Montana mecca
Three SD40-2s usher a westbound intermodal underneath the pedestrian overpass in Missoula, Mont. Tom Danneman

Missoula, Montana

Missoula, Mont., located in the western part of the Treasure State, is Montana’s second-largest city, and is the home of the University of Montana. Montana Rail Link’s 3rd and 4th Subdivision main lines meet in Missoula just north of downtown. Missoula Yard terminates and originates manifest freights for Laurel, Mont. The railroad’s prized Gas Local [see “Haulin’ Gas,” November 2007] originates in Missoula and runs a turn to Pipeline (just east of Thompson Falls). Unfortunately, the line to Polson on MRL’s 11th Subdivision, as well as to Hamilton on MRL’s 9th Subdivision (Darby Branch) are out of service. All of BNSF’s run-through trains on MRL pass through Missoula. Missoula is also a crew change point for the railroad. The BNSF run-through trains are manifest freights, coal trains, grain trains, and the occasional intermodal train. Occasionally, BNSF runs unit trains (windmill parts, coke, etc.), and sometimes detours trains off of its line over Marias Pass when heavy maintenance is being done, or when other problems exist on the northern route. Keep an eye out for the Boeing airplane parts destined for the Seattle area, which can be seen on the front of BNSF’s manifest freights, or occasionally on a dedicated “Boeing Special.” Just west of Missoula, at DeSmet, the 10th Subdivision over Evaro Hill splits from the 4th Subdivision, and later rejoins it in Paradise. Because of the stiff 2.2 percent grade, the 10th Subdivision is usually used westbound only for MRL’s Gas Local. Some eastbound BNSF trains (usually empty coal and grain trains) can also be seen rolling down Evaro Hill.
icon_railroad_45TRAIN WATCHING
Views of the yard can be had along Railroad Street on the southwest portion of the yard. A pedestrian overpass is located just west of the former Northern Pacific depot and the Orange Street underpass. Montana Rail Link’s locomotive servicing facility can be viewed from North 2nd Street and other nearby city streets. Numerous scenic locations can be had both east and west of Missoula. A trip up the 10th Subdivision to see the awe-inspiring Marent Trestle, which soars more than 200 feet tall, is a must. BNSF trains can be seen anytime throughout the day. Montana Rail Link’s Gas Local usually makes two turns to Pipeline every day. The morning train usually departs Missoula around 6 a.m., and the evening train goes out around 6 p.m.
tracksideicon_frequencyRAILROAD FREQUENCIES
MRL 3rd Subdivision (east of Missoula), and 4th Subdivision (west of Missoula): 160.950, Missoula Yard, 160.395.
tracksideicon_famFOR YOUR FAMILY
Since Missoula is a college town, it has a dynamic arts and music scene. Shopping and restaurants are located downtown, and throughout the area. Outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, biking, golf, and fishing are all nearby. The nation’s largest training base for smokejumpers is located adjacent to Missoula International Airport. A visitor center is located on West Broadway Street. Fort Missoula, a former military post established by the U.S. Army in 1877, features a free grounds tour, a museum, exhibits, and a World War II internment site.
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