KUMV: Culbertson Works to Re-Establish Amtrak Stop

Montana has plenty of open roads, but some people don’t want to drive long distances. They’d prefer to fly or ride a train.

Gordon Oelkers has been the mayor of Culbertson for 18 years. He has seen the town grow and he know it takes time.

“It kind of goes in steps. You don’t nothing for six months then you get something going on,” Oelkers said.

For last four years, Culbertson has been working on re-establishing an Amtrak stop that disappeared 40 years ago. And he’s optimistic he’ll succeed.

“Some people say the oil boom is over and why are we working on this? I think it’s going to come back again, if we have the infrastructure when it happens, we’ll be ready for it. It’s an ongoing process to get it done. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s a positive thing for the area,” Oelkers said.

Culbertson residents have to travel 50 miles to board a train. An Amtrak station here would be a big deal.

“I think it would be wonderful. I know there are a lot of people that are really excited about it. That they would be willing to take the train a lot more and go places,” said Shirley Gallegos, Culbertson utility clerk.

“To get the stop back, I think it would be great for the community itself. It would bring in more families in, probably to work. It would help all the businesses out and help everything grow; help the community grow,” said Dewey Hauge, Culbertson resident.

Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., have been doing their part in creating an Amtrak stop in Culbertson. In a recent Senate committee hearing, Daines talked about the stop with Amtrak CEO and President Joseph Boardman.

“What efforts has Amtrak made to work with the Culbertson stakeholders?” Daines asked.

“Specific efforts I can’t testify to right now Mr. Daines. However, I understand your interest and we will work with you and with them to make sure this gets done,” Boardman replied.

With Amtrak and rail line owner BNSF on the same page, they are headed on the right track.

The next step is to secure federal funding. The city says it hopes the federal government can provide $2.5 million needed to build a depot.