We took a hit in 1986, but look what’s happened since

Thirty-five years ago this month, in 1986, Livingston took a big hit.

Burlington Northern Railroad suddenly pulled out, taking with it more than 300 good-paying jobs. Gloom permeated the town. Real estate prices plummeted. People wondered what would happen to the city.

But here we are 35 years later, still going strong.

The earthquake-like event marked the end of the railroad playing a completely dominant role in the local economy and life, as it had since Northern Pacific first opened its locomotive repair shops in the late 1880s. 

But in the railroad’s place has sprung up a more diverse economy, and with it, a richly varied culture. 

Today, Livingston and the surrounding area is no longer just a “railroad town.” Over the years it has mixed old and new, traditional and contemporary to now become an artist and writer’s town, a rancher’s town, an environmentalist’s town, a miner and logger’s town, a fly fisher’s town, a conservative and liberal’s town, a cowboy and mountain bike rider’s town, all living together in a melting pot piece of paradise where everyone — from wolf lovers to wolf haters, Democrats to Republicans, pro-bison to anti-bison, vegans and steak eaters — live together in relative peace, mingling without too much ruckus in bars, theaters, churches, fraternal organizations, and high school gymnasiums.

An ad campaign for the city headed up by Vision Livingston encapsulates all this with billboards that talk about Livingston being a place where a wide variety of people — such as bull riders and artists — meet.

Losing the railroad was a blow. But in its place is a new, revitalized town we all proudly call home.

— Dwight Harriman
Enterprise News Editor

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