Like highways, railroad tracks have been imported from TIGER data and they share the same problems like unconnected segments, wrong tagging, missing bridges and railroad crossings and positions that are frequently off quite a lot. So a TIGER Review is necessary for rail as it is for highways.
Most USA rail (including Montana) came from OSM's 2007-8 TIGER import. Please read WikiProject_United_States_railways#Editing_Railroads_starting_from_TIGER_data. After (or during) TIGER Review, the segments of a contiguous railway line with similar or identical tag values (especially name=* and usage=*) are correctly collected into a route=railway relation.
Montana's Department of Transportation (MDT) publishes its Montana Rail System official state rail map and all rail in MDT's map are believed in OSM (from TIGER and other sources). The Montana Rail System map includes what MDT calls "inactive" rail, usually entered in OSM as railway=disused, though what MDT calls "inactive" and how OSM prefers to distinguish between "disused" and "abandoned" isn't always clear.
Please note that MDT blocks access to its website from many places outside the US "for security reasons".
There remain railways to coordinate between rail data already in OSM from TIGER (and other sources) and this wiki, so consider this documentation to be "under construction" in several places. For example, BNSF's "structure" in this wiki appears complete (though much more TIGER Review in the map is needed) and MRL is moderately complete, perhaps approaching or even at completion. The Disused section seems complete (though, may not be), while the Abandoned section is only an early stub, its table barely populated. Abandoned rail data in OSM do improve: better tagging since TIGER import, some USGS Topographic map traces of abandoned rail have been entered, railway=abandoned elements are more frequently gathered into route=railway relations, though sometimes member elements or the relation are poorly named, etc. The Railtrails table needs work.
Improvements to OSM Montana rail data and this wiki are quite welcome! Current priorities are completing TIGER Review (and updating status here), adding rows in the Abandoned table, bettering data in the Railtrails table, completing Yards and updating from (versions newer than the June 2018 version of) MDT's Montana Rail System map (in about that order).
Lines that see regular rail traffic, whether freight or passenger.
BNSF Railway (BNSF)
BNSF is a Class I (major) railroad and the dominant rail common carrier (freight and passenger) in Montana, with 1939 miles of active and 201 miles of inactive (disused or abandoned) rail in the state, according to MDT's Montana Rail System PDF document.
|Big Horn Subdivision||BNSF||East of Billings at Moran Jct. - Hardin - Crow Agency - Lodge Grass - Wyoming line - Sheridan, Wyoming - Gillette, Wyoming||Partially TIGER Reviewed|
|Casper Subdivision||BNSF||Laurel - Fromberg - E of Bridger - Wyoming Line - Deaver, Wyoming - Lovell, Wyoming - Greybull, Wyoming - Basin, Wyoming - Manderson, Wyoming - Worland, Wyoming - Thermopolis, Wyoming - Casper, Wyoming - Glenrock, Wyoming - Douglas, Wyoming||Lightly TIGER Reviewed|
|Dickinson Subdivision||BNSF||Glendive - Wildive - North Dakota Line - Beach, North Dakota - Medora, North Dakota - Dickinson, North Dakota - Richardton, North Dakota - Hebron, North Dakota - Glen Ullin, North Dakota - New Salem, North Dakota - Mandan, North Dakota||About one-third TIGER Reviewed||A FIXME tag urges "verify both ends."|
|Forsyth Subdivision||BNSF||E of Billings - Custer - Hysham - Forsyth - Miles City - Terry - Fallon - Glendive||Lightly TIGER Reviewed||336.2 km|
|Glasgow Subdivision||BNSF||Glasgow - Wolf Point - North Dakota Line - Williston, North Dakota - Tioga, North Dakota - White Earth, North Dakota - Ross, North Dakota - Stanley, North Dakota - Palermo, North Dakota - Berthold, North Dakota - Minot, North Dakota||Mostly TIGER Reviewed, but much still to do||Supports Amtrak Empire Builder passenger=national route=trains. Part of Northern Transcon "major mainline rail."|
|Great Falls Subdivision||BNSF||Great Falls - Dutton - Conrad - Shelby||Done||A FIXME tag says "verify south end."|
|Hi Line Subdivision||BNSF||Whitefish - Columbia Falls - West Glacier - South of Browning - Cut Bank - Shelby - Chester - Havre||Needs TIGER Review||Supports Amtrak Empire Builder passenger=national route=trains. Part of Northern Transcon "major mainline rail."|
|Kootenai River Subdivision||BNSF||Whitefish - Libby - Troy - Idaho Line - Moyle Springs, Idaho - Bonners Ferry, Idaho - Sandpoint, Idaho - Athol, Idaho - Rathdrum, Idaho - Trentwood, Idaho - Millwood, Idaho||Largely TIGER Reviewed||Tagged usage=main for the most part, but appears to be tangled up with elements named Spokane Subdivision. Please fix if better data of naming or inclusion are known. A FIXME tag says "verify east end." Supports Amtrak Empire Builder passenger=national route=trains. Part of Northern Transcon "major mainline rail."|
|Laurel Subdivision||BNSF||Great Falls - W of Billings||Largely TIGER Reviewed|
|Milk River Subdivision||BNSF||Havre - Chinook - Malta - Glasgow||Largely TIGER Reviewed||Supports Amtrak Empire Builder passenger=national route=trains. Part of Northern Transcon "major mainline rail."|
|Big Sandy Subdivision||BNSF||Havre - Big Sandy||Partially TIGER Reviewed|
|Choteau Subdivision||BNSF||Choteau - Eastham Jct. - Power (Great Falls Subdivision)||About half TIGER Reviewed|
|Colstrip Subdivision||BNSF||W of Forsyth - Colstrip||Needs TIGER Review||Tagged usage=branch most of the line, tagged usage=industrial on the end-of-line mining spur (7 km, 4.3 mile) and 4 km (2.5 miles) spur to the Colstrip power plant, neither spur is included in the relation.|
|Copper City Subdivision||BNSF||Garrison - Deer Lodge - Warm Springs - Butte - Yankee Doodle Quarry||Partially TIGER Reviewed||Tagged usage=branch most of the line, tagged usage=industrial on the last-element end-of-line mining spur (530 meters).|
|Fairfield Subdivision||BNSF||Eastham Jct. - Fairfield||Needs TIGER Review||Only a single way in the relation|
|Fort Benton Subdivision||BNSF||Great Falls - Carter - Fort Benton||Partially TIGER Reviewed|
|Hettinger Subdivision||BNSF||E of Terry (Forsyth Subdivision) - Baker - North Dakota Line - Bowman, North Dakota - Hettinger, North Dakota||Largely TIGER Reviewed|
|Lewistown Subdivision||BNSF||Laurel Subdivision - Moore - near intersection US 87 and McMillan Road (end of line, though abandoned rail continues easterly to Lewistown||Done|
|Sweet Grass Subdivision||BNSF||Shelby - Sweet Grass - Coutts, Alberta (Canada)||Done|
|Valier Subdivision||BNSF||Valier - N of Conrad at Great Falls Subdivision||Done|
|Dutch Subdivision||BNSF||Off Big Horn Subdivision in northern Wyoming - Spring Creek Coal Mine in Big Horn County||The Wyoming segment needs TIGER Review||Fully tagged usage=industrial, including the end-of-line mining loop, included in the relation|
|Sarpy Line Subdivision||BNSF||Forsyth Subdivision E of Hysham - Sarpy Creek Mine||Partially TIGER reviewed||Fully tagged usage=industrial|
Butte, Anaconda & Pacific Railway (BAP)
Butte, Anaconda & Pacific Railway is a Class III railroad active on 26 total rail miles in Montana..
|Western Subdivision||DMVW||Butte - Anaconda||Done||Tagged usage=branch. There are several abandoned segments not included in the relation.|
Central Montana Rail, Inc. (CM)
This Class III railroad has 87 total active rail miles, 7 inactive rail miles in Montana, according to MDT. Currently, OSM's relation of CM active rail is 88.5 miles (142.4 km), its relation of disused rail is 8.5 miles (13.7 km). Wikipedia w:Central_Montana_Rail,_Inc. says CM's "main line extends approximately 84.2 miles (135.5 km), between the towns of Moccasin and Geraldine" so OSM has this much, plus "a bit extra" (in 2018, compared to MTD data of June, 2018 data; that's so-so/OK, we can look for boundary/edge discrepancies with bts.gov rail layer data and see if OSM's numbers get closer or MDT publishes newer data). Two relations of rail believed abandoned by CM are 55.6 miles and 19.3 miles (see Abandoned table, below). This abandoned rail may or may not be associated with CM (the relations and some elements are named as if it is), or it may be owned by BNSF and formerly leased by CM, this is unknown.
There is said (by same wikipedia article) to be some tourist passenger service during holidays, not much is known.
|Central Montana Rail, Inc.||CM||Moccasin (BNSF's Laurel Subdivision) - Kingston/Spring Creek Jct. - Denton - Geraldine||Partially TIGER Reviewed||Tagged usage=branch. This is the "active rail" of CM.|
Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western Railroad (DMVW)
Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western Railroad is a Class II (medium-sized) railroad. DMVW is active on 57 rail miles in Montana.
|Western Subdivision||DMVW||Whitetail - Westby - North Dakota Line - Fortuna, North Dakota - Ambrose, North Dakota - Crosby, North Dakota - Flaxton, North Dakota / Portal Subdivision||Partially TIGER Reviewed||Tagged usage=branch. There is a FIXME tag on several middle segments asking if they are abandoned. A visual layer offers an initial answer of "apparently not" (tracks seem to appear, but resolution is poor), so better "eyes on the ground" or local knowledge is requested.|
Global Rail Group (????)
A Class III (minor/short line) railroad, 30 total active rail miles in Montana.
|Broadview Subdivision||Global Rail Group||S of Broadview off Laurel Subdivision - Coal mine between Signal Mountain and Elbow Hill||No TIGER tags||Tagged usage=branch most of the line, tagged usage=industrial on the end-of-line mining loop, included in the relation. Name is speculative.|
Lincoln County Port Authority (LCPA)
A private freight carrier, 0.6 rail miles leased from BNSF in Montana.
|Lincoln County Port Authority Railroad||LCPA||Libby||Done||Tagged usage=industrial owner=BNSF operator=Lincoln County Port Authority|
Mission Mountain Railroad (MMT)
MDT says 42 total active rail miles in two segments (northern and southern) of this Class III railroad.
|Mission Mountain Railroad (northern segment)||MMT||Kootenai River Subdivision (BNSF) - Stryker - Trego - Fortine - Eureka||Done||Tagged usage=branch. About 24 miles in OSM, should be about 26 miles (so both segments equal MDT's total of 42 miles).|
|Mission Mountain Railroad (southern segment)||MMT||Columbia Falls - Kalispell||Needs TIGER Review||Tagged usage=branch owner=BNSF operator=MMT, as this segment (16 rail miles) is leased from BNSF.|
Montana Rail Link (MRL)
Montana Rail Link is a Class II (medium-sized) railroad on rail leased from BNSF via "trackage rights." In OSM, this railway=rail is correctly denoted owner=BNSF operator=Montana Rail Link. MRL is active on 817 rail miles in Montana. There may be more branches/spurs to add here.
|Bitterroot Branch||MRL||Missoula - Hamilton||Partially TIGER Reviewed||Tagged usage=branch. South of Hamilton (to Darby) rail is tagged railway=disused; see Bitterroot Branch (disused) in Disused section.|
|Dixon Main Line||MRL||Paradise - Dixon - Missoula||Largely TIGER Reviewed||Tagged usage=main. Name is speculative.|
|MRL Main Line||MRL||Idaho line - DeSmet - Paradise - Missoula - Drummond - Garrison - Helena - Trident - Bozeman - Livingston - Laurel - Mossmain - Billings - Huntley||Largely TIGER Reviewed||Tagged usage=main. Double-tracked around Missoula and Billings – Huntley. Name is speculative.|
|Polson Branch||MRL||Whitehall - Polson||Done||Tagged usage=branch. Access to the Polson Branch (name is speculative) is via Dixon Main Line (name is speculative).|
|Spire Rock Branch||MRL||Logan - Three Forks - Pipestone||Largely TIGER Reviewed||Tagged usage=branch. Name is speculative.|
|Twin Bridges Branch||MRL||Whitehall - Twin Bridges||Done||Tagged usage=branch. Name is speculative.|
Port of Montana (POM)
A private freight carrier, 1.5 total active rail miles in Montana.
|Port of Montana||POM||Silver Bow||No TIGER tags||Tagged usage=industrial|
A private freight carrier, 4 total active rail miles in Montana.
|Transco||Transco Railway Products||Miles City||Mostly TIGER Reviewed||Tagged usage=branch|
The "back end" of this (past Transco's current end-of-line) is a vast, 635 km (more?) Milwaukee Road abandoned ROW from Miles City (Transco, BNSF) in eastern central Montana west to near Butte. Please improve tagging on any segment if you can; found in Abandoned section as "Milwaukee Road Abandoned Railroad."
Union Pacific Railroad (UP)
UP is a Class I (major) railroad and a minor freight common carrier in Montana, with MDT's official rail map claiming 125 miles of active rail in the state. About 79 additional miles of UP's Montana Subdivision continue south to Idaho Falls, Idaho.
|Montana Subdivision||UP||Silver Bow - Dillon - Monida - Idaho line - Dubois, Idaho - Idaho Falls, Idaho||Done||Tagged usage=branch|
Yellowstone Valley Railroad (YSVR)
YSVR is a Class III (minor) railroad, leasing 171 miles (275 km) of tracks from BNSF in Montana on two short lines.
|Scoby Line||YSVR||E of Bainville (Glasgow Subdivision) - Plentywood||Done||Tagged usage=branch. BNSF is the owner, leasing the tracks to YSVR. The segment from Plentywood W to Scobey was granted trackage rights by BNSF to YSVR but is now either disused or abandoned (the state calls it "inactive"). This is in a separate relation in the Disused section.|
|Sidney Line||YSVR||Glendive - Crane - Sidney - Fairview - (slips into North Dakota a bit, then back into Montana) - Snowden||Done||Tagged usage=branch. BNSF is the owner, leasing the tracks to YSVR. Sidney Line is connected by trackage rights to YSVR's Scoby Line over 21.2 km (13.1 miles) of BNSF's Northern Transcon (Glasgow Subdivision) between Snowden and Bainville.|
|Line Name||Operator and/or old_railway_operator=*||Relation||Route||TIGER Review||Notes|
|Bitterroot Branch (disused)||BNSF, CM||Hamilton - Darby||Done||The official state rail map does not say this is "inactive," yet members of this relation are each tagged railway=disused. 21.7 km.|
|Butte - Spire Rock||Northern Pacific||Butte - Pipestone/Spire Rock||No TIGER tags||The official state rail map says this is "inactive," so members of this relation are each tagged railway=disused. 35.6 km. May actually be abandoned, in which case it should move to that table.|
|Central Montana Railroad (disused) Could use better name||BNSF, CM||Lewistown - Spring Creek Jct.||Done||The official state rail map says this is "inactive," so members of this relation are each tagged railway=disused. 13.7 km.|
|Circle Subdivision||BNSF, CM||Glendive (Sidney Industrial Lead, Forsyth Subdivision) - Circle||Needs TIGER Review||The official state rail map says this is "inactive," so members of this relation are each tagged railway=disused. 82 km.|
|Helena Subdivision||BNSF, CM||Great Falls - Mid Canon - Helena||75% TIGER Reviewed||The official state rail map says this is "inactive," so members of this relation are each tagged railway=disused. 152 km.|
|Montana Rail Link (Drummond-Philipsburg disused)||MRL||Drummond - Philipsburg||Done||The official state rail map says this is "inactive," so members of this relation are each tagged railway=disused. 44 km. Even though TIGER Review is indicated to be completed (there are no tiger:reviewed=no tags), the alignments still appear to need substantial improvement. As MDT says MRL has 37 miles (59.5 km) of inactive rail in the state, it is unknown how to account for OSM's shortfall of 15.5 km of inactive rail.|
|Scobey Line (disused)||YSVR||Plentywood - Scobey||Done||Yellowstone Valley Railroad (YSVR) is a Class III (minor) railroad, believed to have had or still does have trackage rights on the 71 km of BNSF-owned rail (or ROW only?) between Plentywood and the end-of-line at Scobey. However, this rail, now tagged railway=disused, may be abandoned (it isn't known which of the two; the state calls this "inactive"). See Scobey Line in Yellowstone Valley Railroad section (which doesn't go all the way to Scobey, only Plentywood). Perhaps someone could do an STB lookup of abandoned rail or bts.gov rail layer and see if "abandoned" is either official or authoritative? 71 km.|
Former railroad lines, whether still visible on the ground or not. A formal abandonment process with the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) has completed. Ways are tagged railway=abandoned or sometimes railway=razed if they have become completely built over in urban areas or are now, for example, farmland which has reverted to a more natural state with no evidence of tracks having been there. These should be historically determined or able to be so, but sometimes this is difficult because of lost history.
This is an early table. It needs more population as there is quite a bit of abandoned rail history in Montana. The TIGER import brought in a lot of abandoned rail data, more have been added (for example, from USGS Topographic map traces), and some of these data have migrated into contiguous route=railway relations (some of which are not yet entered here) — these are signs of good progress. However, representing those data in the map both as completed route=railway relations and as table entries here in this wiki section continues to be under construction.
Here is an Overpass Turbo (OT) query which can be helpful.
|Name of Subdivision/Line and/or Operator (at abandonment)||old_railway_operator=*||Relation||Route||TIGER Review||Notes|
|Alder Gulch Shortline Railroad||Montana Rail Link (MRL)||The single way is entered||Nevada City - Virginia City||Done||Tagged usage=tourism. At the end of a MRL segment south of Twin Bridges, this 1.5 mile spur appears to be fully abandoned (from imagery) though it is part of a longer relation of MRL. Web information says it was an active miniature railroad from 1999 to 2010. The segment is tagged railway=miniature gauge=762 (30 inch). Much about this is either unknown or poorly tagged in OSM, please update here in this wiki and in the map if you have better / more recent data.|
|Central Montana Railroad (abandoned) (please tag this with a better name)||Central Montana Railway (CM)||(E of Great Falls) Malmstrom AFB - Geraldine||Nearly completely TIGER Reviewed||Should ROW (segments/relation elements) be tagged owner=BNSF (as successor to CM)? 55.6 miles (89.6 km). Has segments which have become highway (e.g. Highfill Lane, Zanto Lane).|
|Central Montana Railroad (abandoned) Lewistown (please tag this with a better name)||Central Montana Railway (CM)||Glengarry - Lewistown - E of Spring Creek Jct.||Done||Should ROW (segments/relation elements) be tagged owner=BNSF (as successor to CM)? 19.4 miles (31.2 km).|
|Milwaukee Road Abandoned Railroad (please tag this with a better name)||Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad||South of Butte (end of "BLM Spur" off Copper City Subdivision) - Three Forks - Harlowton - Ryegate - Roundup - Miles City||Largely TIGER Reviewed||Vast: at least 395 miles (636 km) long. This is a multi-faceted ROW, part having become roads, jeep trails, mixed-use path for bicycles and pedestrians and many bridges, though a large number of bridges are no longer extant, leaving gaps in the relation. Likely shares many different ownership and use plans, though a comprehensive list of owners is unknown. Please improve tagging on any segment if you can.|
Railtrails and "Transitways"
A railtrail uses a former railroad right-of-way (ROW) for equestrian, bicycle or hiking paths, preserving the ROW for possible future re-use as a railway while providing a useful service in the meantime. These are often tagged highway=cycleway or highway=footway depending on whether they prefer or allow bicycle or pedestrian traffic. It is OK to tag both railway=abandoned and highway=cycleway if it is the case that an abandoned railway became a railtrail (for bicycle use, for example). Where a (multi-use) pathway is designated for pedestrians but also allows bicycles, tag highway=footway and bicycle=yes.
There may be entries in the Abandoned table (above) which contain segments of railtrail (often bike/ped, sometimes equestrian). It can be a bit of a coin-toss whether they should be here or there.
This table is likely incomplete and needs work to better complete. If you find a line (relation link, Review Status...) that needs to be added, updated or improved, please do so!
|Missoula (Arrowhead Street) - Missoula (Riverfront Trail)||unknown||trail split into three segments|
|Missoula (McCormick Park - Kim Williams Nature Trail Area)||unknown|
|Missoula (Russel Street Bridge - Jacobs Island Park)||unknown|
|near Toll Mountain, Jefferson County||unknown||used for Cross Country Skiing|
|Bozeman (Museum of the Rockies - Deerfield Park)||unknown|
|Kalispell - Kila||unknown||extension planned to Marion|
|Billings Heights - Billings||unknown|
|Lookout Pass - Taft - Taft Tunnel||unknown|
|Great Falls (Visitors Center - 15th Street Bridge)||unknown|
|Helena (Carrol College - Joslyn Street)||unknown|
|Bozeman (North Wallace Avenue - Story Mill Road)||unknown|
|Eureka - ?||unknown|
Amtrak operates Empire Builder long_distance passenger=national trains with service to (Chicago, IL) - Wolf Point - Glasgow - Malta - Havre - Shelby - Cut Bank - Browning - East Glacier - Essex - West Glacier - Whitefish - Libby - (Spokane, WA - Seattle, WA and Portland, OR).
|Empire Builder||7, 8; 27, 28||national||v1 CHI-SPK||Complete; rough public_transport v1|
Presently, no "regional rail" (sometimes called "intercity") exists in Montana, nor are there any known plans. These are middle-distance trains of 150 km to 1000 km; shorter than passenger=national rail but longer than passenger=suburban "commuter" trains, passenger=urban light-rail and passenger=local trams.
Montana has no known rail systems serving suburban, urban and local passengers via full-sized "heavy rail" (commuter) trains, light rail and trams.
Heritage rail (????)
Montana has at least one known heritage railroad: as mentioned in Central Montana Rail, Inc. section above, there may be some occasional usage=tourism passenger rail on that railroad. Please endeavor to better document that here.
Please enter here other heritage railroads in Montana as they are discovered. The usual method is to make two tables: the first with the underlying route=railway relation(s), the second with the route=train relation(s).
It would be very kind for more OSM volunteers to continue to build up this statewide "Yards" table (stub) with status on every single Montana rail yard. It is incomplete as there are many rail yards in Montana.
|Name||Railroad||Area||Subdivision(s) Served||TIGER Review||Status|
|Great Falls||BNSF||Great Falls||Great Falls, Laurel||Unknown||Initial stub entry; placeholder. Please continue to add to this table.|