St. Paul Pass Tunnel (Taft Tunnel) - Route of the Hiawatha
Posted by: TheBeanTeam
N 47° 23.780 W 115° 38.127
11T E 602970 N 5250111
Quick Description: A grouping of signs in a kiosk near the St Paul Pass Tunnel near the Idaho Border.
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 8/6/2008 12:58:02 PM
Waymark Code: WM4CP3
From the history sign at the interpretive kiosk at the east portal of the 1.66 mile tunnel.
The Route of the Hiawatha
In 1905, The Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway began looking for a route for their western extension over the Bitterroot Mountains. After five and a half months, exploring 930 miles, the railroad chose a route over St. Paul Pass. In laying out the route from the St. Paul Pass Tunnel the surveyors planned a line descending at a 1.7% gradient along the mountain slope. A big
consideration in choosing this route was the potential for future traffic. This route down the St. Joe River offered exclusive access to huge quantities of old growth white pine and cedar timber. Interpretive sign on trail.
The Last Transcontinental Railroad
The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway’s Pacific Extension survived for 71 colorful years. Racing silk trains sped along the route, and long, rumbling troop trains carried men and materiel through four wars. The Milwaukee’s famed electric locomotives hosted presidents and celebrities and showcased the streamlined Olympian Hiawatha passenger train. The Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail, traces the most costly and difficult to build section of the railroad from Chicago to Tacoma. Today, thousands enjoy traveling over this scenic, historic trail helping keep alive the spirit of the Milwaukee Road.
The trail follows the trains and historians trace the history along the trail. When the Milwaukee Road abandoned its route over the Bitterroot Mountains, salvage companies striped the line of all the rails, ties, signals posts and everything else of value. The small fragments left behind are the remains of one of America’s proudest railroads. From 1907 to 1911 thousands of people lived, worked and played in this secluded part of the Bitterroot Mountains. They constructed a railroad while leaving faint signs of their own passing. Today you may see archaeologists digging and sifting along the Route of the Hiawatha Trail looking for clues about people and places not found in written documents. Historical research and archaeological field work helps breate life into the history of the Milwaukee Road years. Interpretive sign on trail.
The St. Paul Pass Tunnel
The Milwaukee Road faced the daunting task of drilling a tunnel 23 feet high, 16 feet wide and 1.7 miles long into Idaho. It was a damp, dark, dirty dig. After the approaches were prepared in 1906, and a faltering start in 1907, work began in earnest in 1908. East and west crews toiled around the clock in wet, miserable conditions, and at their best could tunnel 20 feet a day. A company official remembered that: “Men were hard to keep as the work was disagreeable and hard. Several large veins of water were encountered and at times the working conditions were almost unbearable.”
It took 750 men—400 tunneling inside, 200 outside removing the dirt and rock, and 150 running the dig’s power plant yards—two and a half years to complete. The steam-driven electric power plant set up four miles away in Taft, Montana powered both ends of the dig. Compressed air provided safe, smokeless power to the giant steam shovels that loaded the blasted, broken rock into electric rail cars for removal. Interpretive sign on trail.
There are two other signs at this kiosk that I did not transcribe for the listing. They are entitled "The Wickedest City" detailing the nearby ghost town of Taft and "The Trail Follows the Trains", a sign detailing the historic efforts of archeologists along the line.