The Great Northern

Statue: John Stevens, Marias Pass, Summit, MT There is an unfrequented turnout at the summit of Marias Pass on US 2. In it, stands this memorial to a road builder:

John F. Stevens was a civil engineer for the Great Northern Railroad. He was charged with finding a suitable rail route across the Continental Divide. In December of 1889, Stevens located and recorded the pass which had been used by area Native Americans for many centuries.

By 1893, the Great Northern was running trains over Marias Pass. This route provided the lowest pass (at 5,216 feet above sea level) and the shortest link between the headwaters of the Mississippi River and the Pacific Coast.
BNSF Trestle, Cut Bank, MT

Trestle, Cut Bank, MT

The story of Glacier Park and of the points to and from it along my route is the story of the railroads -- in particular the Great Northern Railway, the empire built by Jim Hill.

At first the railroads devoted their energy toward overcoming obstacles in the way of spanning the continent. Their original feats of engineering and subsequent replacements and refinements can hardly be seen from any highway. This modern bridge is an exception. In 1890, the Great Northern built a 1200x180 ft trestle bridge across Cut Bank Creek at this point.

Statue of Jim Hill, Havre, MT

Statue of Jim Hill, Havre, MT

After concluding their expansion mode, the railroads entered their monument-building phase.
Great Northern Depot, Great Falls, MT

Great Northern Depot, Great Falls, MT

Built in 1909, the Great Northern Depot in Great Falls, MT, has, since 1982, housed the offices of the Energy West Gas Company.

[Energy West's River Park Tower: A Historic Perspective. Great Falls, MT: Energy West, n.d.]

Milwaukee Road Depot, Great Falls, MT

Milwaukee Road Depot, Great Falls, MT

A mere couple of blocks away, a competitor set up shop.

Now holding a suite of offices known as Milwaukee Station, this building and its 135 foot tower were erected in 1915.

[McCann, Dennis. "Reminder of Home Towers Over Montana." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel N. vol. (21 Aug. 2002): 27 pars. Online. Internet. 30 Aug. 2004. Available http://www.jsonline.com/dd/destnat/aug02/67788.asp.]

Great Falls was not on the mainline of the Great Northern, but it was on the mainline of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul, and Pacific Road. In the west, US 2 is roughly congruent with the route of the mainline of the Great Northern, and US 12 follows the route of the Milwaukee Road. On my trip, I adhered to US, 2 heading west, and US 12, heading east.

BNSF Locomotive, US 2, MT

BNSF Locomotive, US 2, MT

The legacy of railroad ownership is as convoluted as the routes they ran. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe now operates over the mainline of the Great Northern.
Belton Chalet, West Glacier, MT

Belton Chalet, West Glacier, MT

Driving Going to the Sun Road from St Mary, you wind up in West Glacier at the ancient train stop of Belton, MT. I arrived here about a quarter to 04:00 pm.

In its monument-building phase, the Great Northern Railway put up the guest accommodations that have endured and that have endeared Glacier Park to tourists ever since.

The Belton Chalet was completed in 1910, which is also the same year the park was dedicated. It fell into disuse in the 1980s and was renovated and reopened in 1999.

Mountain Columbine, Belton Chalet, West Glacier, MT

Columbine, Belton Chalet, West Glacier, MT

A great deal of TLC (and not a little bread) has been lavished on the building and on the grounds, returning them both to authentic splendor.
Belton Chalet Restaurant, West Glacier, MT

Belton Chalet Restaurant, West Glacier, MT

The chalet restaurant is a separate building that cannot be missed because it abuts the shoulder of US 2.
Belton Chalet, West Glacier, MT

Belton Chalet, West Glacier, MT

Someday I will be able to afford to eat here.
Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, MT

Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, MT

Returning from my trip over Going to the Sun Road, I followed US 2 east around the south boundary of the park.

I did eat here:

The Izaak Walton Inn was built in 1939 to house railroad track and train crews. It is an all-weather bulding and is occupied year round in contrast with the other Great Northern Railway structures in and around the park, which were put up for seasonal use.

Be sure to look over the display in the bar of railroad memorabilia and photographs.

China Service for the Great Northern Empire Builder, Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, MT

China Service for the Great Northern Empire Builder, Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, MT

The lobby is full of artifacts from the classical period of passenger service.
Glacier Park Lodge, East Glacier, MT

Glacier Park Lodge, East Glacier, MT

I reached East Glacier, MT, about a quarter to 08:00 pm.

The Glacier Park Lodge is yet another of the Great Northern Railway's monuments. It opened in 1913. It is on the Blackfeet Reservation.

Amtrak Station, East Glacier, MT

Amtrak Station, East Glacier, MT

The lodge is across the street from the depot. Note the turnstiles. In the old days, passengers strolled along the garden path from the train station to the hotel while their luggage was being hauled over.
House of the Big Timbers, Glacier Park Lodge, East Glacier, MT

House of the Big Timbers, Glacier Park Lodge, East Glacier, MT

The Douglas fir timbers, which support the lodge, were between five and eight hundred years old when they were cut in Washington.
Atrium, Glacier Park Lodge, East Glacier

Atrium, Glacier Park Lodge, East Glacier, MT

Note how the surrounding rooms are arranged in set-back tiers.
US 2 South of Browning, MT

US 2 South of Browning, MT

I sailed through Browning, MT, at about 08:30 pm and took US 89 back toward St Mary, MT.
US 89 Crossing Cut Bank Creek

US 89 Crossing Cut Bank Creek

US 89 passes through open range. Beware of livestock on the right of way. Avoid traveling this road after dark.
US 89 South of St Mary

US 89 South of St Mary, MT

Sunset came on a little after 09:00 pm.

Rhode, Chuck. "The Great Northern." The Hi-Line and the Yellowstone Trail: To Glacier Park and Back Again. 1 Sept. 2004. Lacus Veris. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://lacusveris.com/The Hi-Line and the Yellowstone Trail/The Rockies/The Great Northern.shtml>. Last modified 6 Oct. 2015. Served 9987 times between 16 May. 2010 and 19 Aug. 2017. Contact mailto:CRhode@LacusVeris.com?subject=LacusVeris.