Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railway

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former electric locomotive of the BA&P

The Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railway(BAP) is a regional(shortline) railroad in the United States. It was formed on October 1, 1892 and still operates in the state of Montana. Its primary function was to transport copper ore for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company from Butte to Anaconda for smelting. Since the company was incorporated as a general transportation company, it also operated passenger and other freight trains.

Route network

From Butte, the main line runs from an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet (1700 m) first along Silver Bow Creek downstream, following the course of the former Northern Pacific main line, now part of BNSF. Until 1980, the railroad shared the station at the Butte rail junction with the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad(Milwaukee Road), which also ran parallel to the west. At Silver Bow, a neighborhood belonging to Butte, the line, which has always belonged to Union Pacific, approaches from the south from the direction of Pocatello. After about five miles, the narrow-cut valley of Silver Bow Creek is traversed, crossing the Milwaukee Road and Northern Pacific alignments on a steel bridge. After all three alignments turn north and drop to about 1560 feet above sea level, the BAP mainline branches off to the northwest and again runs slightly uphill to Anaconda at 1627 feet above sea level. At Anaconda, a branch line leads west to Browns, and another branch line formerly led east to the Northern Pacific tracks.


Company headquarters of BA&P

The railroad opened its line on January 1, 1894, and was owned, along with the mines and smelters, by Marcus Daly, an entrepreneur known as the Copper King. The main line from Butte to Anaconda to the Washoe smelter was 25.7 miles long (about 42 kilometers), according to timetables; a later branch line from Anaconda further west to Browns was 6.2 miles long (about 9 kilometers).[1] The total length of track on the yards, branches, and plant tracks was 135 miles (about 220 kilometers).[1] 51% of the company was owned by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company and 49% by the Great Northern Railway.[2]

At the beginning of the operation, the company used steam locomotives with the wheel arrangement 1’D and 2’D.

The BA&P was a pioneer company in the field of electric train hauling. Benefiting from the experience of its mining sibling in operating with electric motors, it introduced electric train operation in 1913 as the first railroad in the U.S. primarily engaged in freight service. It was also the first electric rail operation in the U.S. to be introduced from a purely economic standpoint. It was also a practical way to show the world a use for the copper that was mined and transported.[3] The decision was favored by a contract with the Great Falls Power Company, which not only built the necessary power plant but also provided the electricity on more favorable terms than would have been possible with a company-owned power plant.

The contract with General Electric was signed in December 1911 and included the construction of the necessary substations, the supply of locomotives, and the electrification of about 144 kilometers of track. The power was supplied by direct current of 2400 volts voltage, and the construction of the equipment and catenary was done by General Electric and the railroad’s own labor. The catenary consisted of a single line on poles of giant live timber spaced 150 feet (45.72 metres) apart. A power feed to the overhead line occurred every 1000 feet (304.8 meters). Down conductors existed at the tracks at the same spacing. Breakers at certain sections allowed individual sections to be isolated. The substations were built at Butte and Anaconda. Each station housed a 1000-kW unit. The 2400-V three-phase alternating current provided was converted to the desired 2400-V direct current by means of a 1450-kVA synchronous motor and two series-connected, 500-kW 1200-V direct current generators.

17 locomotives of the 80-ton Boxcab type were delivered in 1913 and were given the road numbers 50 to 66. Locomotives 65 and 66 were intended for passenger service and were therefore given a different gear ratio. On May 14, 1913, the first electric locomotive ran on the line and regular electric service began two weeks later. By the beginning of October 1913, all operations on the main line had been converted to electric train hauling.

The traction conversion meant that the same performance could be achieved with three electric locomotives and the appropriate crew as had previously been achieved with four steam locomotives. Between 1913 and 1914, this allowed the railroad to reduce locomotive costs by 40%, crew labor costs by 21%, and overall costs by 36%. At the same time, freight volume increased by 8.8%. With savings of about $242,000 a year and total investment costs of $1,211,000, payback was expected within five years. The increased efficiency on the line eliminated the need to haul approximately 3000 tons of ore to a smelter in Great Falls and transported it directly to Anaconda. To make this 25 percent increase in hauling volume possible, a second substation was built at Anaconda in 1914/1915 and another four locomotives were purchased. In addition, four so-called “tractor trucks” were acquired. These two-axle vehicles corresponded to one of the locomotives’ bogies and were weighted accordingly. This additional powered vehicle increased the starting tractive effort by 50%. A further seven locomotives were acquired in 1915/1916. In addition, another substation was built at each of Butte and Anaconda. Thus, a power of 3000 kW was finally installed in Butte and 4000 kW in Anaconda. Due to the gradient conditions, 5600 tons could be transported westwards with two locomotives, but only 2000 tons eastwards.[4] Since the eastbound ore trains usually ran empty in order to be reloaded in Butte, this circumstance was not so serious.

In 1957, two electric locomotives were added to the original fleet of 28 locomotives[3] GE 125-ton electric were added. In addition, a 2500-kW Ignitron automatic rectifier substation was built at Dawson. For operation on the non-electrified sections, the last steam locomotives had been replaced by diesel locomotives a few years earlier. Following a settlement of trackage rights, the BA&P began operating on the Northern Pacific Railway line between Butte and Durant in 1958. In 1967, electric service on the domestic line was discontinued because the construction of a new ore dressing plant at Butte greatly reduced the necessary traffic on the main line and shunting trips, and the use of the diesel locomotives – three GP7s and four GP9s[1] – was therefore cheaper.[3]

After the Anaconda smelters closed, the railroad lost most of its transportation business and was sold to the state of Montana in 1985. A consortium of regional investors formed Rarus Railway (RARW) to operate and acquired ownership of the railroad in 1990. On July 19, 2007, the holding company Patriot Rail Corporation, which purchased Rarus Railway in May 2007, announced it would rename the company back to Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railway.[5]


Company no. Vehicle type Manufacturer Year of manufacture Operating time Comment
10 Steam locomotive 2’B ALCO – Brooks 1893 1893- ca. 1900 1893 taken over by Great Northern as No. 31,
1898 renumbered “10”,
sold to Columbia Southern Ry ca. 1900
10 Steam locomotive 2’C ALCO – Brooks 1906 1906–1953 second cast of No. 10
24 Steam locomotive 2’D ALCO – Schenectady 1906 1906–1917 1917 sold to General Equipment Co
T-1 to T-3 Slug General Electric 1914/1915 1914–1967
39–66 80-ton Boxcab General Electric 1913–1917 1913–1967
100 SW1000 EMD 1955 1972–1981
101–103 GP7 EMD 1952/1953 1952–
104–107 GP9 EMD 1957 1957–
108+109 GP 38-2 EMD 1977/1978 1977–
201+202 125-ton Electric General Electric 1957 1957–1967
201–203 GP9 EMD 1957 2005– Understudy by Rarus Railroad
301 GP7 EMD 1953 1991–
302 GP9 EMD 1957 1992–
1010+1011 GP39-2 EMD 1976/1980 2007–
2010+2011 GP38-2 EMD 1973 2007–


  • Charles V. Mutschler: Wired for Success: The Butte, Anaconda & Pacific Railway, 1892-1985. Washington State University Press, Pullman (Washington) 2002.
  • William D. Middleton: When the steam railroads electrified. 2. Revised edition. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN 2001, ISBN 0-253-33979-0 (American English).

Web links

Commons: Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railway– Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual references

  1. a b c Butte, Anaconda And Pacific Railway(Memento of February 9, 2014 in the Internet Archive)
  2. Poor’s manual of railroads 1903
  3. a b c George H. Drury: The Historical Guide to North American Railroads. 2. Edition. Kalmbach Publishing Co, Waukesha 1999, ISBN 0-89024-356-5, pp. 61-62.
  4. Donald Sims: Copper Hauler. In: Railroad Magazine. March 1954, p. 87 ( PDF).
  5. Rarus Railway Brings Rail History to Life, Changes Name to Butte, Anaconda & Pacific Railway Company.(No longer available online.) Patriot Rail Corporation, July 19, 2007, archived from the original on September 30,2007; retrievedAugust31,2012 (English). Info: Thearchive linkwas automatically inserted and has not yet been checked. Please check original and archive link according to instructions, then remove this notice.@1@2Template:Web archive/IABot/