Montana Mainlines recognizes the enduring impact of railroads on Montana history. Beginning in the 1850s, the United States actively pursued a transcontinental transportation network across American Indian lands in the West. With the Utah and Northern, followed by the Northern Pacific, Great Northern, Milwaukee Road, and a myriad of branch lines, railroad construction in the later 1800s opened Montana for new settlement, simultaneously acquiring and reorganizing lands in its path. Railroads formed townsite companies to plat communities at regular intervals along the tracks. These railroad towns became the commercial, social, and political hubs for area residents.
Railroads dominated passenger and commercial transportation in Montana through the first half of the twentieth century - before highway construction, fast cars, the rise of the trucking industry, and airlines caused the railroads’ influence to wane by the 1950s. Passengers, timber, agricultural products, natural resources, mail, and other freight traveled by train and continue to do so in the form of BNSF Railway, Montana Rail Link, Union Pacific, and others - employing thousands of workers and supporting local communities with taxes and jobs. The historic Great Northern’s flagship train, the Empire Builder, enticed mid-century passengers with themed lounges, domed observation cars, and gourmet dining. Today, the Empire Builder operated by Amtrak continues this legacy, providing the only rail service to travelers in Montana.
See more of Montana’s railroad legacy in the Montana Historical Society 2019 Calendar available now in the Museum Store and in the forthcoming MHS Press book, Ties, Rails, and Telegraph Wires: Railroad and Communities in Montana and the West,, by Dale Martin, due out in July 2018.
Our sincere gratitude to The Donnelley Foundation this year for their generosity, without which the production and distribution of the 2018 poster would not have been possible. To receive a free copy of this poster contact our office at email@example.com or by phone at 406-444-7715.