Milwaukee Road-Side Attractions of Montana

MARTINSDALE, MT DEPOT

MARTINSDALE, MT DEPOT

When the Montana Railway Company built two tracks near Martinsdale in 1899, the town moved to meet it. The community was replanned around the depot and became a so-called T-town, where all of the town’s north-south roads terminated at Railroad Avenue, which paralleled the tracks. Main, the town’s primary artery for business and trade, also terminated at the depot, and thus all activity in the town was framed by rail traffic.

The depot at the head of town seems to be being disassembled. Behind it is a dead signal where the tracks used to be; they’ve been pulled.

Montana Railway was better known as The Jawbone Railroad because it is said the railroad was built more by the force of gab of its promoter Richard Harlow than its capital at the bank. In fact, the company was often in financial difficulties. It was originally meant to service the mines around Castle, where more than 2,000 were working in silver mines without a clear route to smelters.

Castle, Montana is a ghost town. Almost no signs remain that it was a mining town.

Harlow negotiated bonds with the mining companies and Northern Pacific Railroad to bring his cars from Lombard (now another ghost town) to Leadboro, not far from Castle. Apparently, Harlow’s charm was not underestimated; he soon managed to secure further agreements with NPRR to extend his road to Martinsdale.

The rail line passed a sheep ranching town called Merino, which moved, like Martinsdale before it, to meet the tracks in June of 1900. Merino residents bought the parcels from Richard Harlow and named the new town Harlowton in his honor. Montana Railway Company merged with the Milwaukee Road in 1908 and around 1914, the present depot was built for the town. It was abandoned in the 1970s and, by all indications, someone is taking it apart board by board.

References »

  • (1918, September 4). The Northwestern Miller, 115.
  • (1929, July). Milwaukee Road Magazine.
  • (1959). Modern Railroads, 14(1), 136.
  • Drake, J. (1914, April). Milwaukee Road Magazine, 26.
  • Clark, R. A., & Fell, J. J., Jr. (2009). Retrieved July 14, 2017, from http://www.oldmilwaukeeroad.com/content/proud/complete_text.htm
  • HISTORY OF THE LOCATION AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE LINES WEST OF MOBRIDGE, SOUTH DAKOTA. (1915). VALUATION SECTIONS AND SUBSIDIARY COMPANIES.
  • McRae, W. C., & Jewell, J. (2009). Moon Montana. Avalon Publishing.
  • Milwaukee Road Historical District, Harlowton [NRHP Nomination Form]. (1988, July 8).
  • Snyder, S. A. (2012). Scenic Routes & Byways Montana. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=MFmBWZQys7IC
  • Stearns, H. J. (1966). History of the upper Musselshell Valley to 1920. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3594&context=etd