiful canyon.
Evidences of early day placer mining may be seen on all sides from the Rapid Canyon Line. One of the big enterprises of early day placer mining was the construction of a flume to provide water for use in that industry. After mining operations ceased, this flume was extended and developed into a hydro-electric plant that has for many years supplied electrical energy to Rapid City, Deadwood and Lead, and other towns in the Hills. The flume, clinging precariously to the side of the mountains high above the railroad, may be seen from the cars of the Rapid Canyon Line.
The Black Hills district is frequently referred to as the rare minerals belt. Many of these rare minerals may be found in Rapid Canyon, including gold, silver, iron and hematites, and it is generally recognized that its mineral resources are very extensive.. Red, black and green granite in extensive quantities outcrops at various places in this beautiful canyon, and there are rock and sand quarries at several points.
The mountains along Rapid Canyon are covered with Black Hills pine and spruce, and lumbering is a very large important industry in the upper section of the canyon. the Warren-Lamb Lumber Company of Rapid City invested almost $150,000 in the construction of a water flume for the bringing of logs to the rails of the Rapid Canyon Line. Some of these logs were brought from points as far as seven miles from the railroad. The flume made possible the marketing of about 3,000 cars of logs annually from points that would otherwise be inaccessible and of no use to the public. This flume is no longer used but lumbering operations may be seen from the railroad.
More than two hundred different varieties of flowers may be found in Rapid Canyon different from most other places in the Hills, for it has more to offer the visitor.
Many conventions are held in Rapid Canyon, and churches of several denominations have camps and hold their summer assemblies in the canyon, with hundreds of people attending. The Y.M.C.A. of Rapid City operates a girls’ camp there, and the Boy Scouts of the Black Hills area have their camp in this canyon. Camp Wanzer, the health preventorium operated by the South Dakota Public Health Association on funds raised by the sale of Christmas seals, is located in Rapid Canyon, near Silver City.
Many new cottages are being constructed by people from this and other states who plan on spending their summers there. Hisega and Silver City, two of the most popular summer resorts, are being built up rapidly by people desiring to own their summer home in this ‘Switzerland of America.’
Rapid River is known to all followers of the art of Izaak Walton as one of the best trout streams in the Black Hills. Every foot of the river, which the Rapid Canyon Line follows, is the haunt of the speckled beauties, and cannot be surpassed, as a fishing ground for the Rainbow, Loch Leven and speckled trout. The state fish hatchery is located in Rapid Canyon, along the route of the railroad, just above Rapid City.
Canyon Lake and Rapid City’s municipal tourist park are located on the route, four miles west of Rapid City, and this is fast becoming one of the outstanding recreation spots for the entire Hills area. the tourist park offers fine fishing, bathing and modern cabins and is one of the best in the Black Hills.
The Rapid City, Black Hills & Western Railway known as the Rapid Canyon Line, operates a line of standard gauge railroad from Rapid City to Mystic, a distance of 35 miles, connecting with the Chicago & North Western Railroad and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad at Mystic.
The Rapid Canyon Line is the only railroad operating through the Black Hills from east to west, and it serves as a connecting short link between the oil fields and coal fields of Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, the lumbering section of the Northwest, the fruit raising country in Washington, California and Oregon, and the eastern Dakotas, western Minnesota and Iowa.
While the heights of Rapid Canyon are not as gigantic as those of the Grand Canyon, or of the Yellowstone National Park, yet hundreds and hundreds of people contend that no scenery between the Rocky Mountains and the Matterhorn of Switzerland, is more beautiful than the Rapid Canyon in South Dakota, which the Rapid Canyon Line traverses.”— Tourist Pamphlet for the Rapid Canyon Line Railroad