Hidden History on the border

People drive by the state’s only railroad tunnel and don’t even know it.  It’s hidden history on the border.  That last couple miles on Highway 200 headed into Montana takes people alongside a quarter-mile long tunnel, hidden from view.

Then, they pop over the hills and if they’re observant, looking south, they’ll see the state’s only liftbridge.

The Fairview Liftbridge lit up with spotlights.

Once a year, the Fairview Lift Bridge is spotlighted.

  Once a year they can’t miss it.  The annual Lighting of the Bridge paints the bridge with spotlights and fireworks.

That’s why we went there on November 12 — the annual Lighting of the Bridge.  (It was on the regional events calendar. )


Fairview Lights the Bridge


Santa and Mrs. Claus with children

Santa and his wife greeted children at the event.

The Christmas season is initiated with Santa, horse-drawn wagon rides, hot chocolate, chili and of course Santa and his beautiful happy wife.


The bridge is on full display, thanks to a set of spotlights set up for the evening.

We parked at the end of the bridge, about a half hour before the start of the festivities just so we could scope out a good site to shoot the fireworks. 

Like dozens of others, we hiked across the bridge.  Along the way are benches and “bump-outs” where people like to sit and watch the Yellowstone River flow beneath. 

Couple under blanket on bridge overlooking nighttime activities.

A couple keeps warm under a blanket on a “bump-out” on the Fairview Lift Bridge over Sundheim Park.

Chunks of ice were bumping into the shoreline and the piers headed a few more miles to the confluence with the Missouri River, about 15 miles away.

ice hunks on the Yellowstone River at sunset near Fairview and Cartwright

This time of year, the glow of sunset is toward the southwest and reflects over the Yellowstone River with its ice chunks.

When Fairview lights the bridge, the intricate steelwork above is seen like no other time.  We like to study the way it all fits together.  We identify the section of bridge that is cabled to the machinery on top that would have been used if the bridge were to have become a functioning lift bridge. 

cross hatches in the beams and girders in the through truss bridge

The beams and girders overhead in the superstructure of this through truss bridge create a pattern illuminated by the spotlights below.


Go here to read the strange history of why it did not get used after it was built.

Getting Ready

Silhouette of the Fairview Liftbridge with sunset behind and the town of Fairview Montanta

Cold clouds on a comfortable mid-autumn night, the town of Fairview in the distance and the silhouette of the Fairview Lift Bridge.

Unlike dozens of others who went into the tunnel, we climbed the hill above it on the east end of the bridge.

We picked out our spot, we walked back down where we met Roy Trumpower.  He’s the energy behind the “Save the Tunnel” effort and is a member of the “Fairview Friends of the Bridge.” When Fairview lights the bridge, he’s there to see that it happens. He shared the credit for the event with the half-dozen others who help promote the Fairview Lift Bridge and the Cartwright Tunnel.  If the two landmarks stay open to visitors, it’s the group he works with that will get the credit.Kids bundled up, enjoying hot chocolate and candy cane.

At the bottom of the hill, we found a long line of families and children waiting to ride the horse-drawn wagon. 

The line wound past the food table and the singer.

A singer sits near the crowd entertaining them with Christmas songs.

The crowd was entertained by a singer who performed non-stop Christmas songs.

Horses and children in Christmas decorations ready for a horse-drawn wagon ride.

Horses wait for the next load of children and families to ride around Sundheim Park.

Then at 7:00 Mountain Time we were in place on the spot we’d scoped out.  The fireworks were the hit of the evening.


spotlights illuminted the superstructure of the through truss bridge and the counterweight towers that were designed to lift one section of the bridge

Moments before the fireworks, Fairview lights the bridge with spotlights that were turned off when the fireworks began.






(Want to see and hear it?  You’ll find the link down below.) 

A half-hour later, the crowds began to head home.

People gather under the trees in the lights at Sundheim Park at Fairview.

It was the biggest turnout ever for the Lighting of the Bridge.

It’s estimated a thousand people from Montana and North Dakota were laughing and smiling at the christening of the 2017 Christmas season.



The next day, we returned to be greeted by the talisman of the bridge. 

But, that’s another story.

metal sculpture of clown on hill

Who dat?



Do you know about the metal sculpture we call a talisman at the east end of the bridge?






Turn it up!  Here’s the video! 

YouTube player



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