The Santa Fe Train Diner along the I-90 in South Dakota is actually a part of “1880’s Town”, a roadside attraction fashioned after a movie set.
There’s perhaps a hundred of signs along the freeway advertising the set, and by the time you actually reach the off-ramp, you feel compelled to check it out.
1880’s Town was partially built by the producers of “Dances with Wolves”. After filming, they donated the buildings to the people who own this plot of land. They turned it into a theme park, though without any rides.
The only restaurant that serves 1880’s Town is the Santa Fe Train Diner.
It’s an actual Santa Fe Passenger Train that once rode the rails from Chicago to California. In 1982, it came to rest here and soon began operations as a roadside restaurant. They serve up the typical fare of burgers, salads, soups, homemade pies and whatnot.
It’s actually kinda cool to take a break off the Interstate and sit inside this thing, munching down burgers in the air conditioned train cars. Prices are relatively cheap here, while decor is rather short on style. But we kinda like homey joints that serve up nothing fancy but the basics.
But we also liked to see something that continues under a new lease on life. This old Santa Fe Train could have been sent to a junk yard and dismantled. Yet, people work in these cars, eat here, and find shelter from the heat. There’s a sense of happiness that comes over me.
Since you’re already heading down the I-90, and most likely blasting your way through the wastelands of South Dakota, go ahead and pull into 1880 Town, and at least grab a bite to eat at the Santa Fe Train Diner. You don’t have to pay the admission to eat there.
Santa Fe Train Diner
Interstate 90, Exit 70
22 miles west of Murdo, SD