Curator's Corner Blog

Category Archives: Homecoming of the Missoula Streetcar #50

It’s HERE!!!

The Streetcar #50 is finally here!

It was such a wonderful day here Saturday July 28th watching the trolley drive through Fort Missoula and back to its rightful home!

 BUT! We are still keeping the finished project a secret!

Want to be one of the first people to see the #50 in all of its restored glory?

Join us for the exclusive unveiling of Missoula’s last trolley at a reception and gourmet dinner at Fort Missoula on September 8th, 2012.  A reception in the new Fort Missoula Trolley Barn includes a tour of the restored trolley and photo opportunities, followed by a catered dinner by Silk Road Restaurant in Heritage Hall with music and a live auction. The event begins at 4:30 at the Trolley Barn. Single tickets are $100. Reservations can be made with Bob Brown at the Historical Museum, 405-728-3476 extension 1, or by emailing

Want to learn more about the homecoming?
Check out this great Missoulian article- and a video by KTFM!–164524636.html.



The Story of Missoula’s Streetcar #50

Missoula’s first streetcar system began operations in May of 1892 and operated through August of 1897 when re-planking of the Higgins Street Bridge necessitated the removal of the tracks.

In June of 1907, U.S. Senator William A. Clark toured the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Valleys in hopes of forming a trolley system from Great Falls to Missoula, and then south to Hamilton. Clark’s Missoula Street Railway Company was incorporated February 1909 and streetcar service was again available in Missoula from 1910-1932.

Missoula’s street railway track eventually stretched from the University of fort Missoula through the business district, with a loop at the Northern Pacific Railway Station to form a link with the railroad, and then continued on four miles east to Bonner. Over a period of two and a half years, 2,500,000 passengers were served and approximately 1,000,000 car miles were run.

Missoula was the first city in the U.S. to successfully operate a “one-man” trolley system with only one operator per car on Streetcar #50, which ran the Interurban line between fort Missoula and Bonner twice per day from 1912-1932.

The Missoula Street Railway Company was bought by Missoula Public Service in 1924, who operated it until 1928 when Montana Power Company then purchased it.

War and post-war inflation, along with the proliferation of internal combustion engines powering cars and buses throughout Montana, cut into street railway revenues and eventually undermined the state’s systems. Billings, Bozeman and Helena street railway systems collapsed. On January 24, 1932, Missoula’s beloved cars made their last run.

Most of the cars were placed in a tourist camp and later used for housing. In 1974 the only remaining car, the #50, was donated to the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. In 1993 the Museum looked into selling it for commercial use at Caras Park, as it has severely deteriorated from years of being outside in the elements.


Piece by Piece

Completely restoring a 1910 streetcar is not an easy task.  Piece by piece the streetcar was taken apart and restored.But more about that later…

Recently at the Museum, the trucks for Streetcar #50 were hauled off by Iron Horse Welding to be restored. When the trolley comes back in September, it will sit on these trucks in the exhibit, and allow the trolley to be rolled into the building on tracks both inside and outside the Trolley Barn building.

Check out a few images of these huge trucks being towed off! Thanks Iron Horse Welding- can’t wait to see the final project!

It’s Coming Back!

After twenty long years, our Missoula Streetcar #50 will finally be coming home!

In 1993 the streetcar, part of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula’s collections, was sent to Big Sandy, Montana for restoration and preservation. The streetcar is ready to go, and staff and volunteers at the Museum are putting all the final details together to get ready for this homecoming!

Stay tuned on this blog and our Facebook to see all the streetcar happenings, historical facts, restoration information- and of course the  big reveal coming this September!

Check out the Missoulian article written about the homecoming!