train service
Posted by george keenen (+4) 12 years ago
i know the milwaukee road railroad used to go through miles city.
but is there train service now? Or is there a train running nearby?
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Posted by Patrick Petroff (+65) 12 years ago
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe runs freight service through Miles City. BNSF trains running through Miles City either run between Glendive and Forsyth (mainly coal), or between Forsyth and Hettinger, ND via the old Northern Pacific route from Forsyth to Terry and the old Milwaukee route between Terry and Hettinger. The closest passenger service (Amtrak) is on the northern portion of the state on the Hi-Line running through towns like Whitefish, Shelby, Glasgow, Wolf Point and Williston.
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Posted by Bruce Helland (+594) 12 years ago
But BNSF does not stop in Miles City. Just to clarify..
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12085) 12 years ago
Those coal trains don't stop here unless they fall off the tracks but we get about 24 freights a day zipping through town.
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Posted by Bonnie Boggs (+53) 12 years ago
Taking the train is a pretty nice way to travel. Not at all expensive either in comparison to other ways. We get on at Glasgow and it is really a simple plan. Go to Glasgow, get on the train, get the tickets that have been waiting for you, sit back and watch out the window or visit and make new friends. In fact, we travel by rail at least once a year and a trip to Spokane is in the very near future.
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Posted by Maryann McDaniel (+257) 12 years ago
From 1966-1970 I traveled from Miles City to Bozeman on the "milk train" which stopped every 30 miles it seemed. Could only afford the overnight ticket and many MSU students from Miles City will remember sleeping on the floor or whereever comfortable during those trips. The conductors were always very good to us students.
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Posted by Fred South (+159) 12 years ago
My family and I took the train many times round trip from Illinois to Miles City. Last time was in the summer of 1979. Then they stopped passenger service on the NP, but kept it in northern Montana, where fewer people live. Never made much sense to me.
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Posted by george keenen (+4) 12 years ago
thanks!
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Posted by lone prairie (+8) 12 years ago
Some people are trying to bring passenger service back. http://www.bringbackamtrak.com/

I'm all for it!
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Posted by Bill Freese (+475) 12 years ago
They are spending 2.5 billion dollars in Florida to run high speed trains from Orlando to Tampa. When the passenger link between Bozeman and Miles City is as fast as you can walk while balancing on a rail, remembering to jump off whenever a freight comes through, it seems like we could use some of that loot up here. We really must try to become a swing state in the next election.
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Posted by M T Zook (+511) 12 years ago
Well the rider demand from Tampa to Orlando is far greater than the Miles City-Bozeman run. Bridge to Nowhere comes to mind.
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Posted by David Schott (+17668) 12 years ago
MT Zook, do you work in the airline industry?
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12085) 12 years ago
The northern route is sold out. Always. Getting a ticket can be a struggle. And remember, the southern route runs from Chicago to Seattle, a couple of fairly respectably sized towns.
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Posted by M T Zook (+511) 12 years ago
David asked if I worked in the airline industry and I do. I guess I don't understand what that has to do with the present discussion though. As I understand it, some people want passenger train service across Montana. We do have some already, across the high line, but currently there is none offered on the main route across the state. Can anybody honestly say that this route would be self supporting? And if it was, at what cost to the other parts of the state, namely the high line towns currently served now.

Looking at the areas of Florida where there is money being spent, the populations of Tampa (2.7 mil) and Orlando (2.1 mil) and Florida in general (18.3 mil) clearly lend to a larger ridership. That isn't factoring in the huge volume of tourists that honestly would make up the majority of travelers. I just don't think that Montana and the Miles City/Bozeman run could support an operation like that.

I would love to see $2.5 billion spent in Montana, as long as it isn't as a debt to my children. I am all for it. Unfortunately, it isn't financially possible or responsible.

[This message has been edited by M T Zook (5/26/2010)]
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Posted by lone prairie (+8) 12 years ago
There are 9.7 million people in the Chicago metro area, and approximately 4 million in the Seattle area. Plus, Yellowstone Park is in between.

We are all trying to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, here is an opportunity. It's at least worth a try.
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Posted by M T Zook (+511) 12 years ago
Lone Prairie, there already is train service, across Montana, between those two metropolitan areas. Just not including Yellowstone, but Glacier is a nice second place though. I could not agree with you more in reducing dependance on foreign oil, I even recycle plastic!

Unfortunately, the cost of a high speed train, across that vast distance would be astronomical. Look at the relatively short run in FL and the huge cost associated with it!

I sure "wish" that MT had a lot more great projects going for it in these regards, but it just isn't economically viable.
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3708) 12 years ago
Amtrak has never made money and never will. If they increased service they would just hemorrhage even more cash. The US (with the exception of a few dense metropolitan areas) just doesn't have the population density to support good train service.
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+15197) 12 years ago
The US (with the exception of a few dense metropolitan areas) just doesn't have the population density to support good train service.


[red]...unless you are a lump of[/red] coal.
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Posted by JCF (+389) 12 years ago
Of course Amtrak won't make money - the revenue and profit in the train business is freight. But we gave the damn RR's the land, they should be providing passenger service. Further, to expect that a solely passenger train service be "self-supporting" is an apples to oranges comparison. Is the Interstate Highway system self supporting? Hell no. Huge gov't subsidies, to keep highway contractors in business, etc. Is the airline industry self-supportive? Hell no. They get "bailed out" every half decade or so, and get all kinds of gov't support in the form of TSA, gov't paid for airports, etc.

And why do we expect the passenger service to make money? The poin is to provide a service. Do we expect a museum to make money? A city park? The fire department? The point is to have the ability of citizens to travel from place to place without having to drive a car. Of course it won't make money. The idea that it should make money is the problem.
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3708) 12 years ago
But how much money is it worth? The BART commuter train in the SF bay area has about 100 miles of track and carries nearly 600,000 passengers daily. It requires about 300 Million Dollars a year in government subsidies. Now consider these proposed trains, which are going to have much longer tracks and carry a tiny fraction of the passengers, maybe a few hundred a day at best?

Right now going from Chicago to Seattle on Amtrak would take 46 hours each way and cost $682 round trip. If you have ever ridden Amtrak you also know that the actual time is going to be many hours longer than that. Compare that to $411 and 6 hours each way on a plane and you can see why so few people take the train. Sure you could improve service by building dedicated tracks and high speed trains, but then you're talking about hundreds of BILLIONS in capital investment and it's still not going to be nearly as fast as an airline where you only have to build an airport on each end.

The only way that passenger rail makes sense is in densely populated areas where the trains can carry thousands and thousands of people daily. In the bay area the $300M a year is worth it. Around here the losses would be much greater and the people served would be a tiny fraction of that. There's just no way that it works when you look at the money.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12085) 12 years ago
Stop subsidizing air and road travel and then we'll talk about losing money.

Rail is good for local economies as well, which certainly need help in this climate. And we are talking a relatively small amount of money to revive the southern route, not billions to put in high speed rail. The distances are too great for the bullet train but are reasonable for people who want an alternative to the misery of air travel or the hours stuck behind the wheel.
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Posted by JCF (+389) 12 years ago
Doesn't even have to be a high speed rail in Montana either - just a a passenger train that had priority over the freight trains, so it didn't have to sit at the sidings all the time (which brings to mind why in the hell haven't they put in double track).
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3708) 12 years ago
The question remains, what is the benefit? "Misery" of air travel? So the train is going to be a pleasure? Traveling half the speed of driving for a greater cost than flying is good for what reason? I think that the majority of train supporters are people who don't travel, have never taken a train anywhere, and would rarely if ever use the service if it did exist, but trains are romantic and nostalgic so we assume that they must be better than what we have now.
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Posted by Cory Cutting (+1280) 12 years ago
OK Levi, maybe its not good for a trip from Chicago to Seattle anymore. But how about a retired person who doesn't like to drive to Billings from MC but loves to go? My mom would jump at the chance to go and and not have to drive. You talk about no money, but why would they run the line through the upper part of the state where it is less populated and not the southern part? That's the thing I don't get.

In the Denver area, there was a train that went to the ski mountain from Denver. It was a money loser too, but always full. Then the company that was running it decided to sell it and the buyer shut it down. Sad deal as it was a great way to get to the mountain. The train actually stopped like 2 blocks from the base of the mountain.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12085) 12 years ago
I have taken the train. I truly do not like to fly. Well, not so much the flying part as the airports part. Long drives in this state are hell on my middle-aged joints. If we had a train, I'd be popping all over the state!

Taking the train is SO MUCH nicer than flying and/or buses. I remember my ex sister-in-law being unimpressed by the difference between the train and the bus until they went to the dining car and had wine with dinner.

I took a trip once with a retired teacher who was going around the outside of the entire country by train so she could SEE the country. Not everyone is rushrushrush to get somewhere for business. For some people, the trip ON the train IS a major part of the vacation.

I have friends who are so petrified by flying they can't even approach the airport. I know, you say, well, get over it. Doesn't work that way. Those kinds of fears mean they dread rather than enjoy a trip. Take a few of them into account as well.
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3708) 12 years ago
Greyhound already runs from Miles City to Billings. I have ridden it and it's slow with all the stops but the train would be too. The bus is far cheaper than a train would be and much more flexible when it comes to adjusting to demand.

There are good reasons why passenger trains aren't around anymore. If they could provide a competitive service that people actually wanted to use, they would be doing it.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12085) 12 years ago
Trust me, there is NO comparison of a bus to a train.

No method of transportation is profitable without government subsidies. So why cut off the subsidies to one method you don't like but keep subsidizing the others?
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Posted by Cindy Stalcup (+594) 12 years ago
Amorette,
The Canadians have the right idea- check this out!

http://www.rockymountaineer.com/en_US/
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+15197) 12 years ago
That looks like a really cool trip. Perhaps it is time to start a bucket list.
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Posted by Cory Cutting (+1280) 12 years ago
Yeah, Levi, I don't really want my almost 70 year old mother riding the bus to the lovely Billings station.

Just tell us one thing, Levi, Why? Why do you hate the train so?
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Posted by Bruce Helland (+594) 12 years ago
Hell, just hook a car to a freight train and only stop a few times across the state.
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Posted by M T Zook (+511) 12 years ago
Having spent more time on a bus and train than I care to think about or admit to, I would agree hands down that a train is superior. Quiet, not as seedy, ability to move around, all far exceed the gray dog.

I don't know why Amtrak goes across northern MT, but my guess is history/shortest route. Maybe something will all of the old airbases on that route as well. I doubt it would be financially feasible to reroute it more along the I90/I94 corridor.

As much as we would all love to have good access to mass transit, my question is, how are you planning on getting from the train station to the places you want to get to around Billings? Cabs? That gets pricey fast. Rent a car? Call on an old friend/neighbor/relative? Or should we just have a train terminal every 200 yards? Where do we limit the spending?

We can all wish, hope, and dream, but even in the back of your mind you have to admit it just isn't gonna happen.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12085) 12 years ago
The northern route was chosen because it is the ONLY alternative on the high line. No bus traffic. No airports to speak of. And the ski trains into Whitefish are jam packed all winter.
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Posted by Mathew Schmitz (+280) 12 years ago
I've taken the train from Seattle to Wolf Point. 24 hour trip, that ended up being 48 hours. The train broke down in Spokane, ran out of food and drink, and the help disappeared when the going got tough. Oh ya. The toilets also froze up. I had to open a window in the cargo hold, and pee out the window on a speeding train. Absolutely not kidding! I know this trip was the exception, not the rule. But even being nearly 24 hours late, we stopped every 35 minutes to let a coal or cargo train speed by. The coal and cargo trains will always rule the rails in Montana. If you have nowhere to be, ever, train travel across Montana might be for you. I'd also recommend the sleeping car. The seats do recline some, but you still have to hope that the strangers sitting next to you will party quietly if you expect to get some rest. Not likely from my experience.
I highly doubt that in this economic climate, train travel will return to the southern route. I see no way it can come remotely close to paying it's way. And even if paying their own way is just a pipe dream, it still has to be sold that way. A dedicated line is not gonna happen. The coal and cargo carriers will scream bloody murder if monies are spent on improving rail service that doesn't improve their travel time. But our government has supported many ideas dumber than this, so maybe it has a shot.
I do understand that most train trips are not nearly as bad as mine was, but that experience was bad enough to last me several lifetimes.
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Posted by Steve Allison (+977) 12 years ago
M T Zook, all the problems one faces on how to get around after getting to a town on a train apply to a plane as well, and there is no flights to Billings. You have to fly to Denver first then to Billings, real fuel efficient. Steel wheels on steel track is the most efficient use of oil. Maybe if we did more of this type of travel, less burning thousands of gallons in the air, we could avoid some of the high risk wells like the dumping oil into the gulf right now. Passenger trains do not need to be dozens of cars long. They can be adjusted as traffic needs. Freight cars can be added to a passenger train giving an economical alternative for short runs of smaller amounts of freight. This was done on passenger runs when the rail road companies did them. In an effort to get subsidies like the airlines were getting, the railroad companies threatened to cut passenger service. Congress responded by creating Amtrak. All the politicians at the time , Rep. & Dem., made big speeches about the need to keep passenger service for the good of the country. Yes I am old enough to remember this and grew up in a railroad town where it was big news. It was not until the Reagan years when the Feds. started bailing out Airlines and increasing airport subsidies that the idea of Amtrak paying for itself came up. Airlines, particularly at that time, were used by rich powerful people, railroads used by pourer people with less influence. Look at which side won. As for the fact that there already is a northern route, it is a few hundred miles away for those of us on the southern edge os the state.
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Posted by Dave Golterman (+239) 12 years ago
In my limited experience, train travel is much more enjoyable than airline travel. One of the last times I flew, I spent more time in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport than I did in the air. To get from northeast Montana to Tulsa, Oklahoma, I had to drive to Minot, ND, spend the night in a motel because the flight out was at 5:30am. I then spent about an hour in the air from Minot to MSP, about 6 hours in the airport in Minnesota and another 2 hours in the air to Tulsa.

The Amtrak route across the Hi-Line is great for trips to the Flathead Valley. You get on in Wolf Point in the morning and arrive in the evening. The return trip is just as nice. In the winter, it certainly is much better than worrying about the roads.

Someone mentioned the Canadian rail system. Several years back I checked out a trip to Toronto by rail, both on Amtrak and VIA Rail (the Canadian system). The cross country VIA Rail route isn't an every day service. It was also cheaper and faster to ride Amtrak from Williston to Buffalo, NY and then backtrack to Toronto than it was to get on VIA Rail in Saskatoon and go directly to Toronto. And that was back when the exchange rate was much more in our favor.
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