Number 652 crosses the Low Line with A-B-B-A F7s, 65 loads, 25 empties, and 4,300 tons on November 8, 1954. It took the railway more than ten years of wrangling to build the alternate main line, and the arrival of diesels and centralized traffic control led to its dismantling in about the same amount of time. Warren R. McGee photograph.


  J.R. Masters, P.E., J.A. Phillips, III



Rocky Mountain Division
First Sub-Division - Main Line

Mile Post Call Station
000.0 Vs Livingston
007.7 Hu Hoppers
011.9 Mu Muir
013.1 Wd West End
016.4 Cd Chestnut
019.4 -- Gordon
024.8 Bx Bozeman
---- ---- ----
033.8 -- Cowan
038.6 -- Belgrade Tower
040.7 -- Spain
042.4 -- Powers
050.5 -- MacLees
058.7 Ch Logan
---- ---- ----
032.1 -- Belgrade Tower
034.3 Ba Belgrade
039.9 Cn Central Park
043.7 Mn Manhattan
058.7 Ch Logan
053.3 -- Gallatin
054.9 Rt Trident
063.5 -- Clarkston
069.2 Cj Lombard
075.2 -- Brewer
078.6 Ta Toston
089.7 Tn Townsend
102.7 Wn Winston
107.3 -- Placer
112.1 -- Louisville
118.3 Jn East Helena
122.7 Hy Helena

Northern Pacific. Officers, Agents, Stations, Etc., Nos. 14 and 49. St. Paul [Minn.]: Northern Pacific, 1912; 1956, pp. 78-9; p. 21.

An area map of the Low Line by T.O. Repp.

Dramatis Personae

Stoerk Johan Bratager.
Principal Assistant Engineer.
Office: 176 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Born: June 7, 1860, Bergen, Norway.
Education: Studied engineering in technical schools, six years.
Entered railway service: 1883, as draftsman, St. Paul and Northern Pacific, and has been in continuous service with that road and the Northern Pacific (of which the St. Paul and Northern Pacific is now a part) to date, with the exception of nine months during 1884-1885 when he was with the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul at Minneapolis, Minnesota; is at present principal assistant engineer, Northern Pacific, at St. Paul, Minnesota.
Howson, Elmer T., D. A. Steel, and J. B. Tebo, editors. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, 1922 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1922, p. 69.

Arthur Van Brown.
Acting General Manager.
Office: 181 King Street, Seattle, Washington.
Born: June 5, 1866, Hannibal, Missouri.
Education: High school.
Entered railway service: June 1884, since which he has been consecutively to May, 1886, clerk and stenographer in joint freight station Missouri, Kansas and Texas and Wabash; May 1886 to August 1887, stenographer and fuel clerk in superintendent’s office, Missouri, Kansas and Texas; August, 1887, to October, 1887, stenographer in General Superintendent’s office Missouri Pacific; January 1888 to April 1889, maintenance of way clerk and storekeeper St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern; April, 1889, to January, 1891, clerk in office of Trainmaster, Roadmaster and General Superintendent Chicago, Burlington and Quincy; January, 1891, to June, 1892, chief clerk office of General Superintendent same road and secretary and treasurer Keokuk Union Depot Company; June, 1892, to April, 1897, secretary to general superintendent same road; April, 1897, to January, 1903, chief clerk to general manager same road; January, 1903, to August, 1904, assistant superintendent same road; August, 1904, to December, 1905, superintendent terminals same road; December, 1905, to April 6, 1908, division superintendent same road; April 6, 1908, to November 9, 1909, general manager, Missouri and North Arkansas; November 9, 1909 to May 1914, division superintendent Northern Pacific; May, 1914, to November, 1920, general superintendent, Central District at Livingston, Montana; November, 1920, to April, 1922, general superintendent, Western District same road at Tacoma, Washington; April, 1922, to date, acting general manager same road at Seattle, Washington.
Howson, Elmer T., D. A. Steel, and J. B. Tebo, editors. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, 1922 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1922, p. 76.

Bill Carlson working as a track inspector in 1947. Bill Carlson in Missoula, Mont., in 1963, both courtesy Dick Carlson.

William E. Carlson.
Division Roadmaster.
Born February 15, 1916, Drake, N.D.
Son of: Emil E. and Emma E. Carlson.
Education: Renton High School, 1934.
Entered railway service: 1935, as a section laborer, Pacific Coast; 1939 to 1941, section laborer, Northern Pacific, Renton, Wash.; 1942, extra gang foreman, Kelso, Wash.; 1943 to 1946, section foreman, Centralia, Wash.; 1947 to 1949, track supervisor; 1950 to 1953, assistant roadmaster, Yakima and Centralia, Wash.; 1954 to 1960, roadmaster, Butte, Mont.; 1961, roadmaster, Tacoma, Wash.; 1962 to 1969, division roadmaster, Missoula, Mont.; 1970 to 1975, assistant superintendent, Maintenance of Way, Sand Point, Ida., to Casper, Wyo. Retired 1975, died 1998. Carlson, Richard. Electronic mail, August 20, 2005.

William L. Darling.

William Lafayette Darling.
Consulting Engineer.
Office: 2100 Inglehart Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Born: March 24, 1856, Oxford, Massachusetts.
Son of: William Edward and Cynthia Marana (Steers) Darling.
Married: Alice Ernestine Bevans, April 15, 1901.
Children: Fayette Bevans, William Lowell and Edna Cyrena.
Education: Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Bachelor’s of Science, 1877; [lettered in] baseball and football. Career: engineering construction, Northern Pacific, 1879 to 1883; division engineer, St. Paul and Northern Pacific (now Northern Pacific), 1883 to 1884; engineer, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, 1884; engineer, location and construction, St. Andrews Bay and Chipley, 1884 to 1885; resident engineer in charge of terminals in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Chicago, Burlington and Northern (now Chicago, Burlington and Quincy), 1885 to 1887; engineer, location and construction, Duluth, Watertown and Pacific (now Great Northern), 1887; located the line afterwards built by the Great Northern from Sioux Falls to Yankton, South Dakota, 1887 to 1888; engineer in charge of washout repairs from Minot, North Dakota, to Great Falls [Montana], Great Northern, 1888. The following positions with the Northern Pacific: in charge of construction of Howe truss bridge[s] in Montana, 1888 to 1889; in charge of location and construction of line from Little Falls to Staples, Minnesota, 1889; in charge of location and construction of the Coeur d’Alene Branch, 1889 to 1890; principal assistant engineer in charge of engineering and construction, 1891 to 1892; division engineer in charge of engineering from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Billings, Montana, 1892 to 1896; division engineer and assistant chief engineer, 1896 to 1901; chief engineer, 1901 to 1903. Chief engineer and vice-president, Gulf Construction Company, building a line from St. Louis to Kansas City, 1905; chief engineer, Pacific Railway (now Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific), 1905 to 1906; chief engineer, Northern Pacific system and allied lines and during same period was vice-president and construction engineer in charge of construction of the Portland and Seattle Railway (now Spokane, Portland and Seattle), also during this period was construction engineer of the Pittsburgh and Gilmore. Since 1916 he has been consulting engineer, at St. Paul with the following activities: Associate member, Naval Consulting Board during the World War; appointed a member of the Advisory Commission of Railway Experts to Russia by the Secretary of State, 1917; Member of Board of Economics and Engineering for the Owners of Railroad Securities in New York, 1921 to 1922. Public office: Member, City Planning Board, St. Paul; Member, City Zoning Board, St. Paul.
Clubs and Fraternities: American Railway Engineering Association (former director); American Society of Civil Engineers; Permanent Association of Navigation Congresses; General Contractors of America (honorary member); Minnesota Club, St. Paul; University Club, St. Paul; Thirty-second degree Mason; Shriner; Protestant; Republican.
Home address: 2100 Inglehart Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota.
No author. Who’s Who in Railroading – United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba – 1930 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1930, p. 124.

James J. Hill and Howard Elliott in St. Paul, Minn., in 1910.

Howard Elliott.
Office: 34 Nassau Street, New York, New York.
Born: December 6, 1860, New York, New York.
Education: Lawrence Scientific School, Harvard University, Civil Engineer, 1881. Entered railway service: July 1, 1880, since which he has been consecutively July 1, 1880 to October 17, 1881, level roadman engineer corps Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad; October 1, 1880, to October 17, 1881, out of service; October 17, 1881, to January 1, 1882, clerk, president’s office St. Louis, Keokuk and Northwestern; January 1, 1882, to September 15, 1882, clerk to assistant treasurer’s office same road at Keokuk, Iowa; September 15, 1882, to January 1, 1887, auditor and assistant treasurer Chicago, Burlington and Kansas City and St. Louis, Keokuk and Northwestern at Keokuk, Iowa; January 1, 1887 to May 1, 1891, general freight and passenger agent same roads, same place; May 1, 1891, to January 1, 1896, general freight agent same roads and Hannibal and St. Joseph and Kansas City, St. Joseph and Council Bluffs; January 1, 1896 to May 1, 1902, general manager same roads; May 1, 1902, to October 21, 1902, second vice-president Chicago, Burlington and Quincy; October 21, 1903, to August, 1913, president Northern Pacific, Washington and Columbia River and Minnesota and International railways; August, 1913, to May, 1917, president and chairman board of directors New York, New Haven and Hartford; May, 1917, to date, chairman committee on Intercorporate Relations same road; 1917, also member Railroad’s War Board; 1917, to March 1, 1920, president Northern Pacific Railway; March 1, 1920, to date, chairman same road.
Howson, Elmer T., D. A. Steel, and J. B. Tebo, editors. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, 1922 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1922, p. 194.

Jule M. Hannaford, at left, with Howard Elliott, in 1926.

Jule Murat Hannaford.
Vice-Chairman and Director.
Office: 176 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Born: November 19, 1850, Claremont, N.H.
Entered railway service: June 1866, since which he has been consecutively to May 11, 1872, clerk in general freight office Vermont Central at St. Albans, Vermont; May 17, 1872 to date, with the Northern Pacific Railroad and its successor, the Northern Pacific Railway as follows: May 17, 1872, to May 1, 1879, in general freight and passenger office; May 1, 1879, to May 1, 1881, assistant general freight and passenger agent; May 1, 1881, to August 1, 1883, general freight agent, Eastern Division; August 1, 1883, to March 1, 1884, assistant superintendent, Freight Traffic; March 1, 1884, to May 1, 1886, general freight agent; May 1, 1886, to March 15, 1890, traffic manager; May 15, 1890, to February 1, 1899, general traffic manager; April 1, 1890, to September 1, 1893, also general traffic manager, Wisconsin Central Lines during their lease to the Northern Pacific Railroad; February 1, 1899, to April 1, 1902, third vice-president; April 1, 1902, to August 27, 1913, second vice-president; June 1, 1895, to June 28, 1906, also general superintendent and vice-president, Northern Pacific Express Company; and June 28, 1906, to August 27, 1913, president, same company; August 27, 1913, to June 20, 1918, president, Northern Pacific; June 20, 1918, to March 1, 1920, federal manager, same road; March 1 to December 1, 1920, president; December 1, 1920, to date, vice-chairman and director.
Howson, Elmer T., D. A. Steel, and J. B. Tebo, editors. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, 1922 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1922, p. 267.

John W. Kendrick.

John William Kendrick.
Second Vice-President.
Office: 176 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Born: October 14, 1853, Worcester, Massachusetts.
Education: Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Civil Engineer, 1873.
Entered railway service: 1879 as levelman construction party in Yellowstone Valley for the Northern Pacific Railroad, since which he has been consecutively 1879 to 1880, location work; 1880 to 1883, in charge of construction of 160 miles of Missouri and Yellowstone divisions; 1883 to 1888, chief engineer, St. Paul and Northern Pacific Railroad, in charge of main line and terminals between Brainerd and St. Paul, Minnesota; 1888 to July, 1893, chief engineer, Northern Pacific Railroad and leased lines; July, 1893, to February 1, 1899, general manager for receivers, same road and reorganized road, the Northern Pacific Railway; February 1, 1899 to date, second vice-president.
Busbey, T. Addison, editor. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, 1901 edition. Chicago [Ill.]: Railway Age and Northwestern Railroader, 1901, p. 298.

Edwin Harrison McHenry.
Fourth Vice-President, New Haven.
Born: January 25, 1859, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Educated: Pennsylvania Military College, Chester, Pennsylvania.
Entered railway service: 1883 as rodman on Black Hills Branch, Northern Pacific, since which he has been consecutively rodman, chainman, draftsman, leveler, transitman, assistant engineer, division engineer, principal assistant engineer, and November 1, 1893, to January 1, 1896, chief engineer; October, 1895, to October, 1896, also receiver same road; September 1, 1896, to September 1, 1901, chief engineer reorganized road, the Northern Pacific, in charge of location, construction and maintenance; 1901 and 1902, visited China, Japan and Philippine Islands; June 1, 1902, to May 10, 1904, chief engineer, Canadian Pacific; October 1, 1904, to date, first vice-president, Consolidated Railway, in charge of construction, operation and maintenance of the trolley lines owned by the New York, New Haven and Hartford, and also fourth vice-president, New York, New Haven and Hartford, in charge of Electrical Department covering electrical construction and maintenance of lines operated by electricity.
Busbey, T. Addison, editor. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, 1906 edition. Chicago [Ill.]: Railway Age, 1906, pp. 381-82.

George T. Slade.

George Theron Slade.
Former First Vice-President.
Born: July 22, 1871, New York City, New York.
Son of: George P. and Cornelia W. (Strong) Slade.
Education: A.B., Yale, 1893.
Married: Charlotte E., daughter of James J. Hill, of St. Paul, Minnesota, October 9, 1901 (died 1923). Children George Norman, Georgiana Mary.
Entered service Great Northern, 1893; superintendet Eastern Railway of Minnesota, 1897 to 1899; general manager, Erie and Wyoming Valley, 1899 to 1901; superintendent, Wyoming and Jefferson divisions of Erie, March to August, 1901; general superintendent, Erie Division, same road, 1901 to 1903; general superintendent, Great Northern, 1903 to 1907; general manager, Northern Pacific, 1907 to 1909; third vice-president, same road, 1909 to 1913; first vice-president in charge of operation, 1913 to 1918; resigned February, 1918, to become deputy director general of transportation, American Expeditionary Forces in France, rank of colonel, special work for U.S. government in Alaska and France, 1919; member President Wilson’s second industrial conference, 1920; president Absarkoa Oil Development Co., 1920-1922; Tyler Oil, 1923 to 1924; no inactive.
Home: New York.
Died: January 24, 1941.
N.A. Who Was Who in America, Volume I, 1897-1942. Chicago: A.N. Marquis, 1942, p. 1132.

Howard Eveleth Stevens.
Vice-President, Maintenance and Operation.
Office: 176 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Born: March 8, 1874, Bluehill, Maine.
Education: University of Maine, Civil Engineer, 1897.
Career: Engaged in survey and bridge work and in 1900 was associated with Ralph Modjeski, Construction Engineer, Chicago, on bridge design, fabrication and construction, which included, among other structures, the bridge over the Mississippi River at Thebes, Illinois.
Entered railway service: 1904 as a draftsman in the Bridge Department of the Northern Pacific and was later assistant engineer, specializing in steel bridge design; 1906-16, bridge engineer; 1916 to 1928, chief engineer; 1928 to 1938; 1938—, vice-president, Maintenance and Operation.
No author. Who’s Who In Railroading in North America, 1940 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1940, p. 606.

James Grant Woodworth.
Former Assistant to President.
Born: October 31, 1864, Hillsdale, Michigan.
Son of: Horace Gideon and France Jane (Jurney) Woodworth.
Education: Common school.
Married: Helen Burnside, November 20, 1895.
Entered railway service: 1879 as office boy, General Freight Department, Chicago and North Western, serving in that capacity until 1880. Subsequent career has been as follows: 1880 to 1883, telegraph operator and station agent, Chicago and North Western, DeSmet, Dakota; 1883-1884, chief clerk, General Agent’s office, Chicago, St. Paul, Milwaukee and Omaha, Minneapolis, Minnesota; 1884 to 1886, freight solicitor, Union Pacific, Portland, Oregon; 1886 to 1888, traveling freight agent and chief clerk, General Freight Department, Oregon Railway and Navigation; 1888 to 1889, assistant general freight agent, same company; 1889 to 1890, assistant general freight agent, Union Pacific, Portland, Oregon; 1890 to 1891, general freight agent, Pacific Division, same road; 1891 to 1892, assistant general western freight agent, same road, Portland, Oregon; 1892 to 1893, assistant general freight agent, same road, Omaha, Nebraska; 1893 to 1894, general freight agent, Iowa Central; 1894 to 1896, assistant to receiver and general manager, Oregon Railway and Navigation; 1896 to 1897, assistant to president; 1897 to 1899, general freight agent, same road; 1899 to 1902, traffic manager, Pacific Coast Company; 1902 to 1904, assistant to first vice-president, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy; 1905 to 1913, traffic manager, Northern Pacific; 1913 to 1918, vice-president in charge of traffic, same road; 1918 to 1920, traffic assistant to regional director, U.S. Railroad Administration; 1920 to 1931, vice-president in charge of traffic, Northern Pacific, St. Paul, Minnesota; 1931 to January 1, 1938, assistant to president, Northern Pacific.
Home address: 453 Portland Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota.
No author. Who’s Who in Railroading in North America, 1940 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1940, p. 706.

Form 1640 (Old Form 3587)

Central District
Statement showing crews tied up October 14th to 21st inclusive showing method of taking care of engine, 1916 account Federal Law.

Montana Division
Number 651 (Third); Conductor J.F. Collins; Engine 1721; Engineer Davidson. Livingston 7:15 P.M. October 15 tied up 9 A.M. October 16 at Whitehall; thirteen hours 45 minutes. Delayed 55 minutes air test and inspection; twenty minutes waiting for orders; one hour five minutes station work; twenty minutes meals; 30 minutes track obstruction; 45 minutes coal and water; one hour for hot boxes. Engine taken to roundhouse.

Number 651; Conductor M Smith; Engine 1608; Engineer Arness. Livingston 8:45 P.M. October 16 tied up 12:05 P.M. October 17 at Welch; fifteen hours twenty minutes. Delayed 25 minutes air test and inspection; one hour making up train; fifteen minutes station work; one and one-half hours meeting trains; 30 minute meals; 30 minutes cutting in helper; 45 minutes coal and water; 45 minutes blocked by signals and for staff. Engine taken in charge by relieving crew, both train and engine crews tied up.

Extra; Conductor Averill; Engine 130; Engineer Palmer. Laurel 3:30 P.M. October 16 tied up 7:30 A.M. October 17 at Mission; sixteen hours. Delayed 50 minutes station work; seven hours fifteen minutes meeting trains; 30 minutes meals; 30 minutes coal and water. Engine watched by section foreman.

Extra; Conductor Cole; Engine 1931; Engineer Casey. Livingston 7:15 P.M. October 16 tied up 10:40 A.M. October 17 at Townsend; fifteen hours 25 minutes. Delayed 55 minutes brake rigging down; 50 minutes station work; three hours 35 minutes meeting trains; twenty minutes meals; 25 minutes coal and water. Engine taken to roundhouse.

Number 651; Conductor Bishop; Engine 1720; Engineer W.V. Stapp. Livingston 8:30 P.M. October 17 tied up 9:30 A.M. October 18 at Whitehall; thirteen hours. Delayed one hour ten minutes making up train; ten minutes station work; two hours 35 minutes meeting trains; 25 minutes meals; ten minutes cutting in helper; 25 minutes coal and water; 30 minutes blocked by trains; ten minutes set out hot boxes; 35 minutes account having outfit cars behind helper at West End. Engine taken to roundhouse.

Extra; Conductor Campbell; Engine 1587; Engineer Woodward. Laurel 6 A.M. October 17 tied up 9:30 A.M. October 18 at Big Timber; fifteen hours 30 minutes. Delayed five minutes waiting for orders; seven hours meeting trains; 25 minutes coal and water. Engine watched by J.E. Rowland.

Number 652; Conductor M. Smith; Engine 1608; Engineer Arness. MU Transfer [Butte] 8:30 P.M. October 17 tied up 12:30 P.M. October 18 at Bozeman; sixteen hours. Delayed 30 minutes air test and inspection; two hours 35 minutes making up train; 45 minutes station work; three hours 45 minutes meeting trains; 30 minutes meal; twenty minutes cutting out helpers; 35 minutes coal and water; one hour 30 minutes blocked. Engine taken to roundhouse.

Extra; Conductor Stanton; Engine 1670; Engineer Wescott. Helena 5:30 A.M. October 18 tied up 8 P.M. October 18 at Bozeman; fourteen hours 30 minutes. Delayed 30 minutes air test and inspection; ten minutes waiting for bills; 30 minutes waiting for orders; one hour 25 minutes station work; three hours 40 minutes meeting trains; 30 minutes meals; 20 minutes coal and water; ten minutes cutting in helper; three hours for helper to take coal, water and clean fire. Engine taken to roundhouse.

Extra; Conductor Broy; Engine 1736; Engineer Bishop. Helena 3:40 A.M. October 19 tied up 5:15 P.M. October 19 at Bozeman; thirteen hours 35 minutes. Delayed twenty minutes waiting for bills; 35 minutes station work; three hour 50 minutes waiting for and meeting trains; 25 minutes meals; 30 minutes track obstruction; twenty minutes for helper; fifteen minutes coal and water; twenty minutes for clearance. Crew sent out to bring train to terminal.

Extra; Conductor Carlson; Engine 1642; Engineer Hicks. Livingston 5 P.M. October 19 tied up 7:30 A.M. October 20 at Townsend; fourteen hours 30 minutes. Delayed 30 minutes air test and inspection; 30 minutes making up train; five minutes waiting for orders; two hours twenty minutes station work; four hours five minutes meeting trains; 30 minutes check train; fifteen minutes cutting out helper. Engine taken to roundhouse.

Extra; Conductor C.J. Ryan; Engine 1729; Engineer Roberts. Helena 5:20 A.M. October 19 tied up 8 P.M. October 19 at Bozeman; fourteen hours 40 minutes. Delayed twenty minutes air test and inspection; one hour account 602 delayed; one hour five minutes waiting for orders; four hours meeting trains; 25 minutes coal and water. Engine taken to roundhouse.

Extra; Conductor Howard; Engine 1746; Engineer House. Helena 4:30 A.M. October 19 tied up 8:05 P.M. October 19 at West End; fifteen hours 35 minutes. Delayed 30 minutes air test and inspection; fifteen minutes making up train; four hours ten minutes meeting trains; 25 minutes helper; 55 minutes coal and water; twenty minutes hot boxes. Relieved by crew sent out for that purpose.

Extra; Conductor Campbell; Engine 1587; Engineer Woodward. Helena 3:45 A.M. October 20 tied up 7 P.M. October 20 at Bozeman; fifteen hours fifteen minutes. Delayed one hour 30 minutes waiting for orders; twenty minutes station work; three hours ten minutes meeting trains; twenty minutes meals; ten minutes cutting in helper; 35 minutes coal and water. Engine taken to roundhouse.

Extra; Conductor Cole; Engine 1731; Engineer Casey. Helena 8 A.M. October 20 tied up 11 P.M. October 20 at West End; fifteen hours. Delayed 35 minutes waiting for bills; 35 minutes station work; two hours ten minutes meeting trains; 30 minutes meals; 25 minutes waiting for helper; 50 minutes coal and water. Crew sent out to bring train to terminal.

Number 652 (Second); Conductor Stanton; Engine 1670; Engineer Wescott. MU Transfer [Butte] 9 P.M. October 20 tied up 10:55 A.M. October 21 at Bozeman; thirteen hours 55 minutes. Delayed 50 minutes air test and inspection; 30 minutes making up train; 35 minutes station work; one hour twenty minutes meeting trains; 45 minutes meals; twenty minutes engine going back for sand and water; ten minutes cutting in helper; one hour 25 minutes coal and water; 30 minutes for hot boxes. Engine taken to roundhouse.

Rocky Mountain Division
Extra; Conductor Griswold; Engine 1637; Engineer Geis. Missoula 6:15 P.M. October 18 to St. Regis and return, tied up 9:35 A.M. October 19 at Frenchtown; fifteen hours twenty minutes. Engineer Geis and fireman ran light to Missoula and tied up. Delayed twenty minutes power; St. Regis two hours fifteen minutes set out and pick up; Rivulet 25 minutes coal and water; Iron Mountain three hours twenty minutes meet 603 and pack five hot boxes.

1899 Tonnage Ratings

Vice-President John W. Kendrick to President Charles S. Mellen, September 15, 1899
The reduction in grades effected during the past year, and adaptation of power to the work to be performed, has resulted in the establishment of new ratings, as shown by the following comparisons of train tonnage for the years 1898 and 1899.

Div. Dist. EB/WB 1898 1899 Incr. Note
Lk. Sup. 2 E 1350 1500 150 ---
Lk. Sup. 2 W 1350 1400 050 ---
Minn. 1 E 1350 1400 050 ---
Minn. 2 W 1100 1100 --- ---
Minn. 2 E 1500 1500 --- ---
Minn. 2 W 1500 1500 --- ---
Manb. 1 E 1500 1650 150 Cl. D
Manb. 1 W 1350 1450 100 Cl. D
Dak. 1 E 1350 1350 --- ---
Dak. 1 W 1200 1350 150 ---
Dak. 2 E 1000 1350 350 Gr. Rev.
Dak. 2 W 1000 1350 350 Gr. Rev.
Yell. 1 E 1000 1350 350 Cl. Y
Yell. 1 W 0925 1350 425 Cl. Y
Yell. 2 E 0875 1350 450 Cl. Y
Yell. 2 W 0875 1350 450 Cl. Y
Yell. 3/4 E 1250 1395 145 Cl. D-3
Yell. 3/4 W 0875 1200 325 Cl. D-3
Mont. 1 E 1500 1500 --- ---
Mont. 1 W 1000 1350 350 Cl. R
Mont. 2 E 1000 1150 150 Cl. Y 1
Mont. 2 W 1000 1150 150 Cl. F-2 2
R.M. 1 E 1200 1350 150 ---
R.M. 1 W 1050 1050 --- ---
R.M. 2 E 1000 1150 150 3
R.M. 2 E 0950 1050 100 4
Ida. 1 E 1065 1065 --- ---
Ida. 1 W 1065 1065 --- ---
Ida. 2 E 0900 1200 300 Gr. Rev.
Ida. 2 W 0900 1500 600 Gr. Rev.
Ida. 3 E 1500 1500 --- ---
Ida. 3 W 1125 1350 225 Gr. Rev.
Pac. 5 --- --- 1400 1400 --- ---
Pac. 6 --- --- 1225 1225 --- 7
Pac. 8 --- --- 0850 0850 --- ---
Pac. 9 --- --- 1400 1400 --- ---
Pac. 3 E 1100 1100 --- ---
Pac. 3 W 1100 1100 --- ---

Nineteen districts, average increase of 298.42 tons.
1. East of Logan, Mont.
2. Helper on Townsend Hill.
3. Change of power.
4. Change of power.
5. Easton to Ellensburg, Wash.
6. Ellensburg to Lester, Wash.
7. Two helpers, Easton to Stampede, Wash.
8. Meeker to Easton, Wash.
9. Lester to Tacoma, Wash.

1899 Motive Power

Class Nos. Arr. Bldr. Year T.E. Weight Water Coal
D 580-591 2-6-0 BLW 1883 16800 95400 2950 7
D-3 420, 451-500 2-6-0 BLW 1889 17400 104400 3500 6.7
F-2 82-83 2-8-0 BLW 1888 28660 136400 4244 9
R 180-189 4-6-0 Am. 1897 26600 172500 4350 9
Y 30-43 2-8-0 Am. 1898 42040 191000 5500 10

Top of the Rail

Vice-President George T. Slade to President Howard Elliott, October 23, 1911
Our freight route which is via Helena is 91.4 miles longer than the Great Northern's route, and 13.4 miles longer than the St. Paul's route. These figures certainly prove that our company is at a considerable disadvantage as compared with either of its competitors in the sum of grades and distance. There is a good deal we can yet do to equalize these disadvantages.
We should reduce the grades between Northtown and Staples to 0.3 of one percent; the present line is 0.5. The limiting grade in this territory is the Cushing Hill, but there are a number of other short grades which would have to be reduced in the territory between Northtown and St. Cloud. The maximum train we can take through from Northtown to Staples now with a Class T engine is 1,600 tons, and in the opposite direction 1,800 tons. This compares with 2,700 tons for the same class of power from Staples to Dilworth, and 2,550 tons in the opposite direction. A reduction in the grade on the St. Paul Division to 0.3 of one percent would, therefore, enable us with the same power to increase our train load approximately 1,000 tons in each direction.
Larger power would not accomplish the same result satisfactorily because the line has now so many short grades that the longer train handled by the larger engine would be in some cases on two hills at the same time, resulting in break-in-twos with the attendant damage to equipment and delays to traffic.
The controlling grades between Glendive and Livingston are now 0.5 of one percent. A reduction in these grades to 0.3 of one percent would enable us to increase our tonnage from the present rating of about 1,500 tons of a Class T engine to about 2,500 tons with the same motive power.
Heavier power can be used on these districts by the reconstruction of some of the bridges now too light to carry the heaviest power, and enable us to handle approximately the same tonnage, although, of course, not as economically or quite as satisfactorily as if the grades were reduced.
Between Logan and Bozeman we have about twenty-five miles of 0.8 line. This could be economically operated by placing helper engines at Logan, but unfortunately we have an agreement made ten years ago with out trainmen, at the time of the agitation of the double heading question, which prevents us from double heading freight trains up this grade.
The time has come with the traffic density justifies a double track in this territory. We now have both double tack from Livingston to Bozeman, and either alternate lines or double track from Logan west to Paradise. We can handle the rating for a 0.4 line eastbound from Helena to Logan with a helper over Townsend Hill, and with the 0.4 line which has already been located between Logan and Bozeman could take this train through intact to Livingston. This will save the present very expensive operation which requires the running of turn-around trains from Livingston to Logan and back to Livingston to handle the tonnage now set out by trains reducing at Logan.
On the Idaho Division, we have now, with the exception of two pieces of work already authorized, completed our grade reduction to 0.4, and with the completion of the work, now incomplete, early next spring, we will have the line between paradise and Spokane on as low a grade basis as possible.
With the Spokane, Portland and Seattle for the heavy slow freight movement between Spokane and Pasco, we are hardly justified in making any revision of the line between Spokane and Pasco, but if the revision of our grade between Pasco and Kiona could be made, there would be a considerable increase in the eastbound train load on the second district of the Pasco Division made possible. I am led to believe that a low grade freight line might be laid around the Badger Hill which would accomplish this result.
The use of heavier power, as already suggested, for the territory between Glendive and Livingston, for the territory between Livingston and Helena and Butte, and on the district between Ellensburg and Auburn would seem to be immediately justified. Fifty Mikado-type engines weighing 248,000 pound on the drivers will accomplish this result (W [Alco 1904]--208,900, W-1 [Alco 1910]--same, W-2 [Alco 1905, 1912 rblt]--217,500, W-3 [Alco 1913]--249,000, W-4 [Brainerd 1918]--204,000, W-5 [Alco 1923]--251,200).
It appears to me that the best way in which to equalize our disadvantage with respect to distance as compared with our competitors is by putting our line in shape so that we can make a little faster time than the other lines. One and one-half miles per hour higher speed will equalize our disadvantage in distance as compared with the Great Northern, and two and one-quarter miles per hour our disadvantage as compared with the St. Paul.
There is nothing which so facilitates passenger train movement as double track. The elimination of the meeting points enables trains to make faster schedules without making any faster time in miles per hour.
In furtherance of the plan to make our line as fast as the lines of our competitors, I suggest that the construction of additional double track be considered in those districts where our traffic density in passenger and freight train movements is sufficient to justify the cost of such work. These are between Rices and Philbrook, between Bloom and Jamestown, between Rathdrum and the end of the new double track west of Trent, and between Easton and Lester.
There are some other districts where double track construction would be justified by density, but for the present relief in these districts may be obtained by automatic electric block signaling which enables trains to be operated at shorter intervals and with fewer delays. On the districts on which these signals should be installed, we are now operating manual blocks which when discontinued will reduce our expenses sufficiently to pay the cost of operating and maintaining the automatic signals as well as the interest on the investment therein, thus giving us the increased safety element without expense.
We have, in addition to our main line, several very important branch lines which carry a traffic density undoubtedly as great as the main lines of many western railways. These are our Red River Branch, our line north of Seattle and our Grays Harbor Line. The cost of operation on these three branches may be considerably decreased by making expenditures for the following:
Red River Branch—Change of line at Twin Valley; construction of new cut off East Grand Forks to Drayton; relay of the line with heavy rail in order to make it safe for heavy power. This line caries as heavy and fully as important a traffic as the Great Northern's line between Crookston and the boundary, or the Soo Line between Detroit and the boundary. Line north of Seattle [Sumas Line]—By reducing the grades, by reducing the curvature, and by relaying and re-ballasting the track, it will be possible by the operation of heavy power to reduce the passenger train running time, and to handle the heavy freight and logging traffic of the line at a largely decreased cost. The line has five feeders, all of which bring an important and heavy tonnage. The North Bend [Snoqualmie], the Everett, the Monte Cristo, the Darrington and the Bellingham [b]ranches are all important and should be connected with a line equipped for heavy power.
Our line between Lakeview and Grays Harbor is full of heavy grades which we would hardly be justified in reducing and ought, in my opinion, to be put in good shape by relaying and re-ballasting and by the reconstruction of some of its bridges so that our passenger train time may be, if necessary, reduced and our freight train operation made as economical as possible by the use of heavy motive power. The competition which we have to meet in the Grays Harbor territory will constantly increase and we should not let the impression get abroad that the oldest line is the inferior one.
In my opinion the most important economy in operation for the Northern Pacific will be secured by the construction of the line from Edgeley to Cannon Ball and from Mott to the Yellowstone, and the rehabilitation of the Fargo and Southwestern and the Cannon Ball [b]ranches so that maximum tonnage trains handled by the most modern power may be operated between Fargo and the Yellowstone. With a helper on Lisbon Hill, which would simply be the helper on the Oriska Hill transferred, we would be able to handle a train of between 2,500 and 3,000 tons for the first two hundred miles west of the Missouri River where a train of 1,340 tons is now the maximum westbound, and 1,600 tons is the maximum eastbound.
In connection with certain of these improvements (the ones I consider them most pressing) I am having detailed information compiled to show the possible savings and the net return upon the capital expended.
You may, however, wish to keep the entire plan I have in mind before you, and hence I have mentioned certain items which I shall not touch upon in my 1912 budget recommendations.

Request for Authority for Expenditure
December 9, 1916

Request for Authority for Expenditure,
Between Logan and Bozeman in the State of Montana a new 0.4 percent eastbound freight line....A portion of the right-of-way was purchased in 1910, the remainder is to be secured now. The tonnage of eastbound freights between Helena and Livingston is now reduced at Logan and the excess business between Logan and Livingston, a distance of 50 miles, handled by turn-around. With the proposed 0.4 percent line in operation freights will be run between Helena and Livingston intact by the aid of a helper between Bozeman and Bozeman Tunnel, a distance of about thirteen miles. For the present amount of traffic it is estimated that 963 turn-arounds will be saved between Logan and Bozeman per annum. Work should be commenced early next spring in order to complete by next fall if possible.
PAE SJ Bratager, Chief Engineer HE Stevens, First VP GT Slade, Comptroller HH Gray, President JM Hannaford.

Highlights of cost breakdown:

490 acres at $200 per -- $98,000
66 acres clearing at $25 per -- $1650
Grading 46,000 cy solid rock at 1.10 -- $50,600
Grading 170,000 cy loose rock at .40 -- $68,000
Grading earth 1,047,161 cy at .20 -- $209,432.20
Grading overhaul 1,350,463 cy at .01 -- $13,504.63
Grading rip-rap 8,616 cy at $2 -- $17,232

Five spans 75 foot through plate girders
300 tons steel at $100 per ton; $450 in pain; $504 in decking; $2,310 falsework;

One 30-foot I-beam span
13 tons steel; $20 in paint; $42 in decking

Concrete abutments and piers for plate girder spans
Concrete $7,020; Forms $700; Wet excavation $4,800; Piling, $1,995; Rip-Rap $1000

Concrete abutments for I-beam
Concrete $750; Forms $75; Wet excavation $360; Piling $210

Timber Bridges
21,110 lineal feet piling at .30 cents -- $6,330
322,095 FBM timber at $25 -- $8,052
15,000 pounds galvanized iron -- $562
24,198 pound iron -- $726

110,000 treated ties at .90 cents $99,000
10 sets switch ties at $55 -- $550

36 miles 90 pound 141.43 tons, 5,100 tons at $41.50 -- $211,650
Inspecting and handling -- $5,000
1400 kegs of spikes at $6
470 kegs of bolts at $9
630,000 pounds of angle bars at 2.1 c.
955 tons of tie plates at $6
10 sets frogs and switches at $200
1 crossing at $500
36 miles track laying and surfacing at $1,700 -- $61,200
36 miles ballast at 3600 cy at .50 c. -- $64,800
2 depots at $1,800
2 sets fixtures, privies, wells, coal and oil houses -- $1,400
One water station and connections -- $9,000
Fencing 33.17 miles at $320 --$10,614
Crossings, cattle guards and signs -- $3,300
One interlocking plant -- $10,000
Four section houses, tool houses, bunkhouses with privies and wells -- $5,000
Telegraph lines and connections, 33 miles at $200 -- $6,600

Transportation charges
Rails 5,100 tons at $13 -- $66,300
Spikes 150 tons at $13 -- $1,820
Bolts 47 tons at $13 -- $611
Angle bars 315 tons -- $4,095
Tie plates 955 tons -- $12,415
Frogs and switches -- $406
Bridge iron 332,963 tons at $16 -- $5,327
Cement -- 5,148 CWT at .35 -- 1,801
Culvert pipe -- $9,699
Timber -- $8,238
Cross ties 135,000 CWT at .18 -- $24,300
Fencing -- $2,220
Telegraph material -- $1,650
Water stations - $735
Misc buildings -- $3,000
Total at tariff rate -- $142,620
Chargeable 70 percent of tariff - $99,834

The Low Line,
Logan to Bozeman, Montana

Prologue: The Long Shadow
Much of the planning for rebuilding and realigning the Northern Pacific following its frenetic and financially panicked construction era began in the St. Paul office of John William Kendrick, chief engineer. He was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1853, and received a degree in civil engineering from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1873. Joining a survey party in the Yellowstone River Valley as a lowly levelman in 1879, Kendrick helped lay out the Northern Pacific Railroad as it recovered from the Panic of 1873 and began to build anew towards Puget Sound. In less than twenty years he rose from levelman to second vice-president of the company, in charge of operations.
As early as 1890, Kendrick instigated a series of studies concerning grade revisions to the main line. In 1896, he formalized this work in a general plan calling for the reduction of all suitable grades to a 0.4 percent operational basis, contingent upon the use of Mogul locomotives with an 85,000-pound weight on drivers. Pushers or heavier power handled the same train on adverse grades.
From 1896 onward, improvements to the physical plant were carried out to Kendrick’s design. The route from Seattle, Wash., to Portland, Ore., was straightened, double tracked, and the Columbia and Willamette rivers bridged with steel. The western approach of Stampede Pass was rerouted, and both approaches were double tracked. Much of the line from Sand Point, Ida., to Missoula, Mont., was relocated on new grades. The river-following route from Missoula to Garrison, Mont., was straightened, tunneled, and double tracked. The grade reduction and magnificent high bridge at Valley City, N.D., typified this work. Ironically, many of the largest projects were undertaken more than a decade after Kendrick’s resignation for a vice-presidency (and ultimately vice-chairmanship) on the Santa Fé in June, 1901. Nevertheless, Kendrick’s planning cast long shadow over the Northern Pacific many years following his departure.

Northern Pacific 1760, 2223, and 2605 at Logan, Mont., in May, 1928. Ronald V. Nixon photograph.

First Plans, First Attempts
The first changes undertaken in the territory between Logan and Bozeman came in the autumn of 1895, while the Northern Pacific was mired in its second receivership. Kendrick was general manager for the receivers, a group led by Thomas Fletcher Oakes, one-time president of the company. Oakes was an associate of Henry Villard all the way back to Villard’s battle with Jay Gould over the Kansas Pacific in the late 1860s. Kendrick convinced Oakes to spend $10,000 on upgrading portions of the route. [1]
This work was aimed at improving the ability of Consolidations to handle tonnage across much of the western half of the system. The effect in this territory, Kendrick wrote the receivers, would be to increase “train length between Helena and Livingston to 30 cars, thereby decreasing the number of trains, upon the present basis of business, from 1,484 per annum to 707 per annum, and producing a net economy of $39,000 per annum.” [2]
January, 1898, produced the first outline for the Low Line. Chief Engineer Edwin Harrison McHenry submitted a master plan for upgrading the entire system, division by division, to Kendrick. On the Montana Division this plan included the reduction of the grade over the 40 miles between Townsend to Logan from 0.5 to 0.4 percent. On the 24 miles between Logan and Bozeman the grade would be reduced from 1.0 to 0.8 percent. From Bozeman to West End, about twelve miles, the grade would be reduced from 2.2 to 1.9 percent. In addition, the plan outlined motive power requirements. Class D-3 Moguls handled a freight from Helena to Logan. Over Townsend Hill, freights gained a Class F Consolidation, along with two more Class F helpers for the shove from Bozeman up to West End. “By this means,” McHenry wrote, “the present rating of 1,000 tons will be raised to 1,200 tons. Trains saved Helena to Bozeman 125; Bozeman to Livingston 160.” The cost of the improvement, $66,573, showed an annual savings of $19,427. [3]
Over the next four years intermittent work reduced the original one percent grade between Logan and Bozeman to a 0.8 percent grade. The work consisted of five miles of line changes in isolated segments closely following the existing route. [4]
By the fall of 1899, Kendrick reported to the company’s new president, Charles Sanger Mellen, that “the mountain grades between Bozeman and West End have been reduced from 2.1 percent to 1.9 percent, which necessitated a change in line three and one-half miles in length. Between Logan and Bozeman the grade has been reduced from [one] percent to 0.8 percent, and between Helena and Logan from a working maximum of 0.5 percent to 0.4 percent, helper engine being used over the unavoidable [one] percent grade between Townsend and Winston.” [5]

Studies, Savings, Suggestions
Throughout 1906, the Engineering Department studied how to carry out Kendrick’s grade reduction designs in the territory between Logan and Bozeman. Shortly after New Year’s Day, Chief Engineer William Lafayette Darling submitted several proposals in writing to President Howard Elliott.
Two alternate main lines were surveyed, the first of which was a 0.8 percent grade from West End to Logan. The second consisted of two segments, a 1.9 percent segment from West End to Bozeman, and a 0.4 percent segment from Bozeman to Logan. The existing line stretched 36 miles from West End to Logan. The first alternative would run this out to 41 miles and cost an estimated $1.8 million. The second alternative increased the distance from 36 to 43 miles; the price for its 0.4 segment alone was $720,000. Darling estimated the cost for the most direct solution—double tracking the existing route, at $650,000.
Though the chief engineer predicted the 0.8 percent line would yield an annual savings of more than $33,000, none of the survey results particularly moved him. Darling closed by recommending the expenditure of $225,000 to double track the existing route between Bozeman and West End, then building a 0.4 percent route from Logan to Bozeman, “when it is necessary.” The idea that the Low Line’s time had not yet arrived echoed through company correspondence for many years hence. [6]
While the route from Bozeman to West End was double tracked, the Engineering Department continued to study the possibility of a 0.4 percent line from Logan to Bozeman. By 1909, plans were submitted to Elliott for a 0.4 percent alternate main line traveling from Logan to a point 2.5 miles west of Bozeman yard. This received favorable attention from President Elliott, as well as from other officers. George Arthur Goodell, general manager, Lines East of Paradise, Mont., wrote Third Vice-President George Theron Slade, “it brings the end of the double track to the present helper district at Bozeman and does not make it necessary to move engines west of Bozeman in order to begin their helper duties.” Goodell was the first to mention the use of the new line as a block against territorial encroachment by the Milwaukee. “The Gallatin Valley Electric line,” he noted, “has been purchased by outside parties and I believe it is the part of wisdom to build our line as far to the east as possible, in order to tap that territory and in order to not encourage anyone else to come up.” [7] The positive comments were academic, however, as Elliott decided to build the line nearly a month earlier and would shortly present the project to the Board of Directors. [8]
Darling, however, was still fine tuning his plans. He wrote Howard Elliott late in December that he discovered a way to carry the alternate main directly into Bozeman yard. He sent another survey party into the field, but they were quickly stymied by the fact that most of the territory was frozen. [9] By early March, 1910, however, things improved considerably. Darling’s engineering party located two 0.4 percent lines with maximum 4.5 degree curves. The relatively sharp curves would not be a problem for the eastbound drags plodding over the alternate line at twelve or thirteen miles per hour. Fast westbound freights would continue using the existing main line. Of the two proposed routes, Darling preferred a 33.1-mile alternate between Logan and Bozeman; by comparison, the existing main between common points covered 23.2 miles. The chief engineer noted his preferred route “also provides a double track through Bozeman on a 0.4 [percent] grade to the yard east of Bozeman, making continuous double track from Logan to the tunnel.” The cost estimate for this alternate line was $1,073,503.52, or $32,412 per mile. [10]

The Debating Society
In late April, 1910, Howard Elliott secured authorization from the Board of Directors to expend upwards of a million dollars to build an alternate main line between Logan and Bozeman. However, for a host of reasons, the project remained in limbo for the better part of the ensuing decade. The head of Northern Pacific’s operations, George Slade, first counseled against the project, then, as the decade wore on, clamored for it.
Slade’s first missive on the subject to President Elliott appeared at the end of October, 1911. Back in 1901, the company made an agreement with the trainman’s union barring double headed freights, at least in the Central District, stretching from Mandan, N.D., to Paradise, Mont. This limit strained the movement of eastbound tonnage from Helena to Livingston. Eastbound freights stopped at Logan to reduce tonnage before proceeding over Bozeman Pass. A light grade alternate main, Slade wrote, “will save the present very expensive operation which requires the running of turn-around trains from Livingston to Logan and back to Livingston to handle the tonnage now set out by trains reducing at Logan.” The vice-president went on to point out the solution which ultimately solved both the tonnage problem and rendered the Low Line redundant—heavy, modern freight power. “The use of heavier power, as already suggested, for the territory between Glendive and Livingston, for the territory between Livingston and Helena and Butte, and on the district between Ellensburg and Auburn would seem to be immediately justified. Fifty Mikado-type engines weighing 248,000 pounds on the drivers will accomplish this result.” [11] In fact, American Locomotive delivered the first Class W-3 Mikados, weighing in at 249,000 pounds, in 1913. Their immediate predecessors, the W-2s of 1905, weighed just 217,500 pounds. Slade’s divination, given the company’s short-term solution in the late 1920s, proved wildly ironic. The long term solution, on the other hand, came from an almost unimaginable source.
Discussions between Slade and Elliott continued for over a month. In early December, Slade wrote definitively against an improvement which the Board of Directors had authorized more than a year before. “Until the time comes when our business is so heavy that we must have double track between Logan and Bozeman, and that time is not now here, a saving in operation sufficient to pay the interest on the investment for double track cannot be figured. It is cheaper to run the necessary turn-around trains from Livingston to Bozeman, which average 19.9 trains per month than to maintain and pay the interest charges on the thirty-four miles of new line . . . . I, therefore, suggest that for the present nothing be done about the low grade alternate route on this district.” [12] This firm statement closed the argument for fourteen months.
Spring, 1913, brought the next round of arguments. In Washington, a large new yard opened in Auburn and the realignment and double tracking of Stampede Pass began. W-3 Mikados and Z-3 Mallets arrived on the property in force. On May 21, the Northern Pacific put its first 2,500-ton eastbound freight over Stampede Pass. The problem, Assistant General Manager Edwin C. Blanchard (Lines West of Paradise, Mont.) pointed out to Slade, was that the Logan to Bozeman district severely handicapped the movement of eastbound tonnage freights. [13] At Logan trains handled by Class W Mikados reduced to 1,500 tons; 2,100 for W-3s. Ratings on the same locomotives on the alternate main line would be 2,400 and 3,000 tons respectively—an increase of about 40 percent. [14] “We could move a train of 2,400 tons,” Slade wrote Elliott, “practically intact from Auburn to Glendive, a distance of nearly 1,250 miles.” Now the vice-president began to shift his position. In 1911, he pronounced the status quo, with its reduced tonnage and frequent turn-around, cheaper to continue than spending money for an alternate main line. Scarcely a year later, Slade stated the same situation “demoralizes our train makeup and delays traffic.” [15]
On April 28, 1913, Howard Elliott told Chief Engineer Darling to get another survey party in the field with a view to obtaining a 0.4 percent grade from Logan to Bozeman, “but also to covering the north side of the Gallatin Valley, so as to protect us from the encroachments of the [Milwaukee].” [16] Management studied, approved, and postponed the project, only to re-convince itself of the project’s necessity. The process started all over again, only this time from the viewpoint of the Traffic Department.
James Grant Woodworth headed up the Traffic Department. Born in Hillsdale, Michigan, on Halloween, 1864, Woodworth joined the North Western as an office boy at the age of fifteen. The year was 1879, the town was Chicago, the job was in the General Freight Department. Freight played a role as important in Woodworth’s career as it did on the NP’s ledgers. He came to the Northern Pacific in 1905 as traffic manager and was promoted at the end of 1913 to vice-president, Traffic, a position he held for the next eighteen years. Save for three years as a telegrapher, his entire service—more than 35 years with the Northern Pacific, more than six decades in railroading—was in the solicitation and management of freight traffic. [17] He read about it, he wrote about it, he argued constantly within the company for its betterment. Without Woodworth and an army of clerks and agents, the company had nothing to haul. Ironically, he reported to Jule Murat Hannaford, a man with an even longer tenure soliciting something for the company to carry. Woodworth was in the field at the end of August, 1913. The questions on his mind revolved around justification of the Low Line from a traffic standpoint—How much traffic are we getting now? How much more will we get if the line is built? What shippers can we attract to the line? If the line is routed here, or there, will it hinder our competitors? Will it aid us?
Woodworth toured the Gallatin Valley by car on August 30 with a representative from Bozeman Milling and two other men. Departing Bozeman, their junket followed the Milwaukee’s Belgrade Branch about ten miles to Belgrade, before returning to Bozeman down the west side of the valley. (The Belgrade Branch ran from Belgrade Junction to Belgrade, 5.41 miles. Built by the Gallatin Valley Railway in 1911, it was absorbed by the Milwaukee at the end of 1918 and abandoned in November, 1962. [18]) On September 2, Woodworth wrote District Freight and Passenger Agent W.H. Merriman at Butte of his findings. [19]
Millers estimated the Gallatin Valley produced 60 million pounds of oats, fifteen million pounds of barley, and 180 million pounds of wheat. Of 255 million pounds, the representative from Bozeman Milling felt not more than a tenth was retained for local use, and supposed “that there must have been at least 100,000 tons shipped from the valley or now in storage at shipping points.” Crops were sold in large lots and hauled by wagon to the nearest railhead. Buyers took delivery, Woodworth noted, “at any station or side track or any road.”
With this in mind, the traffic manager proceeded to look over the data the railway had in hand. A statement of shipments from valley stations for the year ending July 1, 1913, showed the Northern Pacific handled 34.9 million pounds of wheat, 27.8 million pounds of other grains, 21.6 million pounds of flour and feed—a total of 84.4 million pounds. Company agents felt the railway handled fully 50 percent of the agricultural traffic of the valley. Woodworth, however, was inclined to agree with Bozeman Milling’s production estimates, leaving the Northern Pacific with but one-third of this traffic. Nor did the construction of Milwaukee branches in the area bode well for the future. With farmer’s concentrating on getting their wagonloads to the nearest rails, the Milwaukee, Woodworth wrote, “surrounded us in a way which will further reduce our share of the tonnage.” The Milwaukee’s Belgrade Branch in particular would “cut off a large amount of grain which went to our stations last year.” Woodworth closed his letter to Merriman by mentioning the possibility of the Low Line’s construction. “There is reason to hope that we will have some additional lines in the valley in the near future, but I am not yet convinced that we are handling as much of the business as we should handle with our present facilities.” [20]
Jule Hannaford, who became president of the company after Howard Elliott left to clean up the New Haven in 1913, received a copy of this report to Merriman. He quickly responded to Woodworth, stating he felt the line would be built in 1914 and enclosing a map showing the most likely route. The president was interested in getting Merriman out in the field as quickly as possible to determine how much grain traffic the railway might tap with the new line. [21]
Merriman sent Traveling Freight Agent George F. Knight out from Billings to look over the ground. His report backed up Woodworth’s doubts about how much traffic the Northern Pacific was capturing in the Gallatin Valley. After talking to valley elevator operators, Knight pegged the car count for 1913 at 1,045. This broke down into 500 cars off the Camp Creek Branch from Anceney, 150 cars from Belgrade proper, 50 from Bozeman, fifteen of grain and 330 of barley from Manhattan. “The Manhattan Malting Company,” he said specifically, “will handle about 330 cars of barley into their plant, of which possibly 200 cars will move out as malt and other products and the other 130 will probably move to Eastern terminals as barley.” The Milwaukee, on the other hand, came in at nearly 1,700 by Knight’s count, about 800 of which would come from the Belgrade Branch alone. The Belgrade Branch, the traveling freight agent said, handled 421 cars by October 15. [22]
This was passed along to Woodworth, along with recent conversations with area millers. “Mr. Vandenhook and the Story boys,” Merriman wrote, “have estimated that there will be an increased acreage as transportation facilities become better appreciated and that eventually there will be not less than a million and a quarter bushels shipped from the territory north of these new lines.” [23]
Within four days Woodworth passed this information along to Hannaford from New York via coded telegram. “We are making report showing proposed alternate line in knavery alack [Gallatin Valley] will insure addition levity chapel [grain 400] to chaperon elope sally [500 cars per year] based on present production and considering future development should be good for chaplain elope Eskimo [600 cars CM&PS] expect to get chaplet elope [700 cars] off Health Creek pedometer [line] this year which is celerity sachem [60 percent] would have been saved by proposed line.” [24]
Late in December, 1913, Woodworth sent President Hannaford a summary of the situation. Though he personally toured the area and Merriman sent men into the field repeatedly, Woodworth was not satisfied with the information developed. The best estimate was that the Milwaukee’s Belgrade Branch tapped an area producing 864,000 bushels. The Northern Pacific’s proposed line, he wrote, “would leave tributary [to the Milwaukee] 426,800 bushels and would give us a chance at the remaining 437,200 bushels of which we would get 70 [percent] or 306,000 bushels . . . . our figures are based on the acreage, 69,120 acres, of which one half is usually under cultivation, the estimated annual yield being 25 bushels per acre.” Woodworth estimated that “the new line would bring us additional gross earnings [of] $55,000 per annum based on present production and current freight rate to Minneapolis, but I think we would have a right to figure on $75,000 per year looking to the future.” [25]
As 1913 came to an end, the start of authorized construction had been delayed three full years. Now even the discussion about constructing the Low Line fell silent—for more than two-and-a-half years. From 1914 until the fall of 1916, managers did little more than revisit the meager work thus undertaken (scarcely twelve-and-a-half miles of right-of-way had been acquired by 1914, at a cost of $56,443.54), the construction costs, and the traffic estimates. The incredible delay between authorization and construction allowed events far afield from the Northern Pacific’s headquarters in St. Paul to play an important role in stoppering up this cork in the bottleneck of the Montana Division. In August, 1914, Europe descended into World War One, a calamity which soon made itself felt in the United States.

Capacity, Cost
A native of Claremont, N.H., Jule Hannaford had been railroading since 1866, when he became a clerk on J. Gregory Smith’s Vermont Central at the age of sixteen. He moved to the Smith-led Northern Pacific on May 17, 1872, and had been with the company ever since. In fact, when he died on September 23, 1934, the vice-chairman had spent 62 years on the Northern Pacific, a number equal to his age when he became its president back on August 27, 1913. [26]
Born in New York City in 1871, George Slade graduated from Yale with James J. Hill’s son Louis Warren in 1893. Louis’s friend joined the Great Northern as a clerk that year, rising to the superintendency of the Duluth Terminal by 1896. At the end of the 1890s the elder Hill was involved with J.P. Morgan’s reorganization of the Erie, an undertaking which caught Slade up. From 1896 to 1903, he advanced from a division superintendency to a general superintendency on the Erie. Then in the fall of 1901, he married Hill’s daughter Charlotte. In 1903, Slade returned to the Great Northern as a general superintendent. Accepting a general manager’s position on the Northern Pacific in 1907, he advanced to third vice-president in 1910 and first vice-president in 1913.
Jule Hannaford and George Slade were an odd pair to be running a railroad. Hannaford, with one of the longest tenures of any officer on the Northern Pacific, had a career marked by slow and steady advancement. Slade, on the other hand, scarcely spent more than ten years on any road before he joined the Northern Pacific. Both had been third vice-president, but Slade was ten years younger than Hannaford when he filled the position. Slade soon left the railway for government service during World War One, never to return to railroading. In fact, while Slade retired in 1924, Hannaford served as vice-chairman of the Northern Pacific from 1920 until his death in 1934. [27]
First Vice-President George Slade, in charge of the day-to-day operations of the railway, now made a vociferous reappearance in the Low Line discussion. Though Slade initially counseled for postponing construction, in the autumn of 1916 he reversed himself fully, presenting multiple arguments for starting the job as soon as possible. On September 23, he wrote Hannaford about an inspection trip taken with Col. William P. Clough, chairman of the board, back in 1913. Clough joined the Northern Pacific as general counsel in 1880, later joining the Great Northern, where he advanced to a directorship. In 1901 he joined the Northern Pacific’s Board, becoming chairman of the board in 1913. Clough was James J. Hill’s confidant, and any major project required his assent. The chairman was aware, Slade remarked, of the need to double track from Bozeman to Logan. The single track over the 0.8 percent grade, coupled with the restrictive union covenants, crippled the movement of eastbound tonnage. To add insult to injury, tonnage reduced at Logan had to be handled by extras run out from Livingston, adding yet more traffic to the already congested single track. “We are fast reaching the point,” Slade wrote, “where this district will be one limiting the capacity of our main line movement.”
To be weighed against the project’s $1.25 million price tag, Slade thought, were not only the increased capacity, but also operational savings sufficient to cover both the interest on the construction price and the expense of maintaining the alternate main. The head of operations now made a statement which was both ironic, given the length of time invested in studying at the project, and tragic, considering what was to happen because of the delay heretofore. “Looking ahead a year or two, it seems almost certain that the volume of business which we may reasonably anticipate will require this increase in our capacity and if we are to make provision for it in time to have it when it is needed, we should make up our minds soon to proceed with the work.” [28]
The topic of traffic levels between Helena and Livingston came up between Slade and Hannaford in early October. Following a Saturday meeting, Slade sent the president firm numbers. On October 8, 1916, he wrote, “we moved [sixteen] eastbound freight trains, with 484 cars, over that district and [nine] trains westbound, a total movement of 25 trains. As indicating how many train movements are required on account of the heavy grade between Logan and Bozeman, we moved eastbound out of Livingston in the same period [eleven] trains with 642 cars . . . . I cannot help feeling that the time has come when we should get started on the second track between Logan and Bozeman and if we do not, that within a comparatively short time, we are going to find this one of the limiting districts on our main line.” [29] To this end, Slade now began bombarding Hannaford with arguments in favor of construction.
An October 24 salvo from Slade again revisited the surveys, right-of-way purchases, and Woodworth’s traffic projections. It also discussed the tonnage ratings, pointing out “The tonnage rating of Class W engines being 1,500 tons, and W-3 engines 2,100 tons.” An alternate line, built to Kendrick’s standard, “on which grade the tonnage rating for W engines would be 2,400 and W-3 engines 3,000, or about 40 percent greater tonnage.” [30]
Four days later Slade, even though he was on the road at French Lick, Ind., fired off another missive. “As indicating the effect on our expenses of handling more business than the economical capacity of our line, I beg to say that during September, on the Montana Division, which has been handling such a large freight traffic, we paid out in overtime to freight and engine trainmen $7,322.93, an increase of $4,203.87 over the amount paid last year. The percentage of overtime on this division . . . was higher than on any other division on the system and over fifteen percent of the total payroll as against about ten percent last year. The second track between Logan and Bozeman would have made a big difference in this item of our expenses.” [31]
In November, however, a point of order arose. More than six years had passed, Hannaford noted, since the Board of Directors had approved construction. Few, if any, projects had dragged on so long without any construction being undertaken. Did the authority still apply? Thus, on November 2, the Executive Committee, consisting of Hannaford and Clough, along with George F. Baker, James N. Hill, Lewis Cass Ledyard, Charles Steele and William S. Tod, explicitly told the president that the authority continued and he should keep the Board informed of costs and savings. [32]
One day later Slade was back at it, this time sending Hannaford a copy of Form 1640 for the Central District (the Yellowstone, Montana and Rocky Mountain divisions), showing crew tie-ups between October 14 and 21. “You will note,” the vice-president wrote, “that no crews were tied up on the Yellowstone and but one on the Rocky Mountain. Fifteen were tied up on the Montana, of which thirteen were crews running over the district between Livingston and Logan. Please note that these crews were on duty in every case nearly fourteen hours and in a few cases very near to the sixteen hour limit before they were tied up. The eight-tenths single track twenty-five mile stretch between Logan and Bozeman is certainly now the most congested part of our main line and has just about reached the limit of its capacity for holding trains. Experienced railroad officers, to whom I have given some figures showing the train movement over this district, tell me that they are surprised that we are able to move the volume of business over a single track line no matter how well equipped.” [33]
Upon his return from the board meeting in New York, Hannaford informed Slade that while the Board passed a resolution continuing authority, they asked for “an up-to-date proposition of the cost, exact location and saving that would be accomplished by this over double tracking the present line be submitted to them before final authority was given.” [34] This request went to the Engineering Department.
Twenty days later, Principal Assistant Engineer Stoerk Johan Bratager produced a surprising report. Central District General Superintendent Arthur van Brown and General Manager John Malcolm Rapelje supplied Bratager with figures showing the line handled 4,439,207 tons in 2,832 trains in twelve months. An alternate main reduced the number of trains by 963, a savings of $17,127.77 in crew wages, $7,229.40 in fuel, $8,967.56 in 54,054 train miles, $1,917 in overtime, and $5,000 in miscellaneous costs such as accident claims, delays to competitive freight and so forth. This total of $46,242.73 weighed against an increase of $8,500 for track maintenance, $31,050 in interest, and $5,000 in other charges like station service. From these figures, the Norwegian-born engineer calculated a savings of just $1,692.73 per year! [35]
Despite the miniscule savings indicated, Slade was undeterred. On December 9, the vice-president submitted a formal request for an Authority for Expenditure, asking for $1,517,620 to construct a new 0.4 percent eastbound freight line to improve freight handling between Helena and Livingston. Interestingly, the request called for two depots for $1,800, though these were not built. The request closed with the optimistic “Work should be commenced early next spring in order to complete by next fall if possible.” [36]
Slade closed out 1916 still making the case for the Low Line. On December 20, he wrote the president, “I feel certain that our experience after the line is completed will show that the estimated saving have been more than realized and that we have been successful, through the construction of this line, in effecting reductions in our operating expenses which, coupled with the increased earnings, will more than carry the investment in and the maintenance of the additional 33 miles of alternate line, thus giving us the increased capacity which we so badly need, without cost . . . . I, therefore, earnestly recommend that this expenditure be approved.” His letter offered up another tragic misstatement. “Eighteen months will probably be required for the completion of this line and if our estimates of future business do not go altogether astray, we will, by the autumn of 1918, certainly need the added capacity which this alternate line will afford.” [37]

Construction, Calamity
The last six months of 1916 saw an ever-quickening pace on the Northern Pacific. Freight revenue increased nearly 27 percent, ton-miles increased nearly 36 percent, the average revenue train load advanced from 573 to 633 tons. President Hannaford wrote glowingly to stockholders of general prosperity along every one of the 6,505 miles on Main Street of the Northwest. “We handled [] 87,371 cars of grain as compared with 54,039 cars for the previous year, an increase of 23,332 cars. There was also great activity in the mining interests in our country; copper, lead, zinc and iron mines being worked to their full capacity, and the metal selling at high prices created a demand for transportation of not only the products, but of supplies, material, machinery, etc., that swelled our receipts from merchandise to the maximum figures for years.” The cloud on the horizon, Hannaford felt, was a prediction for a poor grain crop in the coming year. “It is feared the effect on business . . . will be quite pronounced.” [38]
In fact, 1917 turned out to be, if anything, altogether too successful for American railroads. On the Northern Pacific, operating revenues advanced another ten percent, the overwhelming majority of this increase concentrated in the first six months of the year. Ton-mileage increased fourteen percent, the revenue train load climbing to 662 tons. America entered World War One with a declaration of war against Germany on April 6, 1917, an act which had a profound effect on the U.S. economy in general and railroads in particular. President Hannaford must have been shocked to have to write in the next annual report that the situation now showed “conclusively that the increase in revenues was largely from the transportation other than crop movements. The increase came largely from lumber and other forest products and from manufactured goods, especially of iron and steel. The movement of munitions and Government freight, large quantities of export freight, and the diversion of food products from the ocean routes via the Pacific to the Atlantic and export from there, account for a large part of the increase. The increase of [$1.7 million] in passenger revenue was largely on account of the movement of troops and transportation of men employed in construction of military cantonments, at the shipyards, and in connection with other Government activities.” [39]
By the end of the year, railroads serving the Eastern seaboard were caught up in a tragic snarl that wreaked havoc across the continent. On November 1, the national car shortage stood at 158,000 cars, with 180,000 backed up at ports and perhaps 90,000 held on-line. To further muddle matters, the Northeast was hit by two months of sub-zero temperature and blizzards, delaying traffic into the spring of next year. On December 28, 1917, President Wilson issued a proclamation nationalizing U.S. railroads effective January 1, 1918. Against this tortured backdrop, seven years after authorization, construction of the Low Line began.

Northern Pacific 1768 at Bozeman, Mont., in November, 1932. Ronald V. Nixon photograph.

The Thirty-Three Miles
The $1.5 million contract was awarded to Martin Woldson of Washington, a figure perhaps best known as the future president of Spokane’s Golden Age Brewery. [40] E.L. Dorsett represented the Northern Pacific as assistant engineer. [41] Woldson put three drag lines, two steam shovels and a team to work at what the Engineering News-Record described as light grading. “Except for a few comparatively small rock cuts, the work consists chiefly of earth embankments, the material for which is obtained from side borrow pits.” According to the trade publication, the alternate main combined Kendrick’s 0.4 percent grade design with maximum curves of 4.5 degrees. Bridging consisted of numerous reinforced concrete siphons to handle the many irrigation ditches along the route, plus one large steel bridge of four through plate girders each 75 feet in length across the Gallatin River. [42]
One 5,005-foot passing track was built at Powers to handle a 105-car train. The point was named for Glen Powers, founder of Belgrade’s first newspaper. Spurs were built at Catron (496 feet); Kerns (647 feet); Cowan (668 feet); Spain (862 feet); and MacLees (406 feet). The points were named for prominent local landowners such as the Andrew Cowan family, the Spain family, and I.S. McLees. Though only a spur, Spain was also used as a makeshift passing track. An intermediate water tank was installed at Spain, fed by the same water company which supplied the railway with water at nearby Belgrade. [43] The 33-mile alternate main allowed for a two-and-a-half-hour run from Logan to Bozeman, a faster trip than the straighter 1883 alignment. [44]
Construction of the Low Line proved to be a continuation of the Northern Pacific’s problems. President Hannaford spent the entire day of July 10, 1917, in the field with Assistant Engineer Dorsett. While Hannaford found Dorsett energetic and anxiously pressing for an early completion, Woldson’s situation was completely different. “The contractors are having a great deal of labor trouble. We met more men walking off the work at several of the camps than we found on the work when we reached it.” The assistant engineer wanted to confront the labor shortage with the use of additional equipment, an expense which did not sit well with the visiting president. Hannaford departed with a very negative impression. Dorsett expressed obliquely through remarks “from time to time during the day” that there was considerable doubt as to completing the project on schedule. Moreover, confronting their wartime labor shortage with greater mechanization could only add to the project’s cost, something Hannaford wished to avoid. Recognizing his lack of engineering experience, he stipulated Chief Engineer Howard Eveleth Stevens review the project before authorizing any additional expenses. Not only did Hannaford come away with the impression the schedule for completion would not be met, but he stated flatly to Slade, “I am reasonably satisfied that the estimates will be exceeded and the contractor probably go broke.”
Hannaford returned from his inspection trip with an over-arching dread of something which made the problems of the Low Line construction pale by comparison. The president felt the Northern Pacific was about to embark on a very bad year. “I have talked with a good many of my friends and acquaintances along the line,” he confessed to Slade, “and while many of them are trying to put up a bold front, there are very few that are willing to predict as much grain tonnage, either in North Dakota or Montana, as last year. Personally, I do not believe we shall have two-thirds as much, all of which leads me to feel that the Logan-Bozeman line may not be an absolute necessity sufficient to warrant any material increase in expenses to get it completed early.” [45]
About a week later Slade, now in Chicago, addressed the president’s worries in detail. Chief Engineer Stevens told Slade that Woldson “had been very liberal in supplying machinery . . . . practically [] all that could be used to advantage.” In addition, the Gallatin Valley tended towards late autumns, leading Slade to predict four more months of good weather that should enable Woldson to “get the track laid and roughly ballasted so as to get the use of the line this winter.” Nor should the president worry about the financial embarrassment of their primary contractor. “He deposited a hundred thousand dollars in Anglo-French bonds for security for carrying on the work, so that we know that he has that amount clear of other encumbrances.” Finally, Slade moved to settle Hannaford’s nerves about poor crops. “I do not believe that we need to fear a shortage of traffic even if our crop should be poor as you now feel that it is apt to be. The plans which are being made in Washington for spending money in this country for the aid of the Allies are so extensive that it seems to me quite certain that we shall have all of the tonnage to handle this autumn which our facilities, motive power and equipment can care for.” [46]
Three days later, Slade sent a follow-up letter after having again conferred with Stevens. Assistant Engineer Dorsett applied for further authorizations to complete the line before winter. The chief engineer, Slade reported, “asked the contractor to incur no expenditures on account of the grading which will involve a claim for any extra allowances.” Stevens did, however, inform Slade and Hannaford of an even more pressing problem than the onset of winter—the lack of key materials. “The rail and tie situation are more apt to delay the completion of the work than the grading. No ties have yet been furnished for this work and the rail which we have been counting on getting for it by relaying on our main line will not be available until new rail, the delivery of which is badly delayed, is received . . . . from present indications, at the rate the contractor is now closing the grading work, the delay in getting the line ready for operation will be chargeable to the tie and rail situations.” [47]
Chief Engineer Stevens summarized the progress for Hannaford in late August. Woldson added a new drag line to the three already working; an expense of $17,000. Shipped in mid-August, the contractor expected to have the new drag line working in early September. With a late fall, Stevens felt, Woldson could complete the grading. “We have no ties in sight for this line and unless the situation betters we will not be able to get ties for laying the track.” Now, even if the construction timetable was attained, it would be no more than a Pyrrhic victory. The Northern Pacific ordered new rail to be laid on the existing main for delivery in the fourth quarter of 1917. Once delivered, the 85-pound rail on the main would be re-laid on the alternate main. America’s entry into World War One squelched that idea. Howard Stevens wrote plainly, “It does not look as though we would get delivery on the new rail in time to make the shift.” [48]
The Northern Pacific’s annual report for 1917 detailed ten large upgrades to the physical plant, ranging from double tracking the main line from Rice’s Point to Little Falls in Minnesota to constructing branch lines in Montana and Washington—about $4 million in expenditures all told. The report predicted the Low Line would be “completed in the early part of the summer of 1918.” [49]
In 1918, the annual report again detailed major improvements to the physical plant, only this time it was a long litany of loss. “Jamestown-to-Windsor, second main track, twelve miles . . . Balance of the work has been postponed by order of the Railroad Administration. Mission to Livingston, second main track . . . Completion of the work has been postponed by order of the Railroad Administration. Lake Basin Branch . . . On account of shortage of labor, line could not be completed last fall as expected. Bozeman-Logan second main track . . . Construction of this line was very seriously delayed by labor conditions, it being necessary to suspend the work entirely for about two months of the working season.” [50] Construction, which faltered in the fall of 1917, came to a complete standstill in 1918 which continued through most of the following year as well. When material finally became available after Armistice Day, the line was completed and transferred to the Operating Department at 8 A.M. on November 16, 1919.
Reporting on the opening of service was General Superintendent Arthur van Brown of the Central District. Brown, 53, was from Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. He had been railroading for 35 years on the Missouri Pacific, Burlington, and, since November, 1909, the Northern Pacific. [51] The first eastbound freight left Logan, the general superintendent wrote his superiors, “at 12:38 P.M. with 2,630 tons, arriving at Bozeman 2:55 P.M., or two hours and [seventeen] minutes from Logan to Bozeman.” The next left Logan at 2:12 with 2,646 tons and arrived Bozeman at 4:45, running time two hours, 33 minutes. A third followed at 6:35 with 2,628 tons, arriving Bozeman at 10 P.M. sharp, running time three hours, 25 minutes. The poor showing, Brown explained, was due to a hot box at Spain, fourteen-and-a-half miles out of Logan. For comparison, the general superintendent included data for times and tonnages for trains handled over the original main on November 2 and 3. On the first day, Extra 1755 East with 1,796 tons left Logan at 5:10 P.M. and arrived Bozeman at 7:45 P.M., or two hours, 35 minutes. Extra 1756 East left Logan with 1,808 tons at 12:25 P.M. and arrived Bozeman at 3:13 P.M., two hours, 48 minutes. The following day Extra 1708 East with 1,914 tons left Logan at 2:30 P.M. and arrived Bozeman 5:10 P.M., two hours, 40 minutes. Not only did the additional nine route miles have a negligible effect on running times, the lower grade also compared favorably in terms of fuel consumption. Brown wrote, “There is practically no more coal consumed between Logan and Bozeman with 2,630 tons than there would have been with 2,000 tons by the way of the old line.” [52]
The first three trains over the Low Line averaged 2,654 tons, compared to an average of 1,839 tons for the three Extra East freights shown for November 2-3. This impressive showing becomes even more dramatic when the Northern Pacific’s freight train averages for 1919 are considered. That year, the company handled an average of barely 39 cars per freight, consisting of 28 loads and eleven empties for just under 661 tons. [53] The Low Line enabled the same motive power using the same amount of fuel to handle 30 percent more tonnage over nine additional miles of track at a speed equal to the original alignment.
On November 22, 1919, Chief Engineer Stevens wrote up the final report on the construction of the Low Line. He toured the route on a speeder and found the track “in good shape.” Stevens hoped for an early freeze to stabilize the grade through the winter, allowing him to send out an extra gang to reline and surface the track the following spring. A lot of settlement could be expected on the fills, he wrote, but “considering the nature of the ballast, the surfacing is all that could be desired.” Moreover, Stevens noted a significant improvement. “The performance on the low grade line is very satisfactory, and the line meets all expectations . . . I am sure you will be particularly interested in the figures showing that the trains make better time over the 33 miles of the low line than they formerly made over the 24 miles of the old line.” With the Low Line question finally settled, the chief engineer turned to address the next issue. Class Z-3 Mallets, recent replacements for the older Z-2s in service over Bozeman Pass, were not holding up to the short five-mile push, despite their expanded tank capacity. Already, General Superintendent Brown was cutting 300 tons from freights between Helena and Livingston, to be handled “by making some set-outs at Logan for the locals to pick up and take through . . . . Obviously we must have heavier helper engines between Bozeman and Muir just as soon as we can get them.” [54] It was all too familiar—each solution giving rise to another problem.

Northern Pacific 5109 passes the interlocking tower at Belgrade, Mont., in November, 1932. Ronald V. Nixon photograph, Lorenz P. Schrenk collection.

The Thirty-Seven Years
The arrival of the Class Z-5 4-8-8-2s, designed to improve train tonnages and eliminate double-heading across the Badlands, allowed the railway to assign additional W-3 Mikados to the Helena-Livingston pool on the Montana Division. Ironically, the Z-5s, which helped to eliminate double-heading on the Yellowstone Division, may have enabled it on the Montana Division. Conductor Warren R. McGee notes that with the arrival of the extra motive power in the late 1920s, the company broke with tradition and began to double head time freights with the W-3s between Townsend and Bozeman. His father, Howard E. McGee, a locomotive engineer, was able to bid in on one of the new jobs. [55]
Then, in October, 1936, twelve new Class Z-6 4-6-6-4s from Alco were assigned to the territory between Missoula and Livingston. Handling 3,750 tons over the district, the Z-6s pre-empted the W-3 Mikados in time freight service. However, the new motive power was not without its problems. McGee points out that “it took heavy sanding with Z-6s to get over eastbound grades . . . . W helpers were used to push on the rear end from Helena to Placer, with a Z-6 on the point of a 4,000 to 4,500-ton train . . . . Z-4 helpers were assigned to Bozeman and used to shove to West End [about 11.8 miles east of Bozeman], where they cut off and returned light down the hill. The same operation was used from Livingston to Muir [a distance of about 11.9 miles] on westbound tonnage trains.” Fuel was also a problem for the big articulateds. “It was a struggle to get Z-6s over the road from Townsend to Bozeman without taking coal at Logan.” Problematically, the coal dock in Logan was located off the main line; reaching it added an hour’s delay to time freights. [56]
These operations continued until the arrival of F-units on the property during World War Two. Studies undertaken in 1941 by the railway indicated the line item costs of diesel operation were lower almost across the board. [57] Diesels offered more than just an operational cost savings. Four-coupled FT sets, delivered in 1944, offered 225,500 pounds of tractive effort, while weighing in at 925,900 pounds. Top-of-the-line Z-8 4-6-6-4s, delivered the year before, offered a tractive effort of 106,900 pounds—47 percent less—on a weigh-in of just under 1.1 million pounds. [58] The first eleven sets of FTs started out on the Yellowstone Division at Glendive, Mont.; shortly thereafter, nine sets were sent west to the Tacoma Division, where, Dispatcher Jim Fredrickson notes, “the need for quality power was desperate.” [59] FTs 6009 and 6010, however, remained in the Badlands, supplementing the Yellowstones until February, 1947, when they too went west to the Tacoma Division. [60] In 1947, five sets of newly arrived F3s supplanted the behemoth Z-5s entirely. The Yellowstones transferred to Bozeman Pass as helpers, shoving the Z-4s off to other assignments. [61]
After World War Two, the railway began to purchase small batches of F-units to augment the FTs for main line freight service between Auburn and Livingston. Two sets of F3s destined for this time freight service were ordered in January, 1948, followed by several sets of F7s in 1949 and 1951. Some were set up at Glendive and used for a period on the Yellowstone Division, while others were set up directly for use on the west end at Livingston. [62] In 1954, they were joined by new sets of F9s. [63] Between 1946 and 1954, steam and diesel rosters on the Northern Pacific marched in opposite directions. The Northern Pacific started the post-war era with a roster of 103 diesels, a number which climbed to 227 in 1950, then 343 by the year the F9s arrived on the property, an increase of about 31 percent in eight years. Over the same period, the number of steam locomotives on the roster declined about 31 percent, from 750 to 515. Four years after the arrival of the F9s, the steam era came to a close on the Main Street of the Northwest. [64] Diesels rendered more than just steam motive power redundant. For the first time, motive power allowed the railway to handle a full-tonnage freight over the 0.8 percent grades of the original alignment between Logan and Bozeman. [65]
Any lingering capacity issues were addressed in 1956, when the Northern Pacific put 122.7 miles between Helena and Livingston under centralized traffic control. Savings from the installation of CTC were expected to be $347,000 per year in the territory. The program was successful enough to warrant the expenditure of $963,000 to put 67.2 miles between Missoula and Garrison under CTC; an expected savings of $247,000 a year. Northern Pacific Signal Engineer Al Hendry estimated that “CTC saved one minute of travel time for each train mile operated in CTC territory.” [66] CTC cleared the way for the dismantling of double track between Missoula and Garrison, the double track on the approaches to Bozeman Tunnel, as well as the Low Line itself. [67] Concurrent with the start of CTC operation between Helena and Livingston, in late December, 1956, operations over the Low Line were discontinued. Vice-President Carl H. Burgess wrote early in 1957 that “it is expected that actual removal of this line will start as soon as weather permits.” [68]

Rail tongs and brute force pull Low Line rails from a Gallatin Valley grade crossing in this 1957 photograph by Bill Carlson.

Epilogue: The Summer of ’57
Deconstructing the Low Line fell to the roadmaster at Butte, Montana. In this case, the 41-year-old shoulders of William E. “Bill” Carlson. Born in North Dakota, Carlson joined the Pacific Coast in Renton, Wash., as a section man in 1935. Four years later, at the behest of his father, he joined the Northern Pacific. This was not surprising, considering Emil E. Carlson was the section foreman in Renton at the time. For the next 36 years Bill Carlson progressed from section man to division roadmaster of the Rocky Mountain Division, ultimately becoming an assistant superintendent, Maintenance-of-Way, with Burlington Northern. Back in 1957, however, he was three years into his assignment at Butte. [69] That year, between June and September, Carlson oversaw the $57,000 spent on extra gangs salvaging anything of value from the railway’s million-dollar-plus investment in Low Line.
Prior to the start of the project, a work train with a Jordan spreader was sent through to level up both sides of the grade. The first gang through consisted of four men removing rail anchors, two men running machines to remove bolts from joints, and four men with Fairmont spike pullers. The spike pullers left just enough spikes on the line to allow equipment to pass safely over the line. They were followed by ten men removing material, two men placing locks or nuts on bolts and removing angle bars, and one man with a motor car pulling four push cars with hydraulic dump boxes, a push car of tools and a push car for a trailer. Behind this came six men segregating anchors, angle bars, and bolts into separate dump boxes, then four men loading spikes into the last dump box. The dump boxes were unloaded from time to time, leaving material piled about a quarter-mile apart for later loading into trucks. Next came two more men to pull the remaining spikes, followed by four men rolling rails off to one side of the line, then four men throwing tie plates into piles of 23. The gang of 35 was rounded out by a bus driver, a bull cook, and three supervisors. “With the above operation,” the Butte roadmaster wrote, “we could get about a mile a day, excepting when short of man power, which was frequent.”
Ties were piled into stacks of nine or twelve, with an old tie under one end for ease of lifting. “To keep up the tie piling,” Carlson noted, “we had to hire additional manpower, or stop the last [twenty] men of above operations and use them.” Tie removal brought a favorable comment on the maintenance-of-way applications of spray paint. “I marked all the ties to be salvaged by use of paint spray can—worked wonders—marks stay on indefinitely.” Ties to be sold to the public were dozed to the opposite side of the right-of-way, “then after [] a couple more passes over the grade we had a good road,” Carlson reported. At each county road crossing the accumulated materials picked up and trucked out, “this way it kept individuals from stealing the old ties.” Totaling $18,000, sales of salvage ties was the largest credit on the roadmaster’s ledger for the Low Line. Remarkably, the ties were sold for 50 cents apiece, for a total of 36,000 ties, or about 1,090 per mile. Carlson wrote the Engineering Department suggesting that all of the ties might have been sold for an average of 75 cents each, a sale of over $54,000, if 2,200 ties per mile were reclaimed.
Because the area was not readily accessible to trucks, the rail 5.5 miles east of Logan was removed by Burro crane. In this section, four men removed rail anchors, followed by two more with machines removing bolts from joints. Four men with Fairmont spike pullers removed just enough spikes to leave the rail passable. Two men with a bolt machine removed the last bolts, followed by a man throwing angle bars and bolts into piles. He was followed by six men pulling the remaining spikes, then one man with the Burro crane and a flat. The track was taken up by a man using rail tongs to hook the rail. Three men threw tie plates into piles of 23 each, followed by a man who picked up any loose material. A water boy, a bull cook and three supervisors rounded out the crew. The Burro crane removed one rail at a time onto flat cars, loading 80 pierces of 100-pound rail per car in a little over an hour. In this manner, the gang averaged four cars every eight hours.
Roadmaster Carlson had a less-than-favorable opinion of removing the material with trucks. The loading and transport equipment broke down frequently, which meant calling up mechanics. Trucks managed an average of four roundtrips a day, with dump trucks averaging seven. He estimated the Burro gang of 37 men and eight machines removed track at a mile or more a day, costing the company $538.42 per day. The off track option, on the other hand, took 46 men, thirteen machines, and cost the company $892.82 per day. [70]
In a small way, the Low Line lived on long after its removal in the summer of ’57. Ivar Aspebakken, a gang foreman during the removal project, was appointed roadmaster in Spokane in April, 1969. On the Idaho Division he discovered the diamond from Belgrade had been shipped west and installed at the Union Pacific’s crossing of the Palouse and Lewiston Branch at Garfield, Wash. [71]

Jerry R. Masters, P.E., a veteran of the Northern Pacific’s Engineering Department, researched all of the company correspondence referenced in this article, as well as providing additional background information and commentary. In addition, he interviewed fellow veteran Warren R. McGee of Livingston, who supplied operational information about the Low Line. Additional information was graciously provided by: John Aspebakken; Richard Carlson; R. Milton Clark; Rufus L. Cone, III, Ph.D.; David A. Franz; James M. Fredrickson; Rick W. Leach; Mark W. Meyer; D.T. Sprau; Garvey C. Wood, Ph.D.

Company correspondence is drawn from the Northern Pacific President’s Subject File 1606, Bozeman-Logan, Mont. Alternate Main Line, 1907-1919, Minnesota Historical Society, Location No. 137.E.14.6 F; President’s File 1281, Location No. 137.E.4.4. F; Chief Engineer’s File 100, Location No. 137.I.14.6 F; 134.F.1.7 B.
1. Kendrick, John W., general manager, to Thomas F. Oakes, Henry C. Payne, receivers, September 4, 1895; 137.I.14.6 F.
2. Kendrick to Oakes, Payne, Henry C. Rouse, receivers, September 10, 1895; 137.I.14.6 F.
3. McHenry, Edwin H., chief engineer, to Kendrick, January 7, 1898; 134.F.1.7 B.
4. Masters, Jerry R. Correspondence, June 8, 2005.
5. Kendrick to Charles S. Mellen, president, September 15, 1899; Northern Pacific. Annual Report, 1899. St. Paul [Minn.]: Northern Pacific, 1899. 6. Darling, William L., chief engineer, to Howard Elliott, president, January 3, 1907; 137.E.4.4. F.
7. General Manager to George T. Slade, third vice-president, November 6, 1909; 137.E.4.4. F.
8. Elliott to Roy W. Clark, assistant to president, October 11, 1909; 137.E.14.6 F.
9. Darling to Elliott, December 20, 1909; 137.E.14.6 F.
10. Darling to Elliott, March 3, 1910; 137.E.14.6 F.
11. Slade to Elliott, October 23, 1911; 137.E.14.6 F.
12. Slade to Elliott, December 5, 1911; 137.E.14.6 F.
13. Elliott to Slade, May 22, 1913; 137.E.14.6 F.
14. No author. Memorandum About Proposed Alternate Line Logan to Bozeman, October 24, 1916; 137.E.14.6 F.
15. Slade to Elliott, April 4, 1913; 137.E.14.6 F.
16. Elliott to Darling, April 28, 1913; 137.E.14.6 F.
17. No author. Who’s Who in Railroading in North America, 1940 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1940, p. 706.
18. Clark, R. Milton. Electronic mail, August 26, 2005.
19. Ironically, Darling, Hannaford, Kendrick, McHenry, Merriman, Oakes and Woodworth all have points on the Northern Pacific named after them.
20. Woodworth to W.H. Merriman, district freight and passenger agent, Butte, Mont., September 2, 1913; 137.E.14.6 F.
21. Hannaford to Woodworth, September 4, 1913; 137.E.14.6 F.
22. Knight, George F., traveling freight agent, Billings, Mont., to Merriman, October 18, 1913; 137.E.14.6 F.
23. Merriman to Woodworth, October 23, 1913; 137.E.14.6 F.
24. Woodworth to Hannaford, October 22, 1913; 137.E.14.6 F.
25. Woodworth to Hannaford, December 27, 1913; 137.E.14.6 F.
26. Howson, Elmer T., D.A. Steel, and J.B. Tebo, editors. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, 1922 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1922, p. 267. Also Northern Pacific. Annual Report. St. Paul [Minn.]: Northern Pacific, 1934, p. 17.
27. No author. Railway Age Gazette, August 29, 1913, p. 393. No author. Who Was Who in America, Volume I, 1897-1942. Chicago: A.N. Marquis, 1942, p. 1132.
28. Slade to Hannaford, September 23, 1916; 137.E.14.6 F.
29. Slade to Hannaford, October 9, 1916; 137.E.14.6 F.
30. No author. Memorandum About Proposed Alternate Line Logan to Bozeman, October 24, 1916; 137.E.14.6 F.
31. Slade to Hannaford, October 28, 1916. ; 137.E.14.6 F
32. Executive Committee, Board of Directors, Resolution, November 2, 1916; 137.E.14.6 F.
33. Slade to Hannaford, November 3, 1916; 137.E.14.6 F.
34. Hannaford to Slade, November 7, 1916; 137.E.14.6 F.
35. Bratager, Stoerk J., November 27, 1916; 137.E.14.6 F.
36. No author. Requisition for Authority for Expenditure, December 9, 1916; 137.E.14.6 F.
37. Slade to Hannaford, December 20, 1916; 137.E.14.6 F.
38. Northern Pacific. Annual Report, June 30, 1916. St. Paul [Minn.]: Northern Pacific, 1916, pp. 6, 16.
39. ----. Annual Report, December 31, 1917. St. Paul [Minn.]: Northern Pacific, 1917, pp. 6, 16-17.
40. Wood, Garvey C. Cultural Resource Management Report; Alaska Road Gravel Pit Expansion, Gallatin County, Montana. Loma [Mont.]: Gar C. Wood and Associates, 2003, p. 17.
41. No author. ''Seven Miles of Line Added to Reduce Grade,'' Engineering News-Record, July 19, 1917, p. 108.
42. Ibid. 43. Stevens, Howard E., chief engineer, to John M. Rapelje, general manager, November 22, 1919; 137.E.14.6 F.
44. Wood, p. 10.
45. Hannaford to Slade, July 10, 1917; 137.E.14.6 F.
46. Slade to Hannaford, July 16, 1917. This would prove to be the most accurate of all Slade’s statements in the Low Line correspondence; 137.E.14.6 F.
47. Slade to Hannaford, July 19, 1917; 137.E.14.6 F.
48. Stevens to Hannaford, August 25, 1917; 137.E.14.6 F.
49. Northern Pacific. Annual Report, December 31, 1917. St. Paul [Minn.]: Northern Pacific, 1917, pp. 12, 15.
50. Northern Pacific. Annual Report, December 31, 1918. St. Paul [Minn.]: Northern Pacific, 1918, p. 13.
51. Howson, Elmer T., D. A. Steel, and J. B. Tebo, editors. The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, 1922 edition. New York: Simmons-Boardman, 1922, p. 76; 137.E.14.6 F.
52. Brown, Arthur, general superintendent, Central District, to C.L. Nichols, assistant general manager, Livingston, November 17, 1919; 137.E.14.6 F.
53. Northern Pacific. Annual Report, December 31, 1919. St. Paul [Minn.]: Northern Pacific, 1919, pp. 30-31.
54. Stevens to Rapelje, November 22, 1919; 137.E.14.6 F.
55. Masters, Jerry R. Telephone interview, Warren R. McGee, June 6, 2005.
56. Ibid.
57. Schrenk, Lorenz P. and Robert L. Frey. Northern Pacific Diesel Era, 1945-1970. San Marino [Calif.]: Golden West Books, 1988, p. 76.
58. Rennwald, Henry D. ''Main Street of the Northwest.'' Trains, February, 1946, pp. 26-27.
59. Fredrickson, James M. Electronic mail, October 3, 2005.
60. Schrenk and Frey, p. 67.
61. Ibid., p. 120.
62. Ibid., p. 120.
63. Ibid., p. 124.
64. Ibid., p. 86.
65. Masters, Jerry R. Correspondence, June 8, 2005.
66. Schrenk and Frey, p. 102. The later extension of CTC from Livingston eastward to Laurel, Mont., the authors note, ''reduced the transit time of each freight train by an average of one hour.''
67. Northern Pacific. Annual Report. St. Paul [Minn.]: Northern Pacific, 1957, p. 6.
68. Burgess, Carl H., vice-president, Operations, to Ed B. Stanton, secretary, January 11, 1957; 137.E.14.6 F.
69. Carlson, Richard. Electronic mail, August 20, 2005.
70. Carlson, William E., roadmaster, to J.D. McLaughlin, October 23, 1957.
71. Aspebakken, John. Electronic mail, August 17, 2005; October 10, 2005.

Updated March 5, 2006.