The Hi-Line’s disappearing railroad depots

Earlier in the summer I discussed the rather shocking (to me at least) discovery that most of the small town railroad depots–most following a standardized design developed by the Great Northern in the early 20th century–were gone, and that seemed like a devastating loss of historic fabric along U.S. highway 2.

Today’s posting looks solely at group of towns west of Havre in Hill County–and provides a 1984 and 2013 comparison.

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Kremlin, 1984 and 2013

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Hingham, 1984 and 2013

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Gildford, 1984 and 2013

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The Rudyard depot was one of my favorite images from 1984, and I used it in A Traveler’s Companion to Montana History book a later article on the Great Northern Corridor for Montana: The Magazine of Western History.  Depots served both an aesthetic and purely corporate function for the Great Northern–their standardized design helped to brand the line and helped to define the traveler’s sense of place.  They also served as a corporate outpost–the administrative center–for distance, tiny places, like these towns in Hill County.  The Rudyard community has preserved the depot, moving it several blocks away from the railroad line, but for the other towns a crucial link to the past has been lost.

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