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Coaching in Yellowstone

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Coaching in Yellowstone Park

Development of the Transportation Companies in Yellowstone


The earliest commercial transportation venture in the Park seems to be Jack Baronett’s toll bridge, built in 1871 near Tower junction over the Yellowstone River. He built a cabin on the bench above the junction of the Lamar and Yellowstone Rivers, and charged a $1.00 a head for man or beast to cross. In 1873, John Werks, George Huston, and Frank Grounds operated a primitive pack and saddle business at Mammoth. Stagecoach service was started in 1874 with ‘Zack Roots Express’ weekly service on Mondays from Bozeman to Mammoth, carrying both freight and passengers.


The construction of a primitive road by Supt. Norris and his crew from Mammoth to Lower

Geyser Basin in 1878 allowed Marshall & Goff to start a stagecoach business in 1880 to access the Geyser Basins and Marshall’s Hotel. During the next 36 years numerous companies operated stagecoach lines, including Wakefield & Hoffman, Yellowstone Transportation Co., Yellowstone National Park Transportation Co., Monida & Yellowstone Stage Co. (F.J. Haynes), Cody-Sylvan Pass Co., Wylie Camping Co., and Shaw & Powell Camping Co.


After the 1916 season, all transportation companies were merged into a monopoly, called the

Yellowstone Park Transportation Co., headed by Harry W. Child. In August of 1915, automobiles were first allowed into the Park. That year and the following one was a time of transition with both modes of travel operating under strict guidelines. This act of 1915 brought major changes to the entire way of doing business in the Park. With the shortened travel times now available, hotels were no longer needed at Fountain and Norris. Many tent camps were also closed. The increased travel times and freight tonnage available with motorized trucks eliminated the need for the various dairy and slaughterhouse operations inside the Park. Also, with the elimination of the “weed-burners’, the park’s pastures would no longer be needed for the intense grazing that had been necessary.


In 1917 the stagecoaches and stock were sold out, and Child, with loans of over $400,000 from

the railroads, purchased 117 White Motor buses and various service trucks. These were headquartered at the barns built in 1903-04 at Mammoth. Plans were finalized for new facilities in Gardiner in 1924, but in March of 1925, the buildings at Mammoth burned, along with at least 93 vehicles. It took a giant effort by the White Motor Company to get new auto stages to the park for spring opening. The new garages in Gardiner were completed later that year. In 1936 the YPTC was merged with other Park concessionaires into the Yellowstone Park Company under Wm. Nichols, Child’s’ son-in-law.


As automobiles took over, the need for improvement of the roadbeds became a priority.

Gradually, the roads were widened, oiled, graveled, and ultimately paved. The maintenance of the roads was and still is a constant problem. The need for auto campgrounds and gas filling stations became apparent, and eventually facilities were established at all major locations. Yellowstone Park Service Stations currently runs the gas stations and is independently owned.

The Railroad Era


The influences of the early railroad companies, although now lone gone from the local scene,

reaches back into the earliest days of ‘official exploration’ of the Park. Nathaniel Langford of the

Washburn Expedition of 1870, was an employee of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Through the influence of his boss Jay Cooke, financial agent of the NPRR, Langford was a strong advocate for the railroad interests in park affairs, as were other influential people connected with the park.


By 1883, four railroad companies have achieved transcontinental status, receiving vast tracts

of lands adjacent to their right-of-ways as their incentive. In order to recover their costs and increase travel along these lines, the railroads needed to create reasons for people to travel west. These included land sales for homesteading, ranching, farming, and business opportunities in the newly established towns along the way. Promotion of resort areas and natural wonders was another ploy to attract travelers from the moneyed classes.


Yellowstone was the target of this last type of promotion by the Northern Pacific Railroad in

1882. In that year surveys had been made into the heart of the park in hopes of extending rail lines to all the important points of interest. Also there was a push to run tracks along the northern border to Cooke City in order the service the gold mines there. Eventually, through the actions of the Secretary of Interior, Congress, and various sportsman groups and concerned citizens, these plans were thwarted. The gateway communities became the ‘end of the line’.


In 1883 the NPRR extended a line from Livingston to Cinnabar called ‘the Park Branch Line’.

It had stopped there instead of continuing on to Gardiner because of lack of access through certain private lands. Construction of the National Hotel at Mammoth had started earlier this year, and was partially open for business in late summer. This was the first hotel built in the park that hoped to cater strictly to the upper class visitors. By 1911 luxury hotels had been constructed at all major locations with financial backing by the NPRy.


Other railroads companies joined in the competition for park business with Union Pacific RR entering West Yellowstone in 1907. The Burlington & Chicago reached Cody in 1901, and the Milwaukee extended service to Gallatin Gateway in 1927. Land claims were eventually settled in Gardiner, and the NPRy reached that town in 1902, with the depot and Arch being built the following year.


The railroads continued to exert influence on park business into the 1900’s with outright

 wnership or majority interests in the hotel companies and some of the transportation companies. By 1907, NPRy had sold its stock and direct interests in the hotels, but continued to actively promote the park and provided loans to H.W. Child for construction and improvements. The railroads continued to provide financial assistance to Park businesses until after WWII. Demand for railroad services after that time decreased rapidly with the increase in the use of automobiles for vacation travel. Regular scheduled passenger railroad service ended in Gardiner in 1948, Cody in 1956, and West Yellowstone and Gallatin Gateway in 1961.

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