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1880 Train Conductor Loves His Job

Jul 19, 2023

For many the 1880 Train is a Black Hills tourist attraction. But for more than 18 years Cesareo Meza has built his career on the train. The Railroad Operations Supervisor even helped reconstruct the Number 108 engine.

In this Take A Moment, Meza shares about his job.

“I did ride this train when I was a kid growing up here in the late 70s early 80s. So, it was actually kind of nice to come back and be able to work on it.

It’s official name is the Black Hills Central Railroad, and its known as the 1880 Train.

I’ve done a little bit of everything. I started out as a Fireman then took on the Engineer position after a while of doing that I did Conductor and Breakman positions.

I always tell people, “it is an easy job, you just have to pay attention to everything at once.” On my side of the cab, as an engineer, there are about a dozen different valves and break handles and the throttle, on just my side.

We carry about 400 people at our peak capacity per trainload, so it is a bit of responsibility.

I’ve met quite a few wonderful people along the way. It’s not just across South Dakota or across the states, it’s from all over the world.

I did not get married on the train, but I did meet my wife while working at the train. Not much to that one. She was also working at the train at that time, we just started hanging out quite a bit.

The Number 108 Engine we that we got in. We got that in 2016 and I was part of the crew that helped tear that down into many small parts, repair what needed to be rpaired and then start putting it back together.

It’s a pretty cool thing. It’s like almost starting from nothing, because when we got that in 2016, it was in a bunch of different parts. It came in on four, large heavy-haul tractor trailers. There was a tree growing out of part of the engine.

It had sat out in the woods for about 60 years, just rusting away.

It’s my home. I was born and raised quite a bit around the Black Hills. This is a pretty fun job. If you can be where you want to be and do something fun, I think that is a big part of getting through life.”