Great Northern Railroad Builds Section House

Section House was Kremlin, Montana's First Building, 1901

The Great Northern Railroad built a section house on the current site of Kremlin, Montana in 1901. That section house is said to have been Kremlin's first building.

The building no longer exists, but was located just north of where the Kremlin elevators have always been located, on the north side of the tracks.

A record of the construction of the section house in 1901 and it's renovation in 1944 were found in the "Applications For Expenditures" (AFE) files in the Great Northern Railway Historical Society archives which physically reside at Jackson Street Roundhouse in St. Paul, MN. The AFE files were project files for all purchases, construction or removal of facilities or equipment from the Great Northern Railway property.

For those who don't know, a section house was a building near a railroad section for sometimes housing railroad workers, and for storing maintenance equipment and tools for the section. The railroad companies divided the tracks into sections between 10 and 30 miles long and assigned a foreman and crew to tend each section. A well or cistern accompanied a section house. Section houses provided water, and shelter if needed for the section crew.

In the case of the Great Northern Railroad's section house at Kremlin, Montana, records in the Great Northern Railway archives show that a well was drilled, but we've found no record that it ever produced water.

We do know that there was a cistern with the section house, witnessed by several Kremlin locals as late as the early 60's. It is possible that no good water resulted from the well-drilling efforts, as was the case in most of the Kremlin, Montana area, that the cistern was built instead, and good drinking water hauled in.

In the record of a hearing in 1912 of the Railroad Commission of Montana, we find the following description of the section house and its use:

"There is no depot at Kremlin; there is a cinder platform for the convenience of passengers, and where feight is loaded and unloaded. This platform is directly in front of and distant from the section house about sixty feet."

"The large front room of the section house is set apart for a "waiting room" and is kept warm and comfortable at all times. This affords substantially the same protection and convenience to passengers as would a depot, with the exception that tickets are not on sale."


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