Corporate Point Men and the Creation of the Montana Central Railroad, 1882-87

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Great Plains Quarterly

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Montana -- History, Railroads -- Montana -- History


On 21 November 1887, a crowd jammed Ming's Opera House in Helena, Montana, to celebrate the completion of the Montana Central Railway, a branch line of the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway. Sharing the Opera House stage that day were railroad executives and managers from the East, Montana politicians, and local businessmen. Their reason for celebration was three-fold. First, because Montanan's had struggled for more than a decade to get rail connections, sometimes nearly making unwise and unnecessary deals with railroad corporations, getting a railroad to build through Montana was cause for celebration. Second, the Montana Central brought with it the promise of breaking an oppressive rail agreement that had weighed heavily on Montana. The Union Pacific, which had built to Butte in 1881, and the Northern Pacific, which had completed its transcontinental road through Helena in 1883, had concocted a rate pool agreement that set artificially high freight rates. Third, the completion of the Montana Central ended a bitter economic and political war that had divided businessmen and split up political alliances within the city.


Copyright 1990 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska—Lincoln.

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