Dusting Off the Old Ones was published in 1961 by W. B. Clarke, Miles City, Montana.
Proposed Northern Pacific Branch to the North
During the latter part of 1886, there was a movement on foot to bridge the Yellowstone River at a point near Miles City to the end that the Northern Pacific Railroad would extend a branch line into the north and west of this community. According to an article in one of the local newspapers, there was incorporated a bridge company which secured from Congress a permit to construct a bridge across the Yellowstone at or near Miles City of such character as was designated by the War Department where navigable streams were to be bridged. It would seem odd, looking at the map of Montana of that day that there would be any need of a railroad north and west of here as such a map did not even indicate a hamlet within hundreds of miles, but the main reason for the construction of a branch was to make the shipment of beef cattle more readily accessible. The Northern Pacific ran on the south side of the river all through eastern Montana and one of the greatest hazards in bringing stock to a shipping point was the crossing of the river which was then asserted to be the swiftest navigable river in the world. Thus, to cross a large herd of cattle would always mean a percentage of loss, and in some instances the loss of human lives. It is true that there were ferries, but ferrying cattle was both a slow process and an expensive one. Another reason the Northern Pacific contemplated this branch line toward the north was that at that time the Manitoba Railroad had started construction of a line into Northern Montana, and it was thought that Congress would grant this road a right-of-way across the great northern Indian reservation and with this granted, the railroad would push rapidly through the country and become an active competitor for cattle shipments from the north side of the Yellowstone. It seemed that the "hard" winter of 1886-87 disrupted all plans of the Northern Pacific to build their road to the north and to the west, and this portion of Montana has never had the advantage of railroad facilities south of the Missouri.

We wonder what the railroad picture in eastern Montana would have been had it not been for that rigorous winter in 1886-1887, for according to records, there was a greater loss of livestock that year than in any other year in its history. Montana's famous cowboy artist, Charlie Russell, accurately depicted the severity of the winter in his well known painting "The Last of 5,000."