Erasing the Great Northern Image across the Hi-Line

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Erasing the Great Northern Image across the Hi-Line

One of the most surprising–for me, even shocking–patterns in the 21st century Hi-Line landscape is how many railroad depots have disappeared from the small towns. Certainly major towns that provide access to the Amtrak passenger service (Havre, Malta, Glasgow, Shelby) still retain their historic buildings. But most others are gone. Certainly the corridor itself remains and the grain elevators still dominate the scene, reminding everyone of the power of agribusiness today, but the stations that told you here is a Great Northern town are not there. The photo is from Rudyard in Hill County where residents took the station, moved it blocks away to the edge of the village, and use it now as a centerpiece for a community museum. In Kevin, Toole County, the depot was moved off the tracks (only slightly, it is still within view of the corridor) and made a Senior center. These places are now rare reminders of the Great Northern’s imprint on the landscape through the means of their standardized design, painted white, passenger stations.

Phillips County Courthouse

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Here is another building I mentioned earlier this spring, wondering about what happened in the 25 years since I was last in Malta. The courthouse has not been past over for a new building. It is in good shape but you wish they had not added the vines. If unchecked the vines will soon cover the facade and they will eat away on the brick. The real casualty in Malta is the former Carnegie Library, now abandoned and wilting away. Losing that fine neoclassical building will leave a big hole in the town’s heritage fabric.

Ghost towns on Montana’s Soo Line Corridor

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I discovered years ago that few Montanans, not to mention Canadians, recognized that the Canada-based Soo Line had extended a spur into northeast Montana in the early 20th century. Some of the towns created in the wake of the railroad remain but most are gone, marked as a spot on the state map but really they are only towns in people’s memories. The state historic preservation office 20 years ago placed Comertown on the National Register. The next town west , Dooley (shown here) is another worthy candidate. In 2005 residents past (and present?) placed a large boulder to mark the town, etching buildings and dates for posterity. Or so they thought. The etchings are already going faint in the harsh wind blown plains. The church remains–but for how much longer?

South gateway to Yellowstone valley

Sheridan, WY doesn’t call itself the south gateway but I consider it to be that. Sheridan is a good 2 days of driving from Murfreesboro. And after a respite at the Mint Bar (one of the best places in the west) I enter Montana in the morning light and get to work, stopping briefly in Hardin (the first county seat of the fieldwork–let’s see how many I make). Then a mid morning meeting with the O’Donnell family before I strike east.

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Lewis and Clark in Missouri

Today’s drive paralleled a portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail I had never visited. Now being a proud board member of the Lewis and Clark Trust, I needed to visit Arrow Rock, Missouri. Wish I had stopped before. A stunning town of mid 19th century buildings, together with the vistas of the river. A must stop on the trail.
Storms impeded afternoon fieldwork and the storm I avoided has now hit at Des Moines.

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