Filed Under Missoula

Milwaukee Road Substation #10 (Primrose Station)

The Primrose Substation was one of thirteen Montana substations that stood sentinel next to the Milwaukee Road Railroad between Harlowton and St. Paul Pass on the Idaho border. Completed in 1909, the Milwaukee Road was the third and last transcontinental railroad to cross Montana. In 1916, the railroad electrified the line between Harlowton, and Avery, Idaho, to increase the efficiency of its operations. The Milwaukee’s 440-mile Rocky Mountain Division was the longest electrified railroad in the United States. Electrification required substations, like this one, spaced at thirty-seven-mile intervals along the railroad. High tension power lines fed 100,000 volt alternating current (AC) to the substations, where motor-generator sets, transformers, and switching equipment stepped down the current to 3,300 volts direct current (DC) for use by the railroad’s locomotives. Built in 1915, the Primrose Substation reflects the Milwaukee Road’s standard architectural design for this type of building. The two-and-one-half-story Industrial style building appears austere from a distance, but exhibits ornamental brickwork around the base and windows as well as decorative tiles along the cornice. The large south-facing, multi-light windows provided ample natural lighting for the building’s interior. The lightning arresters and horn gaps on the roof dissipated lightning strikes when they occurred. The Primrose Substation also functioned as a ticket office and waiting room for local passengers. The substation was an integral part of the Milwaukee’s Rocky Mountain Division for nearly sixty years until 1974 when the line converted to diesel power locomotives. The Milwaukee Road abandoned its line in Montana in 1980.

Images

Milwaukee Road Substation #10 Milwaukee Road Substation #10. Vintage photograph of the Milwaukee Road electric train approaching the Primrose Station off current-day Mullan Road near Missoula, Montana; facing northwest away from current-day Mullan Road to show the station in full operation. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Dick Dorn Date: June 1974
Milwaukee Road Substation #10 Milwaukee Road Substation #10. Front view of the building, facing northwest away from Mullan Road near Primrose Drive to show the building in it's present state and the remnants of the Milwaukee Road railway. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Jon Axline Date: Feb. 2014
Milwaukee Road Substation #10 Milwaukee Road Substation #10. Side/rear view of the building, facing southwest near Primrose Drive off of Mullan Road. Another angle of the present state of the building. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Jon Axline Date: Feb. 2014
Milwaukee Road Substation #10 Milwaukee Road Substation #10. Rear/side view of the building, facing southeast toward Mullan Road. Note the power lines that run east and west near the building in place of the train lines that existed for the circuit route along the Milwaukee Road. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Jon Axline Date: Feb. 2014
Milwaukee Road Substation #10 Milwaukee Road Substation #10. Side view of the building, facing east toward Primrose Drive. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Jon Axline Date: Feb. 2014
Milwaukee Road Substation #10 Milwaukee Road Substation #10. Front/side view of the building, facing northeast near Mullan Road. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Jon Axline Date: Feb. 2014
Milwaukee Road Substation #10 Milwaukee Road Substation #10. Front view of the building, facing north near Mullan Road. This photograph offers a close view of the architecture and shows the "Substation #10" signage above the entry of the building. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Jon Axline Date: Feb. 2014

Location

5901 Primrose Drive, Missoula, Montana | Public

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Milwaukee Road Substation #10 (Primrose Station),” Historic Montana, accessed December 3, 2022, https://historicmt.org/items/show/2216.