The History of Anaconda and the BAP
You may know the Butte, Anaconda & Pacific Railway (BAP), located in Southwest Montana, for its 20-bay locomotive roundhouse, but it also has a unique history tracing back to the late 1800s. That’s when Marcus Daly, an Irish-born American businessman, founded the town of Anaconda and grew the BAP into the shortline railroad that it is today.
Very much in line with our Patriot Rail & Ports values, Daly founded the BAP on hard work, innovation, and community.
The “Richest Hill on Earth”
Known later as one of the “Copper Kings” of Montana, Daly’s career started in Nevada, where he was a miner on the Comstock Lode. It was here that he developed relationships with several prominent mining investors, such as George Hearst, the father of media mogul William Randolph Hearst.
In the late 1800s, at the height of silver mining, companies throughout the US were actively investigating and purchasing mines. An investor himself, Daly, with the aid of George Hearst, bought “The Alice,” a mine located in Butte, Montana, in 1880. When he made the purchase, Daly thought that it only contained silver. However, after further investigation, what he found would change his life forever and lead to creating the BAP Railway.
One day while working down in “The Alice,” Daly uncovered a rich vein of copper. Shortly after making this discovery, he went to his partners and encouraged them to buy the other mines in the area. They showed little interest. Not to be deterred, Daly invested his own money. That copper vein he found ended up being the “largest bed of the metal discovered up to that time.” Thanks to the upcoming expansion of electricity, Daly was mining the “richest hill on earth.”
The Founding of Anaconda
As the number of people using electricity in the US grew, so did the value of copper. Fortunately for Daly, the mines in Butte had plenty of the ore to go around. As demand increased, a place to smelt all of the mined copper was needed. So in 1883, Daly founded Anaconda, Montana, 26 miles west of Butte.
After founding Anaconda, Daly established the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in 1891. “From the late 1800s to the mid-twentieth century, the mine was one of the state’s largest employers and provided well-paid jobs for several generations.” People came from all over to work in the mines and to operate Daly’s giant smelter. Anaconda became a beacon for immigrants seeking the American dream. The smelter’s towering 585-foot smokestack still stands today as a famous landmark in town.
Construction of the Butte, Anaconda & Pacific Railway
As Daly’s business evolved, he relied heavily on the transcontinental railroads to move Anaconda’s labor force and transport copper ore to his smelter. Fed up with the artificially high freight rates and inconsistent service he received, Daly invested his own money to finance the BAP Railway construction in 1892. He needed a railway that was flexible, easy to work with, and focused on the short line between Anaconda and Butte.
A subsidiary of his mining company, the rail line started hauling copper ore between Butte and Anaconda at the end of 1893. Thirty-three steam locomotives served the railroad before the mainline moved to electricity in 1913. The BAP was the first railroad to convert from steam to electric, and it was the first heavy-haul electrified railroad in the world.
The development of the railway made Daly an even more significant employer in the area. He employed hundreds of people from all over to lay tracks, maintain them, and service freight cars. Anaconda thrived at this time, with many businesses providing services to the railroad’s employees, passengers, and those working the smelter. The town’s population grew from around 4,000 to nearly 9,500 in the 1890s.
The BAP Today
Marcus Daly left a rich legacy in the towns of Butte and Anaconda. Daly believed in hard work, innovation and had a passion for his community. These are values shared by Patriot and still visible in how the BAP Railway operates today.
Matt Mavrinac, our operations manager at the BAP, is a lifelong resident of Anaconda. We made the great decision to hire Matt back in 2001, after his time serving in the Army. Matt grew up passionate about the railway and the community it helped build.
“I’m just living the dream,” Mavrinac says. “I grew up on a commercial street down here and have always loved the tracks.” Like most of today’s residents, his love for Anaconda and its legacy push him to represent the town and railway best. Matt is one of the most charismatic and hardworking people at Patriot Rail & Ports.
Matt and his team have a reputation with our clients and associated railroads as a carrier that is easy to work with and will do whatever it takes to get the job done right. It’s a passion that transcends the BAP and extends back to Marcus Daly. He built a railway focused on service, flexibility, and the two communities of Butte and Anaconda, and that passion lives on in our BAP team members.
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