West Glacier, MT (WGL)
Constructed sometime between 1906 and 1910, the depot features rough-hewn siding that gives it a rustic appearance in keeping with other early buildings in Glacier National Park.
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2021): 3,909
- Facility Ownership: N/A
- Parking Lot Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Platform Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Track Ownership: BNSF Railway
Amtrak passengers at West Glacier use the platform adjacent to the historic Belton depot, which now houses a retail shop run by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The non-profit group assures the Glacier National Park experience by providing support for preservation, education and research through philanthropy and outreach.
Rough-hewn siding extends over the entire structure and gives it a rustic appearance that blends well with the surrounding park. The center of the building includes a prominent cross-gable with a clipped gable roof. One of the conservancy’s predecessor organizations received the depot in 1991 as a donation from the Burlington Northern Railroad (now part of BNSF). It was renovated with attention to the cultural history and significance of its original use, and its overall appearance has changed little through the years.
Great Northern Railway (GN) moved through this part of Montana in 1891 as it worked to complete its transcontinental line between St. Paul, Minn. and Seattle. The new community, known as “Belton” after an early settler named Bell, had a depot (two box cars, one of which was the station agent’s residence), hotel, saloon, store and post office. As word spread of the region’s beauty and abundant wildlife, tourism began in and around what is today Glacier National Park. To serve these new passengers, the railroad constructed the current wood frame depot sometime between 1906 and 1910–accounts vary on the exact year. It was later enlarged in 1935, with the older section becoming the baggage and express area.
In an effort to further foster tourism to the Rocky Mountains, which early boosters romantically termed the “American Alps,” the GN built a series of nine Swiss chalet-type hotels in the region beginning in 1909. One of the first of these resort hotels was the Belton Chalet, erected south of the depot and connected to it by a trellised pathway. It opened in June, 1910, a month after President William Howard Taft designated the area a national park.
The GN is considered to have been America’s premier northern trans-continental railroad. It was formed in 1889 by James J. Hill, who orchestrated the merger of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad with the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railway. Hill holds a special place in railroad history and lore, and is known as the “Empire Builder.” Whereas most transcontinental lines were built with federal assistance in the form of federal land grants, the GN did not utilize this method.
Hill’s business acumen guided the planning and construction of the GN. Much of the upper Midwest and West was sparsely settled, so instead of racing across the continent, the GN developed the regions through which it traveled as it steadily moved toward the Pacific. This action helped settle the land and created a customer base. Hill the businessman actively sought to establish trade links with Asia, and the railroad is credited with putting sleepy Seattle on the map and transforming it into an important and powerful Pacific Ocean port after the railroad reached the West Coast in 1893.
Platform only (no shelter)
- ATM not available
- No elevator
- No payphones
- No Quik-Trak kiosks
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- No vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- No payphones
- Accessible platform
- Accessible restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- Accessible waiting room
- Accessible water fountain
- Same-day, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- No wheelchair lift