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Although the 2010 census records that Marmarth has 136 residents, the village, situated at the Little Missouri River bridge crossing of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (the Milwaukee Road), might seem a ghost town to many visitors. This is partly because of the outsized vision of the town’s original promoters. Established in 1907 by the railroad, Marmarth was a classic case of aggressive townsite speculation. Until 1916 the railway terminated in a roundhouse here, effectively confirming this was the end of the line. Until consolidation of the Milwaukee Road with the BNSF railways in 1982, Marmarth functioned as a railroad section change station on the main line to the Pacific Northwest. The architecturally distinctive railroad baggage and freight station was demolished in 1909. In 1915, Marmarth featured the first municipal electric light plant in the county, and beginning in 1927, it was the first town or city of any size in North Dakota to have an abundant supply of natural gas for domestic and commercial use, which came from the Montana Gas Field southwest of the town. Marmarth was once an important tourist destination on the Yellowstone Trail (U.S. 12), with a popular tourist camp for motoring travelers. With the decline of highway travel on U.S. 12 and railroad consolidation, historic Marmarth is barely a way stop today, although it remains a base camp for hunting dinosaur fossils.

Writing Credits

Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay

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