Milwaukee Road Depot, Alberton

The first of the Milwaukee Road’s steam locomotives rumbled through this valley in 1908, bringing sure stability to the young settlement of Alberton. The town noisily came to life as a division point along the route, where fresh crews waited and engines were serviced. The Milwaukee Road Depot anchored the early community. Machine shops, repair tracks, and a roundhouse occupied the town’s busy center, where four passenger trains made 30-minute stops daily. The depots “beanery” fed both workers and travelers; local businesses thrived. In 1917, railroad officials cast a pall over Alberton when electrification of the line between Harlowton and Avery made this and other division points like it obsolete. The wood-frame depot continued to serve for the next 65 years, but the town’s growth had been arrested at a developmental peak. Consequently, its main street buildings were never rebuilt in more substantial brick. In 1980, salvage crews pulled up the tracks, boarded up the depot and the valley became silent, its heritage apparently forgotten. By 1983, it seemed as if Alberton would become a ghost town. Determined residents, however, refused to write its epitaph. Rehabilitation grants turned the railyards into a city park and refurbished the 1908 Craftsman style depot, sparking community enthusiasm to preserve Alberton’s railroad roots. Now housing a senior citizen center and town offices, the splendid depot is more than the symbol of a once-vibrant economy. It is again the heart of the community.

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701 Railroad, Alberton, Montana ~ public