Smoking Boomer Rail Trail - Harlowton, Montana
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 46° 25.870 W 109° 49.831
12T E 589849 N 5142619
Quick Description: Named after a locally well known dog, this trail has the potential to become a part of a much longer rail trail which could ultimately stretch from Chicago to Seattle.
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 3/16/2019 4:41:52 PM
Waymark Code: WM107TE
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member wayfrog
Views: 2

Long Description:
Initially a 1.1-mile rail trail, the Smoking Boomer rail trail is a work-in-progress, the idea for which first occurred in 2004, during a Community Tourism Assessment Program. Work on the trail commenced in 2006 and is ongoing as funds become available. As yet only about one kilometre of trail has been upgraded, with a gravel base. However, the old Milwaukee Road (Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad) railbed, abandoned in 1980, continues for many kilometres after the Boomer Trail ends. Bridges have been built or replaced on this section, so it appears that it is presently used as a rail trail, but how long it is we don't know. It appears that, at present, the western end of useable trail is near the small community of Two Dot, about 13 miles west. Parking is available in the Milwaukee Depot Museum parking lot, just over 100 feet to the northeast of the trailhead.

The trail, available to hikers and bikers, it closed to all motorized vehicles. Dogs, on leash, are allowed on the trail, which begins at a footbridge at the western edge of the Milwaukee Depot Museum grounds. A large sign near the trailhead, text of which follows, relates the story of Smoking Boomer and his rail trail.


Just as Smoking Boomer used to greet the passengers of the Milwaukee Road's passenger train, the Hiawatha, he now welcomes you to our Rail-Trail.

Smoking Boomer was a big burley dog who rode into the Harlowton yards on a Milwaukee train in 1940 and immediately befriended Roundhouse Foreman Phil Leahy, who gave him a free meal. Phil taught Boomer to stand on his head, wear safety glasses and carry a briar pipe. Smoking Boomer was always ready to entertain rail passengers with his tricks. The passengers delighted in taking photos of Boomer, who was commonly seen walking the platform with his pipe in place. Until his death in 1949, Smoking Boomer was a regular sight at the Harlowton Depot.

The Smoking Boomer Rail Trail was constructed in 2006 by a group of dedicated volunteers and the City of Harlowton. The northern portion of the trail is built on the Main Line of the Milwaukee Railroad. We invite you to enjoy the rich railroad history and the abundant wildlife, birds and natural habitat along the trail. The trail is open to all types of non-motorized recreation. Enjoy your time on the trail and please remember:

• If you pack it in, pack it out.
• Keep dogs on a leash and pick up after them.
• The trail is closed to ATV's, motorcycles and other motorized vehicles.

There were almost 450 miles of “electrified” track that crossed the Rocky Mountains from Avery, Idaho to Harlowton, Montana. In Harlowton, both steam and diesel locomotives were either changed or hooked up to an electric locomotive for the journey across the mountains.

Smoking Boomer arrived by rail into the Harlowton yard in 1940, brought by a Milwaukee train. In contrast to the shy Shep, he immediately befriended the Roundhouse foreman. Well, the guy fed him so it’s no surprise! The dog and the Roundhouse foreman must have spent a lot of time together. Smoking Boomer was taught to stand on his head, wear safety glasses and smoke a briar pipe.

According to legend, Smoking Boomer was frequently seen walking along the depot platform, with a pipe in his mouth greeting disembarking passengers. That would have been a photo op and many passengers took advantage of it!

Smoking Boomer was an entertainer and an entrepreneur. He did his tricks for passengers and was rewarded with treats. Pretty smart dog.

The pipe-smoking dog passed away in 1949 but his legend survives.

Harlowton has preserved both it’s railroad history and dog history. An electric locomotive, the E57-B is parked in a small park on Central Avenue in Harlowton. The Milwaukee Depot Museum showcases memorabilia from the railroads that passed through the town.

And, right next to the Milwaukee Depot Museum is a sign about Smoking Boomer and the walking trail that now bears his name. The northern portion of the trail is built on the Main Line of the Milwaukee Railroad.
From Central Montana

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Trail Name: Smoking Boomer Rail Trail

Short description of trail:
See above

Trail Average Difficulty:

Web Link to trail map (if available): Not listed

Visit Instructions:
One log per waymark per person per physical visit to the trailhead. You are welcome to log your own waymark locations.
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