Our next stop in Montana was in the small town of Lewistown (pop 5,800) for a seven night stay.
It continued to be very hot (mid 90s) but the hot spell finally broke our last couple of days here and we had some pleasant temperatures. One nice thing about Montana is that even though the summer days are very hot, it cools down quickly after sunset. The last couple of nights in Lewistown we had nightly lows in the middle 40’s.
No matter where we travel we always find interesting and unique places to visit. First we visited the National Register of Historical Places: Lewistown Satellite Airfield Historic District. This satellite airfield was constructed in Lewistown during World War II as one of four training facilities for B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft crew members.
It included a small one story building constructed of concrete which was the storage site for the top secret Norden Bombsight used by the bombardiers during their training. The top secret Norden Bombsight is a synchronous stabilized bomb aiming device. Divided into two vaults, the Norden device was only accessible through bank vault doors. This Bombsight storage shelter which housed the Bombsight is one of the few such buildings left in the country.
The Lewistown satellite field was built as a satellite field for Great Falls Air Base and was completed in 1942. Squadrons were trained in the navigation of the B-17 as well as receiving gunnery and bombing practice. Once their training was finished, the men were sent to Europe. The Lewistown airfield was operated for twelve months between 1942 and 1943 and then deactivated. The historic district has 23 original structures still standing including the recreation building, large hangar, operations building, armament building and housing. Today the area serves as the town’s municipal airport.
The 1996 John Travolta movie “Broken Arrow” was filmed near Lewistown. Some of the more dangerous scenes were filmed along 40 miles of railroad track on the privately owned Central Montana Railroad.
The above trestle is not available by car. We had looked forward to riding the Charlie Russell Chew Choo dinner train which travels 56 miles through the countryside on a spur track built in 1912-1913. Unfortunately like so many other things this summer, the train ride was a casualty of the coronavirus and all trips for the rest of the summer season have been canceled. Here is a picture Bill took of the Chew Choo train sitting lonely without any riders. If we had been able to ride this train it would have gone over the trestle used in the movie.
Instead we had to settle for this nearby trestle.
On this end of the tracks was over 100 empty railroad cars used for petroleum oil.
Another day we stopped by Symmes Park for a geocache. It was a nice city park with a replica of the Statue of Liberty. This statue was erected in the early 1950s as part of a Boy Scout project across the country to help celebrate 40 years of scouting. There were more than 200 Liberty replicas put up around the country and Lewistown purchased one of them.
Also in Symmes Park was a LGM-30A Minuteman I missile. The Minuteman I missiles were placed in their silos in the early 1960s and in late 1966. This Minuteman I missile was placed here to commemorate the fifty Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles deployed in this area. Underground silos containing the nuclear-warhead missiles are spread across northern Montana.
The park also had a 240 mm Howitzer on display since 1959. It could shoot a 360 pound projectile fourteen miles!
Another beautiful park was Frank Day Park with a Labyrinth garden where we found another geocache.
Nearby were exhibits on the history of central Montana railroads. The first train arrived in Lewistown in late 1903. Due to the World War 1 years and Montana’s poor economy during the 1920s, expansion of the rail line into North Dakota was never completed. The railroad era in Lewistown ended in 2003.
On Sunday we visited the Veterans Memorial Park. We found a geocache here and enjoyed walking around the park.
It is one of the few veterans parks which has a statue to remember the mothers left behind. Very touching place to spend time.
We enjoyed our time in Lewistown in spite of the excessive heat. It is amazing to see all the interesting places that can be found in these small towns. We are often led to these places when searching for geocaches.
Next up: Billings, our final stop in Montana