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Butte & Helena rail lines

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TML

Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 23, 2009
Messages
102
Back when the North Coast Hiawatha last ran, it ran through Deer Lodge and Butte between Missoula and Bozeman. Since then, however, a part of that route (between Butte and Spire Rock) has gone dormant and would currently require extensive rehabilitation to reactivate for any kind of train service, freight or passenger. Hence, virtually all current proposals for Amtrak service on this segment (whether it involves reviving the NCH or just instituting new localized service in southern Montana) call for trains to run through Helena instead.

While I understand the reasoning behind routing service through Helena instead of Butte based on current track conditions, I’ve been wondering: if by some chance the Butte-Spire Rock segment is indeed rehabilitated and reactivated for train service, would that mean that the Helena line would once again be marginalized in favor of the Butte line, or could service on both lines coexist in some form?
 

jis

Conductor
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Gathering Team Member
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Aug 24, 2003
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26,544
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Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
I understand that BNSF chose to discontinue the use of the Homestake Pass route (via Butte) in favor of the Mullan Pass route (via Helena) taking into consideration operating conditions that favored the Mullan Pass route. Unless that has changed there is no reason to restore traffic via the Homestake Pass route as long as the Mullan Pass route is not overly congested. Should the Mullan Pass route become too congested and it is more expensive to relieve congestion on that route than to restore service on the Homestake Pass route, I suspect then the Homestake Pass route could take some overflow traffic. That is probably the reason it has not been disposed off completely. But it will still take dealing with MRL and another short line to string the whole thing together again.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,649
Location
Palm Beach County
Back when the North Coast Hiawatha last ran, it ran through Deer Lodge and Butte between Missoula and Bozeman. Since then, however, a part of that route (between Butte and Spire Rock) has gone dormant and would currently require extensive rehabilitation to reactivate for any kind of train service, freight or passenger. Hence, virtually all current proposals for Amtrak service on this segment (whether it involves reviving the NCH or just instituting new localized service in southern Montana) call for trains to run through Helena instead.

While I understand the reasoning behind routing service through Helena instead of Butte based on current track conditions, I’ve been wondering: if by some chance the Butte-Spire Rock segment is indeed rehabilitated and reactivated for train service, would that mean that the Helena line would once again be marginalized in favor of the Butte line, or could service on both lines coexist in some form?
An additional Amtrak train thru both Butte and Helena??
I would say the chances are between slim, and none. We will be happy to just get daily service restored on the current EB route...😉
 

TheTuck

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 1, 2009
Messages
52
The population of Helena is only slightly less than Butte. Being the state capitol, I'd think passenger demand would still favor the route through Helena. Also, being the cheapest option would definitely garner the most political support.
 
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