Use Montana’s History Magazine to warm cold hands

Would you like to escape to someplace warm? This issue of Montana The Magazine of Western History begins with Nancy Cooper’s story of the Union Pacific Railroad’s “mid-winter excursions.” This special service operated from 1914-1939 and transported travelers between Butte and Los Angeles, Calif., allowing Montanans some relief from freezing winter weather. Upon arrival, passengers enjoyed a warm reception from members of the Montana State Society, an organization composed of former Treasure State residents who had moved to the sunnier climate of the Golden State.
Closer to home, Tom Rust gives us a look at the experiences of enlisted troops assigned to guard duty in Yellowstone National Park prior to the establishment of the National Park Service. Many soldiers resented the station, as they had signed up to fight in wars overseas and thought the post too remote (and winters too cold). To make matters worse, class tensions in the park between the enlisted troops and well-to-do tourists were strained—only officers were allowed to socialize in the park hotels, and the enlisted troops felt looked-down upon by wealthy visitors. As a result, many soldiers deserted Yellowstone, highlighting the need for dedicated and professional park rangers.
Have you ever wondered where railroad ties come from? In an article about “tie hackers” and “wood choppers,” John Vollertsen tells us about the logging operations that supplied railroad ties for the construction of the Manitoba line to Great Falls in 1887-1888. The trees came from the drainages of the Sun, Dearborn, and Teton Rivers along the Rocky Mountain Front in today’s Bob Marshall Wilderness. After establishing camps, men cut and shaped railroad ties throughout the winter, floating them out to Great Falls during spring run-off, which allowed for the completion of the railroad in record-setting time.
Last, but not least, Cody Ewert’s article details the ways in which school reform efforts in Butte were transformed by national political and cultural currents during World War I. Educational reformers had long aimed their efforts at revolutionizing society and politics, but during the war they attempted to demonstrate the importance and effectiveness of their work by dedicated themselves to producing young patriotic citizens through redesigned lesson plans and patriotic rituals. In doing so, these reformers transformed themselves from agents of change to preservers of the status quo.
These fascinating articles along with book reviews and a book roundup by author Aaron Parrett are now available in the Winter 2017 issue of Montana The Magazine of Western History, available on newsstands across the state or by membership in the Montana Historical Society. To obtain more information, call (406) 444-4708 or go online at


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