Mountain-top view of Alberton MT in 2006. Note the open land east of town (top right). Today, this bench is a subdivision homes. Prior, it grew alfalfa and pastured livestock as part of the historic  and long-lived Thompson Ranch. c) ViZzlo
What the Milwaukee needed was land
for a right-of-way, train station, and rail yards to service their state-of-the-art steam engines. In 1907, the Company surveyed this stretch of Montana river corridor for the Milwaukee Railroad.
The Milwaukee Railroad became known for its distinctive colors. You can touch an  authentic yellow and orange boxcar at the Alberton Town Museum.
The Terminal Station at Alberton was commenced in 1908, and finished by 1909. The company laid rail across the country in only three years -- a record at the time.  Originally, the Alberton station -- which included quarters for railroad crews to rest up -- was called Browntown.
Locals were on hand to celebrate the opening of the train trestle at Cyr, Montana, three miles west of Alberton.
Yellow Cars Are Running At Last
July 19,1909, Missoulian:

The first regular passenger train from Butte to Alberton arrived on time. What only a few years earlier had been the homesteads of Henry Brown and Charles Poirier was now a Milwaukee railroad town. This was to be the headquarters of the Missoula Division of the Puget Sound Company. A large depot, a brick eight-stall roundhouse and concrete turntable were all ready for operation. In one end of the Depot was a restaurant, owned by the Railroad Company, called the "Beanery."
The Milwaukee Railway Station in Alberton still stands today, serving as our community center and library. c) Alberton Train Station 1912.
As legend has it, the town was named Alberton to honor one or two men called Albert: First was the President of the Milwaukee Railroad Albert J. Earling; the other was Alexander Albert, one of the first settlers in the area.
When the Ice Dam Broke
About 13,000 years ago, a gigantic lake -- thousands of feet deep in places -- covered the valleys of Western Montana, including this stretch of land known as Alberton.

The Glacial Lake Missoula website explains, "Glacial Lake Missoula formed as the Cordilleran Ice Sheet dammed the Clark Fork River just as it entered Idaho. The rising water behind the glacial dam weakened it, until water burst through in a catastrophic flood that raced across Idaho, Oregon, and Washington toward the Pacific Ocean." Over the centuries, the lake "filled and emptied in repeated cycles, leaving its story embedded in the land."
Alberton's Natural Pier Bridge is a popular landmark that clearly reveals the effects of scouring water after an ice dam broke on prehistoric Lake Missoula.
First US Senator from Newly Formed Mineral County (1915) is an Albertonian.
Orville Grant Willett - Philipsburg Mail (1923)
"Mr. Willett became sick while serving in the Legislature in Helena in 1917. Diagnosed with leprosy, the Willets returned to Montana."

The 1923 Philipsburg Mail article further reports that the Willett's "were not lonely, as they had been given a radio that would receive broadcast from distances of up to 2,000 miles away. Mrs. Willett also had a piano and a victrola to help pass the time. They gardened and did as much as the weakened Mr.Willett could do. He and his wife were quarantined to a house on the river bank two and one half miles west of Alberton ~ what is now the Interstate's eastbound rest stop.

The Willets stayed here for more than five years before traveling by train to the new Leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana.

Mr. Willett passed away on January 10, 1928."
The legendary Milwaukee Railroad had electrified much of its transcontinental railway by the 1920s, including the part that ran through Alberton Montana.
This historic building lived for 104 years in the heart of Alberton. Felled by a Christmas Eve fire in 2013, it was then being called the Ghost Rails Inn.
The Town was incorporated in 1920. Our first Mayor was named Elmer Slater. In 1925, cement sidewalks replaced the boardwalks. Electricity came in 1929, and telephones in 1954. The trains stopped running in 1986, but residents like to say that the railroading "can do" spirt of the west still lives!

To learn more about Alberton, Montana, stop by the Museum and you can touch an authentic boxcar and sit in a real caboose. Live the History for yourself. Every third Saturday in July is Alberton Railroad Day. Join us.
Alberton, Montana 406 722-3404
Alberton Montana town administration informationAlberton Montana town administration information
ALBERTON HISTORY: Living with the Past to Enrich the Future
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CONTACT Us: 406 722-3404
Railway Company President Albert J. Earling himself chose the north bank of the Clark Fork River here at Alberton. Two families were homesteading at the time: Henry and Catherine Brown, who had been working the narrow bench land since 1891, and Amadie and Phoebe Agnes Poirier, who began homesteading here in 1899.
Alberton MT
(406) 722-3404
The founding of Alberton, Montana, has its roots in the iconic Milwaukee Railroad, which began its quest for a route across America to the Pacific Coast in the early 1900s. The path they chose led them to a narrow Clark Fork River corridor just west of Missoula, Montana.
Alberton Montana celebrates our railroad heritage every July! Learn more.
Alberton saw its first Milwaukee Steam Engine in 1909. By 1916, the train was running on electricity. c) Pictured: electrified engine Alberton 1961.
The Milwaukee Railroad ran through Alberton until the company (and its roadbed) was sold. Children of that era recall the overhead electrical wires and the railroad tracks that crossed the only road through town...and warnings from mothers not to "cross the line."
Visitors to Alberton, Montana, can still see the false-front "frontier-style" architecture in buildings along Railroad Avenue.
The Clark Fork River runs through Mineral County and the greater Alberton community. The public has access through state and federal lands. Additionally, local rafting companies offer trips through this bedrock area rich with history of the Ice Age Floods.
A popular Clark Fork River destination west of Alberton is the Purple Cliffs.
Every year folks enjoy a river adventure that offers white-water rapids. Pictured below is Cinderella Mountain at I-90  Exit 77 to Alberton.
The Alberton Gorge Recreation Area west of Alberton off Interstate 90 sees thousands of visitors each summer. In the late fall, it's the call of the Hunt that travelers may hear. Winter is enlivened at the Lookout Pass Ski Resort located at the Mineral County, Montana / Idaho border.