For Rail enthusiasts visiting BNSF’s Butte Subdivision (Crawford Hill area), Our Heritage Guest Ranch is a convenient jumping off point for visiting the entire Butte Subdivision located at railroad milepost 435 (MP 435).

BNSF’s Butte Subdivision offers a great variety of scenic diversity. It begins at the foothills of the Black Hills of South Dakota near Edgemont, transitioning into the Oglala National Grasslands near the ghost towns of Ardmore and Orella, then giving way to the badlands of Toadstool Park (Joder area), before reaching the Pine Ridge area (Crawford Hill) and finally the farmlands between Nonpareil and Alliance at the end of the Butte Subdivision.

From Our Heritage Guest Ranch, the railroad is easily accessible using “Toadstool Road.” This road follows the railroad tracks all the way from Crawford to the South Dakota state line near Ardmore S.D. and then Highway 71 and 471 to Edgemont. Many vantage points for photography can be found along the way and is all public accessible.

Points of interest on BNSF’s Butte Subdivision include Fort Igloo (MP 469), ghost town of Ardmore (MP 451), ghost town of Orella (MP 440), Toadstool Park (MP 439), Crawford Hill (MP 424 – 410) Marsland horseshoe curve (MP 399), NonPariel (MP 391), Hemingford (MP 384) and Alliance (MP 365).

One of the major railroading highlights in addition to Crawford Hill is “Orella Hill” (MP 451 – MP 440). Eastbound loaded coal trains climb the steep grade between Ardmore and Orella. This is just as technically challenging as climbing Crawford Hill. Sometimes a train will sometimes stall out and require helper assistance from Crawford.

For family members not interested in trains, activities close by Our Heritage include visiting Hudson-Meng Bison Bone Bed and Toadstool Park.

Photos by Bill Cronenberg