The surge of industrial activity near the end of the 19th century coupled with the arrival of homesteaders created a demand for transportation more efficient than stage coaches and freight wagons. Railroads met this need with the Utah and Northern Railroad entering the Montana Territory in 1880.The Northern Pacific, Great Northern, the Union Pacific and hundreds of other railroad companies followed.
In sharp contrast with the organic development of mining towns, railroad towns were platted on rigid grid patterns. A brief period of experimentation with town forms ultimately resulted in a preference for a business district perpendicular to the railroad—a T-town—with accessory structures nearby.
Railroad companies spared little expense when establishing their presence and influence on a town’s environment. Examples of the Craftsman, Rustic, Tudor, Mission, and Renaissance Revival styles can be found among the depots, dining lodges, inns, and other structures built by the railroad companies.
As expedient, direct travel became available to the public, travelers no longer relied on dangerous wagon roads. Homesteaders, promoters, miners, businessmen, and others depended on the railroads to convey themselves and their products to and from Montana. Newspaper accounts reveal a surprising level of mobility as railroads connected towns across the state and the state to the rest of the nation. In the process they provided the people of Montana with a shaped environment and structural reminders of the railroads' impact on Montana.