SOMERS — When Dave Ruby was a kid, his grandfather would sometimes take him to work at the Somers Tie Plant. At the sprawling plant, Ruby would join his grandfather in the confined cab of one of the fireless steam locomotives that would shunt carloads of wooden ties around the plant.
Decades after those experiences, Ruby is now helping preserve the very locomotive that his grandfather worked on and a whole lot more from Somers’ past at a new museum. The Somers Company Town Museum opened last fall and will be dedicated on Aug. 5 during a town reunion.
Strategically located at the north end of Flathead Lake, Somers was once the “industrial hub of the Flathead Valley,” according to Ruby, who is president of the Somers Company Town Project and recently retired after 41 years of working for the railroad.
In the 1890s, the Great Northern Railway established a large sawmill and tie plant to supply wooden crossties for the company’s westward expansion. The town quickly grew. Much of the town’s history is now kept in a small building across the street from Del’s Bar.
The centerpiece of the display is S-2, the fireless locomotive on which Ruby’s grandfather worked. Instead of having a fire to turn water into steam, the locomotive was “charged” by the plant’s steam boiler and could run for an hour or so (no fire meant there weren’t sparks that could torch freshly made ties). GN used the locomotive until the 1980s, when it was moved to the Flathead County Museum near Kalispell. In the late 2000s, it was put on display near the former tie plant.
In 2010, a group of locals formed the Somers Company Town Project to build a protective pavilion over the locomotive and a museum. The museum opened last year. Inside is a timeline of the town’s history and dozens of artifacts, including jerseys from past sports teams, report cards from the 1930s, and a deposit bag from the State Bank of Somers, today known as Valley Bank. There are also displays related to boats that once worked out of Somers, logging operations along Flathead Lake, and the tie plant.
“We just want to keep our little town’s history going,” Ruby said.
The museum is normally open every Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. It will be open on Saturday and Sunday this weekend for the Somers Biennial Reunion on Aug. 5. The event is held at the Somers Fire Hall and sign-in starts at 10 a.m. A potluck lunch will be held at noon, followed by the museum dedication around 2 p.m. For more information about the reunion, call Ruth Hellen at (406) 857-3782.
For more information about the museum, visit the Somers Company Town Project on Facebook.