US Forest Service, National Forests, and The Big Burn (1910)

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In summary, the 1910 fire in Wallace, Idaho was the largest in American history and the largest fire in the Northern Rockies. Wallace was an industrial hub in the late 1800s and early 1900s, serving area mines and timber lands. The Wallace-Mullan segment of the NP line was abandoned and developed into the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. Union Pacific continued operating the Wallace-Mullan segment of the NP line until abandoning the entire Plummer-Mullan route in 1992.
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The Big Burn​

- In the summer of 1910, the largest fire in American history raged in the Northern Rockies.
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/burn/#part01

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_1910
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Pulaski

Wallace, Idaho has an interesting history. It served as a major industrial hub in the late 1800s and early 1900s, serving area mines and timber lands.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallace,_Idaho#Transportation
In its prime, two railroads served Wallace. The Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation Co. (Union Pacific) reached Wallace from the west, offering passenger service to Spokane and Portland until about 1958, and freight service to Spokane as late as 1992. The Northern Pacific Railway approached Wallace from the east with its branch over Lookout Pass to the NP mainline at St. Regis. The former NP depot still stands (although relocated 200 ft from its original site to avoid demolition during freeway construction) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[40] It currently functions as a local railroad museum. The former NP line was abandoned and removed between St. Regis and Mullan in 1980. Union Pacific continued operating the Wallace-Mullan segment of the NP line until abandoning the entire Plummer-Mullan route in 1992. After abandonment, this segment of former UP and NP lines was developed into the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.

It was an Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation Co. (Union Pacific) train that evacuated women and children from Wallace in the 1910 fire.

The Northern Pacific Line came over lookout pass; it was not a direct line, but rather a switchback, meaning a train heading west to Wallace had to pull ahead of a switch upgrade from Mullan, Idaho, and then back down the grade into Wallace through Mullan. Leaving eastward, the train would have to back up the hill past the switch, before heading forward to St. Regis. When NP abandoned the line to Wallace, the competing Milwaukee Road was abandoning their Pacific Extension Line from Seattle/Tacoma all the way back to Terry, Montana. The mines in the region were depleted, so there was not much rail traffic to Wallace.

A bit of trivia: The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (aka The Milwaukee Road, reporting marks MILW) mainline ran parallel with the Northern Pacific (NP) mainline from Butte, Montana through Deer Lodge, Garrison (another NP mainline came in from Helena, MT at Garrison), up the valley through Missoula to St. Regis. The MILW main line continued on to Taft, where it turned upgrade to head over the mountains at St. Paul Pass through the St. Paul Pass Tunnel (aka Taft Tunnel) to Avery, Idaho, and following the St. Joe River and valley to St. Maries, ID and eventually Plummer, ID before entering Washington State. At St. Regis, the NP mainline turned north then northeast to follow the Clark Fork River to Paradise through Thompson Falls (both in Montana) and eventually to Sandpoint, Idaho, where it met with the Great Northern (GN), and both running southwest to Spokane, Wa. The GN and NP merged with the CB&Q and SP&S in 1970 to form the Burlington Northern (BN) Railroad. In 1981, both Northern Pacific (branch line) and Milwaukee (mainline) railroad tracks were removed from St. Regis west. :frown: :cry:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Paul_Pass_Tunnel
https://www.saintregismontana.com/history.html
https://www.sandpointonline.com/sandpointmag/sms95/railroading.html

When the Union Pacific abandoned the Plummer-Mullan line in 1991, it was faced a huge cleanup cost because the right of way was heavily contaminated with lead, zinc and mine waste. So the UP agreed to pave over the land creating the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. The UP continues to serve Plummer, and what's left of the MILW line from St. Maries to Plummer continues to operate as a short line, St. Maries River Railroad.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trail_of_the_Coeur_d'Alenes
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Maries_River_Railroad

The only way the rail lines in Wallace, ID would have been economical is for the NP to bore a 3-4 mile tunnel under Lookout Pass, and eliminate the switchback. However, since UP and NP (later BN) were competitors, it was not practical for NP to invest in a tunnel.

Wallace is at an elevation of 2,730 feet above sea level. Mullan further east up the valley is at 3,278 feet. Lookout Pass is about 4711 ft, and a tunnel could have been built at an elevation of ~3700 ft (or 3600 ft) under the ridge where Lookout Pass is located. The challenge for the tunnel would be on the north side of the ridge where it would cross the South Fork Coeur d'Alene River. A rail line would have to meet the old NP right of way (which is now a hiking trail) just east of Shoshone Park in Larson, Idaho.
 
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This hits pretty close to home.
 
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For me, as well. Both my ex-wife and a former lady friend were from Montana, so I've made many trips over Lookout Pass and through Wallace, ID and St. Regis, MT. Both towns are on I-90, an interstate highway that runs from Seattle all the way across the country to Boston. Prior to 1991, Wallace, ID was the last town to have a stop light on this coast-t0-coast route.
 
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Mark44 said:
For me, as well. Both my ex-wife and a former lady friend were from Montana, so I've made many trips over Lookout Pass and through Wallace, ID and St. Regis, MT. Both towns are on I-90, an interstate highway that runs from Seattle all the way across the country to Boston. Prior to 1991, Wallace, ID was the last town to have a stop light on this coast-t0-coast route.
I remember that light, I think it was so enduring due to the fact that Wallace never had much room for a freeway. (the elevated section fixed that though) The "last stoplight", as I remember did sell a lot of Post Cards back in the day, a sort of mix between Fame and Infamy, depending on how fast you wanted to get through town and back on the road.

In keeping with the Thread title, are you familiar with the "Highline" route, Hwy. 2 ?
 
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Oldman too said:
In keeping with the Thread title, are you familiar with the "Highline" route, Hwy. 2 ?
Yes, I've heard of it, but haven't traveled much of it in Montana.
 
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The 1910 fire
Mark44 said:
Yes, I've heard of it, but haven't traveled much of it in Montana.
The fire burned through a large portion of NW Montana, Libby and Sylvanite were destroyed along with about half of Troy. Libby was rebuilt at it's current location to be closer to the Railroad, and Ironically Libby amphibole asbestos, https://www.nature.com/articles/jes201326
 
  • #7
This thread put me in mind of the book by Norman McLean, "A River Runs Through It," a collection of three stories, two of which were made into movies. The most well-known of these was the movie of the same name, staring Brad Pitt and Tom Skerrit. The second in the collection is about McLean's experience working for the Forest Service on the Blackfoot River in 1928. The third story, "USFS 1919, The Ranger, the Cook, and the Hole in the Sky," describes McLean's experience working in the Bitterroot Range on the border of Idaho and Montana in the summer of 1919. This story was made into a made-for-TV movie staring Sam Elliot as the ranger, Ricky Jay as the cook, and Molly Parker in a small role as a waitress in a Hamilton, MT cafe. Molly Parker is problably better known for her roles in Deadwood and House of Cards, and more recently, Goliath, a series staring Billy Bob Thornton.
 
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Related to US Forest Service, National Forests, and The Big Burn (1910)

1. What is the US Forest Service?

The US Forest Service is a federal agency within the US Department of Agriculture that manages and protects national forests and grasslands. It was established in 1905 and is responsible for managing 193 million acres of public lands.

2. What are National Forests?

National Forests are public lands managed by the US Forest Service for multiple uses such as timber production, recreation, and wildlife habitat. There are 154 national forests in the United States, covering over 190 million acres.

3. What was The Big Burn of 1910?

The Big Burn of 1910, also known as the Great Fire of 1910, was a massive wildfire that burned over 3 million acres in Idaho, Montana, and Washington. It is considered one of the largest and most catastrophic wildfires in US history.

4. How did The Big Burn impact the US Forest Service and national forests?

The Big Burn had a significant impact on the US Forest Service and national forests. It led to the development of fire management policies and practices, such as fire suppression and prevention. It also sparked a movement for the conservation and protection of national forests.

5. What lessons were learned from The Big Burn of 1910?

The Big Burn of 1910 taught important lessons about fire management and the importance of conservation and protection of national forests. It also highlighted the need for better communication and cooperation between government agencies and local communities in responding to and managing wildfires.

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