Mountains to Prairies
Dale W. Jones
For nearly 150 years, railroads have been transforming the Montana landscape, from Continental Divide peaks to windswept prairies. Steel rails arrived on May 9, 1880, when the narrow-gauge Utah & Northern reached Monida Pass south of Butte. At the zenith of rail line construction during the 1890s and early 20th century, all major transcontinental railroads crisscrossed Montana: the Union Pacific; Northern Pacific; Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q); Great Northern; Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul (Milwaukee Road); and Soo Line. Through the years, many original railroads evolved into the Burlington Northern Railroad, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), and Montana Rail Link with unique short lines along the way. Though routes and operations have changed, the scenery of Big Sky Country remains the same. Take a journey across Montana rails, from the mountains to the prairies.