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Thread: The Long Way to Lombard

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Zanesville, Ohio


    Great stuff, Mr. Burwash. I just wish I could read it on something other than a computer monitor.
    Chris Crook

    pictures and yap

  2. #12
    QHKRV Guest


    This is really stunning all the way through. Great work, Martin.

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    close to Lake Ontario in Burlington, ON Canada

    Default Don't fence me in?

    Quote Originally Posted by E-21 View Post
    An interesting essay. I've never been in the area when I've had a vehicle that I would want to take into Lombard the traditional way. I've been back in the Clarkston area, but I've learned a long time ago that a lot of Montana ranchers will as soon as shoot you as talk to you if they find that you've accessed their property without prior permission. So when I see a fence in Montana, I stay on the public side!.
    There is an ongoing discussion over on the Nikonians list
    regarding the concept of the act of tresspass and the
    implications of same.
    Suspect each situation is different. Having been arrested, charged
    and convicted for railway tresspass some years ago,
    I tend to not cross boundaries be they international or gated & fenced.

    Bryce Lee
    Last edited by Bryce; 11-11-2006 at 02:51 PM.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    close to Lake Ontario in Burlington, ON Canada

    Default Through the gates

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Burwash View Post
    Ditch your railfan gear, Dan, have at the very least a John Deere or some such baseball cap, stay on the road, close the gates behind you, stay on the road, (the road is a public road), oh and be sure to wave to everyone you meet on the's expected... and you'll do just fine.

    Martin Burwash
    Suspect Martin you were in the four wheel drive Ford?
    And it no doubt had domestic license plates?
    Suspect those vehicles from surrounding states
    would have no real trouble doing the through the fence
    close the gate and continue on to the destination
    with a nod to the locals.

    However suspect the local gendarmes would be called real fast
    if a motor vehicle of foreign extraction and foreign (read province
    of Ontario) were to do the same trick.

    Americans are real antsy these days especially about us from
    north of the international border. Some railfan friends who've been
    going to the Altoona area for some 35 years, each year, were stopped
    at least five different times on their pre (Canadian) regular as clockwork
    trip this year. And this was five years after 9/11.

    Seems the thought is Canada harbours terrorist groups. Canada is easy to enter and as such those from Canada stateside could be seen as trouble.
    Both railfans and white, one is retired, the other is still working.
    Scary stuff, which I guess would make me very leery of going through
    gated fences in a foreign place in a foreign land.

    Bryce Lee

  5. #15


    BTW...again, like many of the dirst roads in Montana and surrounding states, the back road into Lombard is an official county road, ie public access. Ranchers and BLM fences routinely cut across these roads, often the property to either side is posted, but as long as you stay on the road, you are not tresspassing.

    Martin Burwash

  6. #16
    Montana girl Guest

    Default My Home Town

    This is where I lived when I was 3, and again when I was 12 and 13, so I know it well. I went to school there, there were 5 kids in the one room school, me, my brother and 3 girls, with the last name of Berry. I had the best part of my life there, which might seem odd to a lot of people. We were never bored. I have been back 3 times and plan to again this year I hope. Glad to find your essay on here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Burwash View Post
    The Long Way to Lombard

    Attachment 2047

    Sometimes how you get there is more important than where you are going. Lombard, Montana would be one of those kinds of places. For those not familiar, Lombard is located in the northern third of the Missouri River Canyon. Largely inaccessible, the canyon runs from Trident, (near Three Forks) to the south, with the northern end at Toston. Lombard is where 16 Mile Creek exits a narrow canyon of its own and joins forces with the Missouri for the trip to the Gulf of Mexico.

    Attachment 2030

    Surveyors for the Northern Pacific claimed the Missouri Canyon for their own, laying rails along the eastern bank. Years later, the Milwaukee Road built their transcon line on the western banks, crossing the river and the NP main at Lombard for the ascent up 16 Mile. In one of those interesting quirks of railroading, trains of the Northern Pacific and Milwaukee could be running side by side up the Missouri Canyon, but going in opposite directions. NP trains going westbound would be pacing Milwaukee trains going east.

    The “easy way” to Lombard is a dirt road that runs from Toston at the north mouth of the canyon. A few short miles that takes you up to the top of the canyon, then a rough track back down to the river, and you are there. Still, I always wondered, “Could a person get there from the south?” You can, I found out, but it’s the long way to Lombard.

    Logan and the Gallatin

    Attachment 2048

    The long way to Lombard begins at the old junction town of Logan. In the glory days, the westbound North Coast Limited would rattle across the switches in the yard, past the old water tower and take the “south line” over Homestake Pass. These days, the only trains following the route of the Limited are occasional ballast trains, bound for the pit on the east flank of the pass, and the local out of Helena that services the talc plants at Three Forks and Sappington, with the occasional run up the hill to line’s end at Harrison.

    Attachment 2049

    These days, beyond the parade of trains rumbling through town, not much happens in Logan. Locals keep the cooks and waitresses busy serving 23 oz porterhouse steak dinners at the Land-O-Magic, while next door, local personality, “Irv the Perv” uses abandoned rail yard property to display his latest “fixer upper.”

    Attachment 2050

    Where the dirt road from Logan takes a route up over the limestone hills to the north, the railroad follows the Gallatin River to its confluence with the Jefferson and Madison near Trident. Along its banks, trains pass through the cottonwood groves and ranchland where the elephant of Three Forks is rumored to reside.

    Trident and the Narrows

    Attachment 2051 Attachment 2052

    In spite of being the depths of the Missouri River Canyon, the concrete towers of the cement and limestone plant at Trident dominate the skyline. Trident is an old company town. A few houses and a paved street still remain as well as the old Northern Pacific depot, appropriately made from concrete.

    Attachment 2053

    The broad plains of the Gallatin fast falling behind their rear markers, once through Trident, trains enter the first of a series of narrows. While the railroad follows its winding water course north, the road takes a more circuitous route through the dry land pastures and wheat stubble dotting the tops of the surrounding hills.

    Clarkston: It's Not Who You Think

    Attachment 2037 Attachment 2038

    200 years ago the Captains and The Corps of Discovery paddled their canoes upriver through this country. That Meriwether Lewis and William Clark will be long remembered in this region goes without saying. There is the Clark Fork River, any number of, towns, lakes, rivers, counties, streets all named to honor the spirit of the two great explorers.

    Dropping down off the high plateau, the road to Lombard meets up with the tracks once again in a broad valley. This is Clarkston, Montana. Named after Captain William? No, as a matter of fact. An eastern entrepreneur who shared the same last name came here late in the 19th century. James Clark established a small town in this valley along the newly built Northern Pacific that included a store, school and grain elevator. Not the bashful sort, he named the town after himself, Clarkston.

    16 Mile

    Attachment 2039

    To get to Lombard the long way, you have to have faith. Faith that the road is going to take you where you want to go, eventually. While the railroad continues with the current of the Missouri, the road out of the Clarkston Valley takes a far different route. Through barbed wire gates, up a narrow track amongst graving Angus, it is easy to believe you have taken a wrong turn. Have faith.

    Attachment 2040 Attachment 2041 Attachment 2042

    From the top of a final rise, the road plunges downward into 16 Mile Canyon. The Northern Pacific becomes a fleeting thought, for this is the land of the Milwaukee Road. The creek meanders through the narrow gorge past the rotting stock chute that mark the siding at Crane, the Fairbanks Morse scale still ready to weigh out groups of yearling calves.

    End of the Road

    Attachment 2043 Attachment 2044

    From the top of 16 Mile to the depths of the Missouri River Canyon, the road finally comes to an end at Lombard. Far off the beaten track, an eerie silence can engulf Lombard, broken only by the passing of a train out on the high iron. Like so many ghost towns across the west, tall grass grows around old building foundations and abandoned cars. Like the road traveled, even the Milwaukee trestle across the river and railroad fly-over comes to an abrupt end.

    Attachment 2045

    Lombard is a place of winners and losers. The wail of the whistle of an eastbound, blowing for a road crossing in Toston, some 3 miles distant, will actually travel down 16 Mile Canyon and leave you convinced the XL Special, or a Dead Freight West is coming down the Milwaukee grade. It is an impression soon enough lost when an eastbound grain train rolls past. The Burlington Northern won, the Milwaukee lost.

    Attachment 2054

    The long way to Lombard. It takes us through narrow gorges, broad valleys, company towns and ghost towns. A weathered railroad telegraph pole still stands guard at Lombard. The long way to Lombard, it is less a journey across distance as it is through time.

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