Am I crazy?
Yes, there is railroad real estate connecting Santa Fe with the Black Hills: a set of rusty, barely-active tracks in the historic rail bed owned by the State of South Dakota now operated by Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad, terminates on Burlington, Northern & Santa Fe holdings at Dakota Junction, Nebraska.
There is a rail spur that completes the connection with Ardmore where the RCP&E connects to the BNSF at Crawford, Nebraska but it's in terrible shape. Genesee & Wyoming will have to spend a load of time and money before RCP&E will ship anything over it.
This 1960ish Mercedes-Benz looks like the one my dad traded for a '65 Oldsmobile Jetstar 88 because Omaha was the closest place to get it worked on.
In east Rapid City, the abandoned Milwaukee Line that used to connect Sioux Falls on the other side of the state dead ends at the junction of SD44 and E. St. Patrick Street. The RCP&E divides sending traffic north and west to Colony, Wyoming and east to Pierre. There is no intersection of the two rail beds. The bridge crossing the Cheyenne River at Creston handles only hiker traffic these days.
That is the abandoned right of way that used to connect Sioux Falls and Rapid City with passenger service: it mostly parallels I-90, one of the largest carbon-based fuel black holes in the cosmos.
For a number of years Sturgis Rally-goers have shipped motorcycles to Newcastle, Wyoming farther north and west of Ardmore then ride through the breadth of the Black Hills: that track overwhelmingly handles coal out of the Powder River Basin, also north to Billings.
The speed limit on Nebraska 71 is 60 miles per hour on the 75 miles of bone-dry high prairie grassland between Crawford and Scottsbluff: it's potentially deadly during a blizzard. Crawford is the extreme west end of RCP&E's holdings but their parent company Genesee and Wyoming has rights on BNSF's main lines.
US18/US85 between Hot Springs and Lusk, Wyoming is no better; besides, I-25, especially through the Denver metro, sucks at biblical proportions: so does flying through DIA with its likelihood of a strip search.
Construction on the estimated half-billion dollar Heartland Expressway connecting Rapid City with I-80 in Nebraska or Wyoming (nobody knows) is glacial if not completely stalled while traffic between the Black Hills and Denver continues to increase as does the volume between Denver and Santa Fe. Amtrak goes over (sometimes under) Raton Pass. The New Mexico RailRunner connects Santa Fe with ABQ and the Southwest Chief.
Minnesota Public Radio has been following fast-tracking development of light rail. Amtrak is reporting 300% ridership increases in some markets.
Senator Jon Tester would like to restore passenger rail in southern Montana.
it's time for Amtrak service between Albuquerque and Cheyenne, Wyoming through Denver then on to Billings, Montana and beyond. Cheyenne to Rapid City then on to Sioux Falls, too.
Btw: SD71 ends at Hot Springs and SD79 roughly parallels the RCP&E track: part of the old Sydney, Montana stage route. My maternal grandparents honeymooned in Hot Springs taking the train from Humphrey, Nebraska right into town; Grandpa Puddy was a Union Pacific brakeman then. There are several historic markers along the Nebraska and Colorado portions of 71 that mark the Texas to Montana cattle drive trail.
Imagine it when 50 million bison were the land managers.
Ogalala National Grassland expands into the horizon south of Ardmore, a town only about 625 miles away from Santa Fe. Thunder Basin ia not far to the west: most of it remains unspoiled by 21st Century humans.
Help me rewild the West.