Recollections of a Vanished Era in Montana
By Leroy W. Demery, Jr.
We came across an interesting narrative of life in the (former) smelter town of Anaconda, Montana. The excerpt below  is from a Facebook page titled “Anaconda Streetcars.”
The writer, “Lorene,” describes a childhood experience during the years immediately following World War II.
First, a bit of background: Copper ore, mined in nearby Butte, was smelted at Anaconda from 1883. The Washoe (or “new”) smelter southeast of town was opened in 1902 and became the the world’s largest non-ferrous metal processing facility. The Anaconda smelter was closed in 1980 and demolished. The location is now a large “Superfund” cleanup site. The single remaining structure is the huge smelter chimney (known locally as “the stack”).
The Anaconda Street Railway was built to provide transportation to the smelter, and opened on September 1, 1890. The Opportunity line, described below, was opened in 1915 to serve a residential community southeast of Anaconda. This was built by the mining company for employees who wished to live away from the bars, bordellos and smelter-generated pollution of Anaconda.
“In 1947-1949, my parents lived in various rental houses on E. 6th and on the 500 block of Alder St. The "Galloping Goose" made several round trips throughout the day to and from Opportunity, and we kids would have our mothers pack a sack lunch (mine was usually a bologna or peanut butter sandwich, with a small bag of chips or an apple or orange, and ALWAYS a bottle of Orange Crush in the brown bottle), and we could go down to Alder and 3rd St., and catch the streetcar and ride down to Opportunity, where the track ended at the Country Club. The streetcar conductor would walk to the other end of the car, flipping the seat backs in the other direction as he went, greet any new riders, take their nickel, and begin the journey back to Anaconda (there was no turn around--the cars would be driven from either end).

“We kids would get off and play on the expanse of green grass across the street from the clubhouse, and eat our sack lunches, play tag, and just lay on the soft and lush green grass and watch the white fluffy clouds pass by and dream a beautiful summer day away. I remember that we girls often picked the numerous dandelions on long stems and tried to braid them into a lei to be worn around our necks, but the dandelions always drooped and wilted almost immediately after being picked.

“A few hours later, the streetcar would return and the conductor would flip the seatbacks in the other direction, collect our nickels as we got back in for the ride back home, go to the other end of the streetcar and begin the trip back to Anaconda. There were seldom any other riders during those sunny, lazy summer days.

“Today, if parents allowed their children to go to 5 miles away from home for hours at a time unsupervised, they would probably be charged with child neglect. There was never any worry of children being abducted, raped or killed--we never heard of such a thing.
“... Those lazy, warm summer days were quite an inexpensive treat, at only one nickel each way, it cost a total of ten cents for 3 or 4 hours or so of pleasure.”
“Lorene” makes clear that she is well aware that the world has changed much over the past six decades.
The Anaconda Street Railway became a division of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company by 1902, and operated thereafter as its “Electric Light and Railway Department.” Annual traffic peaked at more than two million ca. 1917; we note that the population of Anaconda was about 10,000 at this time. The Opportunity line never carried much traffic; we estimate that the annual total ranged between 30,000 and 90,000 per year. Anaconda streetcars continued operation through World War II and beyond. Aging infrastructure and cars, and years of operating losses, prompted the company to withdraw service. Operation ended on December 31, 1951, by which time the system had become the last streetcar operation in Montana.
A privately-operated bus system - which the mining company was eventually forced to subsidize - replaced the streetcars and operated until the smelter was closed.
The Anaconda Street Railway carbarn, a brick structure built in 1892, stood for many years following the end of streetcar service but was demolished in 2008.
For Further Reading:
Morris, Patrick F. 1997. Anaconda, Montana: Copper Smelting Boom Town on the Western Frontier. Bethesda (MD, US): Swann Publishing.
Swett, Ira L. 1970. Montana’s Trolleys - II: Butte, Anaconda [and] Butte Anaconda & Pacific [Interurbans Special 50]. South Gate (CA, US): Interurbans Magazine.