The Homestake Pass Line

Logan to Garrison, MT

The Homestake Pass Line, running from Garrison, MT to Logan, MT via Butte and Homestake Pass, was built in 1888 by the Northern Pacific Railway and owned by Burlington Northern starting in 1970. The Homestake Pass Line saw both passenger and freight traffic during its time in service. While not officially abandoned, the line has been inactive since 1983, and is currently owned by the BNSF Railway. Today, large portions of the line remain intact, although the rails are severed just east of Butte, MT and many road crossings have been paved over.

This is the Northern Pacific Homestake Pass line. The rails stil...
This is the Northern Pacific Homestake Pass line. The rails still seem to be intact over the pass, but are severed right before they reach Butte, MT. Photo by Peter Lewis.
The inactive portion of the Homestake Pass Line is highlighted o...
The inactive portion of the Homestake Pass Line is highlighted on this screenshot of Google Maps satellite imagery. The green circle indicates the area where the photograph appears to have been taken. (Click for a larger view) (Submitted by Jason Hindley)

—  User Comments  —

Ok first. I think your talking about the Helena to Butte Line, which was the GN line to Butte Along now I 15.

The Homestake line runs from Three Forks to Butte. Along the I 90 corridor, Which was the NP's passenger route.

Garrison Jct. or Garrison, Mt is where the NP freight line and passenger lines rejoined. The freight line is owned by Washington Industries MRL.

The Butte to Garrison line was ran by Rarus, Montana Western, "AKA" Butte Anaconda and Pacific. Which the last time home was back in the hands of BNSF.

I hope this clears up some for you. The Homestake Line, to best of my knowledge is owned by MRL now.

The Milwaukee Road, crossed on the Pipestone Pass about 15 Miles south along old US 10

La Crosse, WI

Actually, it is the Butte-Logan line being discussed. Logan west to Homestake Pass is owned by MRL, and is still used, though not all the way up to the top. Homestake west to Butte is still owned by BNSF, though it is inactive.

Jeff Showell
Ohio, MT

More photos at

Cupertino, CA

The placemark for this railroad is at an incorrect location on the map (it's currently placed two miles south of Boulder, MT). Revise it please.

Billings, MT
Please suggest a location, as it is unclear what the extents of this abandonment are.   —Greg Harrison, Abandoned Rails

This line is inactive between the east end of Butte, MT and some type of excavation operation on the east slope of the Continental Divide.

Jason Hindley

The Homestake Pass line, also called the Butte Short Line, runs from Logan, Mt to Butte, Mt. Last operated by BN for Amtrak service until 1979 and some freight service in 1980. MRL leases the line from Logan to Pipestone, west of Whitehall, where a ballast quarry is in operation. The line from Pipestone to Butte is now embargoed and unserviceable but still intact. There is a story that the UP still has a interest in the pass dating from construction in 1889. Jan and Bill Taylor published a excellent book on this line in in 1998.

J Brown
Clancy, MT

Approximately a half mile northwest of Homestake Lake, there's an alternate route of the ROW leading into a hill that looks like it's about halfway cut through. I can only guess it's an abandoned cut or maybe even a tunnel...does anybody know the story behind this?

Thank you!

Billings, MT

I'm thinking you are seeing the old East portal of the Homestake tunnel, abandoned in 1956 when bypassed by the big cut. There is a similar ROW on the West side of the hill. Both portals have been collapsed and sealed.

J Brown
Clancy, MT

I was driving eastbound on I90 today, 10/29/14 and i saw a bnsf work convoy 12 vehicles all high railers from pick up trucks to large boom trucks on the abandoned line just before the tunnel. They were doing something....saw welding, tie setters and balast carts just working away. anyone know whats going on? Also had a sign on freeway about blasting going on from 0900-1200.

Milwaukee, WI