Black Diamonds from the Treasure State
The Incredible Saga of the Montana, Wyoming & Southern, and Yellowstone Park Railroads
Published by: Indiana University Press
272 Pages, 87 b&w illus., 4 maps
This book can be purchased from this website 120 days before the publish date
- Published: February 2024
In the late 19th century, railroads played a crucial role in the development of Montana's economy. Robert A. Schalla examines early efforts to bring rail transport to the New World Mining District near the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park and Red Lodge–Bear Creek Coal Field in south-central Montana. The saga began with a chance discovery in 1866 and follows the exploits of individuals who worked to bring rail transport to the mines of southern Montana.
Starting with Northern Pacific's unsuccessful efforts to build a railroad through Yellowstone, this story follows the struggles of various privately financed schemes to develop the vast mineral wealth of these two regions. A youthful entrepreneur from Milwaukee succeeded in financing a railroad to the coal fields, but his plan to extend the line to the national park runs afoul of John G. Smith, president of the Northern Pacific, who was determined to drive him out of business. The story dives into the motivations and background of these individuals and their ultimate triumphs and failures.
The completion of the Montana, Wyoming & Southern Railroad (MW&S) in 1906 resulted in the creation of three new towns and six separate mining operations. The MW&S was one of the few privately owned lines in Montana that, despite forces aligned against it, maintained its independence until it was abandoned. For nearly fifty years it formed an important part of the state's economy as the Bear Creek mines supplied private, commercial, and industrial consumers with some of the highest-quality coal in the state.
1. "Treat him in every way as an irresponsible fellow . . ."
2. "The line is remarkable for cheapness . . ."
3. "We can control the coal trade of Montana . . ."
4. "A railroad will be built . . ."
5. "In its utilitarian advantages the new station is unsurpassed . . ."
6. "Physically . . . a broken-down man"
7. "The track-bed is in fierce condition . . ."
8. "In the interest of economy and efficiency"
9. ". . . you will be wiser after you have tried it."
10. "A lack of sufficient revenue . . ."