Wildfires destroy railroad history in Montana, California

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The former Great Northern Sperry Chalet immediately before it burned.
National Parks Service
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Mont. — Two wildfires in two states have destroyed unique pieces of railroad history this week.

In Montana, a massive wildfire in Glacier National Park burned the historic Sperry Chalet to the ground late Thursday. The backcountry chalet was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1913 as part of a series of wilderness lodges to entice passengers to visit the national park. It was one of only two surviving backcountry chalets in the park.

The stone and wood structure fell victim to the 3,275-acre Sprague Fire, that has forced the closure of a number of trails and campgrounds and one other historic Great Northern structure, the Lake McDonald Lodge. According to the National Park Service, firefighters stationed at the building made a “valiant” effort to save it but those efforts fell short late Thursday.

“The (Great Northern) chalets were a welcome respite for backcountry travelers and offered incredible service in the middle of nowhere,” says Ray Djuff, Glacier National Park lodge historian and author numerous books about the park and its connection to the GN. “I’m stunned… But we have to count our blessings that we had the Sperry Chalet for so long.”

In a statement on Twitter, Great Northern Railway successor BNSF Railway stated, “We’re saddened to hear of the loss of the historic Sperry Chalet. We thank the firefighters and we’re glad you’re all safe.”

Meanwhile, a California narrow gauge railroad is closed after a massive wildfire started there earlier this week. The 2,130-acre Railroad Fire started on Aug. 29 and currently threatens the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.

According to multiple sources, at least one historic West Side Lumber Company log car and a plow has been damaged in the fire. However, most of the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad’s rolling stock has escaped unharmed, including its two three-foot gauge Shay locomotives, according to Sierra News Online.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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