February 6, 2024
87 b&w illus., 4 maps
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$40.00 USD, £31.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Black Diamonds from the Treasure State

The Incredible Saga of the Montana, Wyoming & Southern, and Yellowstone Park Railroads

In the late 19th century, railroads played a crucial role in the development of Montana's economy. Robert A. Schalla examines early efforts to bring rail transport to the New World Mining District near the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park and Red Lodge–Bear Creek Coal Field in south-central Montana. The saga began with a chance discovery in 1866 and follows the exploits of individuals who worked to bring rail transport to the mines of southern Montana.

Starting with Northern Pacific's unsuccessful efforts to build a railroad through Yellowstone, this story follows the struggles of various privately financed schemes to develop the vast mineral wealth of these two regions. A youthful entrepreneur from Milwaukee succeeded in financing a railroad to the coal fields, but his plan to extend the line to the national park runs afoul of Howard Elliott, president of the Northern Pacific, who was determined to drive him out of business. The story dives into the motivations and background of these individuals and their ultimate triumphs and failures.  

The completion of the Montana, Wyoming & Southern Railroad (MW&S) in 1906 resulted in the creation of three new towns and six separate mining operations. The MW&S was one of the few privately owned lines in Montana that, despite forces aligned against it, maintained its independence until it was abandoned. For nearly fifty years it formed an important part of the state's economy as the Bear Creek mines supplied private, commercial, and industrial consumers with some of the highest-quality coal in the state.

About the Author

Robert A. Schalla is a retired geologist and a Registered Professional Geologist in Wyoming. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California—Riverside and a master's degree from Oregon State University. During his professional career he worked for several major oil companies before becoming an independent consultant in 1997. He has published numerous articles and coedited several volumes on oil exploration in the western United States. Having a lifelong interest in railroads, he has been engaged in researching the history and interrelationship of railroads and coal mining in southern Montana. Schalla, currently splits his free time between Billings and Red Lodge, Montana.


"Starry-eyed visionaries and hard-headed railroaders populate this beautifully written history of railroading in Big Sky Country. In the face of determined opposition from the Northern Pacific Railway, local entrepreneurs struggled to exploit the resources of southern Montana. While they never reached their intended destination of Yellowstone National Park, they built a rail line that was both an ally and adversary of the powerful NP. With lyrical prose, Robert Schalla provides a masterful account of the determination and perseverance that brought the Montana, Wyoming & Southern to the coalfields that lay at the foothills of the Rockies."—Albert J. Churella, author of The Pennsylvania Railroad

"An engrossing, well-written and researched story about an almost forgotten railroad that had big expectations. An important addition to Montana's railroad history"—Jon Axline, Montana Department of Transportation

"Montana's industry blosomed after the arrival of the railroads in the 1880s. Precious metal mining, copper production, lumbering, agriculture and transportation quickly expanded utilizing steam power. This required fuel.Until WWII coal was the best option. The state's three transcontintal railroads and the Anaconda company immediately laid claim to large tracts of coal lands. Late into this competitive market came entrepeneur Frank Hall and his Montana, Wyoming and Southern RR scheme to haul coal from the Bear Creek mines. Robert Schalla successfully traces Hall's ongoing struggle. This well researched and detailed new book entitled Black Diamonds from the Treasure State is a great read."—Bill Taylor, co-author of Rails to Gold and Silver, The Montana Central Ry, The NP's Mullan Pass and The Butte Shortline.

"Schalla relays the riveting true story of the New World Mining District, the early mining pioneers in the Yellowstone and Carbon County areas, who faced multiple hurdles of greed and beguiling to bring coal transportation and economy to the South Central regions of Montana."—Becky Van Horn, Carbon County Historical Preservation Officer

"In south central Montana, the decades around the beginning of the twentieth century saw promotion, sometimes leading to operations, of coal and gold mines and railroads intended to reach those mines.  This book covers several such plans and enterprises, and in particular focuses on one railroad—the Montana, Wyoming & Southern—built to link a coal mining district to Montana's rail network.  The thoroughly researched text covers hopeful promoters, anxious investors, complaining coal mine operators, the often-frustrated connecting Northern Pacific Railway, and enduring employees.  Unique for the region among its rolling stock, the MW&S operated a geared Shay locomotive and a self-propelled McKeen passenger car."—Dale Martin, Author of Ties, Rails, and Telegraph Wires: Railroads and Communities in Montana and the West

9780253068194 : black-diamonds-from-the-treasure-state-schalla
February 6, 2024
$40.00 USD

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