Central Montana Good News

A pair of CMR GP-9s lay over in Denton.

Just in time for my weekend train ride on the Central Montana Railroad they have some great news to share!  They will be receiving a $4 Million grant to repair flood damage from the 2011 floods. This should allow them to restore their previous service levels to the region.  How the Moccasin Agri-Hub and end of the BNSF subsidy payments will impact the railroad’s future is not clear.  I believe good marketing and partnerships with BNSF will mitigate those items.  For now though it appears they will be able to run trains again on this former Milwaukee Road line!

Trouble on the Judith

I’m sure after my visit to Denton this weekend I’ll have a clearer understanding of what the future will bring and how soon this trestle will again see rail traffic.

5 thoughts on “Central Montana Good News”

  1. Little traffic will “flow.” The main push behind the grant was from the Lewistown Chamber so their “Charlie Russell Chew-Choo” can originate closer to Lewistown in Kingston instead of Ware and cross the high bridge over the Judith River. There is no reason to believe that there will be much grain business on this line if the bridge is repaired. Since the bridge has been damaged, shuttle grain elevators have been built/enlarged at Tunis and Kershaw. That makes three such elevators (including Carter) 40 miles from Geraldine, and on the southeast end of the CMRR, Moccasin(Grove) and Moore have shuttle elevators even closer to Denton.

    It is not possible that the Central Montana can be competitive because, for instance, a carload of grain loaded in Geraldine must first go about 85 miles southeast to Moccasin before then going northwest to reach its destination (or most likely destination; most Montana wheat goes to the Portland/Vancouver/Kalama/Longview area). Since BNSF is no longer subsidizing each car, CMRR would have to handle the cars to Moccasin interchange for free just to be competitive with a standard 52-car shipment from Moccasin proper. Pit this against 110-car shuttle trains loading on BNSF in a place like Kershaw (near Fort Benton) with a direct shot into Great Falls, and there’s no way a car of wheat shipped from Geraldine can compete.

    Couple all this with the fact that the CMRR locomotives are 50+ years old (“gas guzzlers”, so to speak), and that the track is only good for 10 MPH, and that the ruling grade between Geraldine and Moccasin on the Central Montana Railroad (1.5 percent) is steeper than anywhere on BNSF between Moccasin and Portland, and you have too many inefficiencies for this shortline to see any traffic again. The Lewistown Chamber would at least be honest if they would just come right out and acknowledge that the $4 million grant is only designed to benefit the Chew-Choo. But even that is on borrowed time because the equipment is aging and CMRR doesn’t have the profitability to acquire anything newer or fix their track (and the lack of real business doesn’t warrant it, anyway). But I suppose the Republicans on the Lewistown Chamber and the surrounding county is banking on the State to bail them out one more time…..

  2. Thanks for your comments Mark! I never expected the CMR to receive any money based on the business reasons you cite. The railroad doesn’t make sense when you consider the cards stacked against it.

    As a railfan I can still hope for the CMR to find some business, find a niche, and keep themselves alive.

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