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This week’s mystery location didn’t prove to be much of a mystery to a few of you, who recognized this…

…as the water stop at the 1880 Train depot in Hill City.

Water stops, also known as water stations, were used by steam-powered locomotives to replenish their water supplies. Before the invention of tenders—rail cars designed to carry water and fuel—steam trains were forced to stop every 7-10 miles to refill. It was the job of the boilerman to direct the large spigot and jerk on the chain to start the water flowing. Towns too small to have a train station of their own were derisively referred to as “jerkwater towns” because of this practice. Tender cars allowed steam trains to travel up to 150 miles without having to refill, making water stops a much less common sight.

You can still find water towers at each of the 1880 Train depots, in Hill City and Keystone.