Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Marysville Road

Have you ever driven the road out to Marysville? Here's the history of this scenic route.

The road began as a railroad grade for the Montana Central. In 1887, the Northern Pacific and Montana Central railroads raced to complete branch lines to the Drumlummon Mine and Marysville up the narrow canyon. The Northern Pacific’s line ran along one side of Silver Creek while the Montana Central ran on the other side, in the valley. The Northern Pacific won the race and successfully blocked the Montana Central from entering Marysville by refusing to grant it access through its trestle. The Northern Pacific’s route was indeed a remarkable feat of engineering. The tracks clung to the mountainsides, crossing deep gulches, all the while climbing, climbing, until it reached the famous mining camp. The final trestle made an eighteen degree curve into town, swinging the train dramatically over the gulch.

The Northern Pacific Railroad's trestle just outside of Marysville
Image via Legends of America
The Montana Central, unable to gain access to the trestle, built a depot about 1½ miles below Marysville, but it was too far away and thus not profitable. The Montana Central abandoned the line just a few years later in 1889.  The original wagon road to Marysville lay below the Montana Central grade. Once the railroad had been abandoned, travelers began using the abandoned grade and it eventually became the Marysville Road of today. The Northern Pacific’s spectacular trestle dominated the town until 1925 when the railroad pulled up the tracks and removed it. In 1931, a Marysville resident widened the former Montana central grade  into its existing configuration. Lewis and Clark County and the Montana Department of Transportation have worked together to improve it.

P.S. A shout-out to Mark Huffstetler, who's working on a book about Montana's historic railroad depots. You can follow him at Daily Montana.
P.P.S. Helena As She Was has more photos of the Northern Pacific depot and line to Marysville. Scroll down about 3/4 of the way to see them.


  1. This notes, "The Northern Pacific ... successfully blocked the Montana Central from entering Marysville by refusing to grant it access through its trestle." Access under the trestle by the GN was not a problem. The courts had ruled a year before with regard to the GN vs. NP race to Rimini that railroads cannot block each other out through narrow defiles.

    The problem for the GN was that their route started low at Silver City and even with a steep grade, ended up below town. The NP route started at Birdseye, running at a much more gentle grade, and went into the center of town. The NP route was just more convenient for the townsfolk and merchants. Also, the NP line was on the south side of the canyon, as was the Drumlummon Mine. Materials for the mine, and anything that might be hauled out from there was easier handled on the NP. As any successful merchant will tell you, location is critical.

    Dan Stinson

  2. My father and Grandfather both worked for the Drumlummon Mine back in the early 1900's.