RINGLING, MT DEPOT
RINGLING, MT DEPOT
Leader, Montana changed its name to Ringling after John Ringling, one of the six brothers that ran the famous Ringling Circus, bought nearly 100,000 acres of ranch land in the area. It was good land for growing wheat and ranching cattle and sheep, though some claim that John wintered some of the circus animals there as well.
The town was on the Milwaukee Road and enjoyed depot service because of the ranching interests in the area. Near the depot was a bank, a community center, St. John’s Catholic Church, and a handful of houses. If you want, you can take the Jimmy Buffet tour:
John Ringling was known as the entrepreneurial brother in the Ringling clan, having expanded the traveling circus from the midwest (headquartered in Baraboo, Wisconsin). He had a vision for a grand spa and hotel in the aptly named town of White Sulphur Springs, north of his town and off the rail line.
At the turn of the century, spa resorts with sulphur baths and hot springs were extremely popular among the upper class (See Hotel Adler), where John wanted to belong. Ringling never saw himself as part of the Midwest, much less Baraboo, and in off season he lived in Chicago or, preferably, New York CIty. Not only would a high-end spa in the mountains be extremely profitable, he wagered, but so would be owning the means of transportation. With this in mind, he founded the Yellowstone Park and White Sulphur Springs Railroad, which began building 23 miles of track from the Milwaukee Road mainline to the White Sulphur Springs in 1910.
While his plans for a hotel-spa with sulphur baths were cut short by World War I, the railroad was successful and survived well past its founder. The Milwaukee Road stopped serving Ringling in 1980, forcing the Yellowstone Park and White Sulphur Springs Railroad and the town’s depot to be abandoned.