The double tracking [from] Garrison [to] Missoula was a capacity driven project. Chief Engineer [William Lafayette] Darling was instructed in 1902 by [President Charles Sanger] Mellen to conduct surveys between Garrison and Missoula to determine advisable changes in line, curvature and grade for this section of road. On [January] 18, 1903, Darling reported on a plan for carrying out various improvements. He stated, ''In considering this matter(,) the fact has been borne in mind that no alternate line is practicable from Drummond to Missoula, and in order to take care of the denser business, which will undoubtedly show up in the future, it must be done by double tracking, as the only other route is by way of the Big Hole River over Gibbons Pass, and down the Bitter Route River to Missoula, and which has not been considered as a practicable alternate line. Therefore, all business in future must be carried over this district, and the dense business which may be expected will call for changes of line which on other districts where alternate lines are practicable would not be economical.''
As traffic increased, revision of line, grade and double tracking was authorized for this segment by the [Board of Directors] Executive Committee in the fall of 1906. The cost was to be funded by a $93 [m]illion stock issue on [January] 7, 1907 prompted by the ''fast-growing transportation needs of the great and rich territory of the Northern Pacific System.'' This was part of the system improvement work including double tracking, line and grade revisions that was to be completed over a period of two to three years and funded from this new stock issue.
Work began in the spring of 1907. The 12th Annual Report (1907-1908) summarizes the need for line improvements during this period with the increased volume of traffic:
''During the Autumn of 1907 the volume of business offered to the company was in excess of its capacity in the district between Trout [Creek], MT, on the west and Billings, MT on the east, and there was serious congestion and delay in handling business on this part of the road, which in turn caused delay east of Billings and west of Trout Creek. The construction work, which is approaching completion at the various points between Billings and Spokane, will give a largely increased capacity to this part of the railroad.''
The Missoula-Garrison project was just one of many improvement projects that were underway at this time over the system. On June 5 [and] 6, 1908 a record breaking flood on the Clark Fork River upstream of Missoula caused great damage to the nearly completed bridges and roadbed under construction at the time. The new Milwaukee Pacific Coast Extension under construction at the same time on the opposite bank of the river also experienced heavy damage. [As a result,] the two roads cooperated to reconstruct their lines in the most practicable way possible with work completed in late 1909. This resulted in shared right-of-way in way in many locations. [The] NP's cost for this project were over three times the initial estimated cost.
Author: Jerry R. Masters, P.E. Title:Missoula - Garrison Double Track
© December 23, 2004