Milwauke Railroads

Pedersen Collection

The largest HO scale collection of Milwaukee Road models in the United States tells the story of railroads in Central Montana including the Montana Railroad (the Jawbone), the Milwaukee Road, the White Sulphur Springs & Yellowstone Park Railroad, the BNSF and Montana Rail Link.

Harlowton was first known as Merino, Montana. A stage stop, Merino was a combination saloon, post office, general store and stable. Merino’s few residents enticed Richard Harlow to bring his railroad (The Montana railroad) to Merino in exchange for naming the “town” after him. Harlo bit and Harlowton was platted in 1900 by The Montana Railroad Company. The first lot was sold to a barber.

The Montana railroad depot and yard were located behind the current Wheatland County Courthouse and the Catholic Church. The Milwaukee Road bought The Montana Railroad and moved the depot and yard to their current location.

The Montana Railroad (the Jawbone) was founded by Helena attorney Richard Harlow. Wanting to connect Helena to Castle and the Musselshell Valley, Harlow started The Montana in 1896. In spite of the abandonment of Castle in 1989, Harlow grew The Montana until it reached Lewistown. In 1908 the Milwaukee bought The Montana and incorporated it into the Milwaukee’s system. Most famous for the “Eagle’s Nest” tunnel south of Ringling, this section of the Milwaukee became critical to the railroad’s success. Harlowton was the eastern terminus of the Milwaukee’s electrified system across Montana and Idaho and served as the main line terminus for the Milwaukee’s branch lines to Lewistown, Great Falls, and northern Montana.


The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad completed its western extension in 1910. After buying out The Montana Railroad owners, the Milwaukee began transcontinental service in 1911. One of only three transcontinental railroads in the United States (the Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific being the other two), the Milwaukee Road often carried as much freight and as many passengers as it two regional railroad competitors; the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific Railroads.

Electrified from Harlowton west to Avery, Idaho, the Milwaukee had the longest electric railroad in the United States; over 450 mountainous miles. At one point, over 300 men and women worked on the Milwaukee Road in Harlowton.

The Milwaukee Road dropped its electrified system in 1974; just months before the OPEC oil embargo of the United States. The electric system cost the Milwaukee the equivalent of 13 cents per miles in diesel fuel costs. By the time the electrification system was abandoned, the railroad was paying 26 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. The increased fuel costs and the poor condition of the rail system itself led to the demise of the western extension and, in 1985, the railroad itself. An innovative railroad, the Milwaukee introduced unit grain and coal trains to America’s rails. The railroad also built the first full dome/lounge car in rail passenger history; a design still used by Amtrak today.


The BNSF is only railroad still operating in Wheatland County, Montana. Traversing the northeast corner of the county, the BNSF’s main line does not come to Harlowton but does serve Judith Gap north of Harlo.

Montana Rail Link has a long history with the Milwaukee Road. Milwaukee rolling stock is still seen today on Montana Rail Link’s main line across Southern Montana. After the demise of the Milwaukee, Rail Link’s owner, Dennis Washington of Missoula, Montana, bought a significant portion of the Milwaukee’s Midwestern operations and named it I & M Rail Link. Operating in four states, I & M Rail Link was eventually purchased by the Canadian Pacific Railway.


This collection includes over 550 models – some 450 models of the Milwaukee Road are found here. It is the largest collection of Milwaukee Road models in the United States today.

Assembled by the Pedersen Family, with a major contribution by Emmet “Ty” Typolt’s children, the collection continues to grow. The Milwaukee Road collection is limited to equipment that actually saw service in Harlowton.


John and Ida Belle Pedersen were life long residents of Harlowton, Montana. John retired off the Milwaukee Road after 30 years of service. Ida Belle was Harlowton’s pastry chef for many years. She baked cakes, pies and cookies and other treats for several Harlowton restaurants including Murray’s Café.

Ty Typolt Layout

Important to this collection is the model train layout of Emmet “Ty’ Typolt. Ty was a Milwaukee Road employee who owned a model train store in Helena for three decades after his retirement. Ty died in 2009 at the age of 91. Ty’s children donated the layout to the museum in Ty’s memory.


If you would like to contribute funds or models to this collection, please contact a museum docent or the curator.

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