A Journey Back in Time Aboard the Helena Tour Train
Nestled in the heart of Montana sits the historic capital city of Helena. The Queen City welcomes visitors with its rich heritage and captivating stories. Exploring the charming capital city is even more exciting aboard the Last Chance Tour Train. This tour is a summer time favorite among locals and visitors! On the tour train, you’ll embark on an hour long journey through time. Along the tour, you’ll dig deeper into the fascinating history of a gold rush town and uncover the secrets of her vibrant past.
The Last Chance Tour Train is a testament to Helena’s storied past. In the late 19th century, gold fever spread through the west. It was the gold rush that provided the foundation of Helena. And to think it all started with four men who were giving the area “one last chance” before returning to Alder Gulch. On July 14, 1864 these men found placer gold in the gulch and named it “Last Chance Gulch.” By the end of the 1860s, the discoveries in Helena had produced nearly $18 million in gold. Fast forward and Helena became the territorial capital in 1875. The Capitol building, as we know it today, was completed in 1902 (with wing expansions to follow). Fast forward again and on June 15, 1954 the Helena tour train took its inaugural run.
In the early 1950s, a community wide contest was held in Helena to name the train; submissions included “The Six Shooter,” “Sacagawea,” and “The Gulch Express.” In the end, the train took the name “The Last Chancer” and could be spotted touring around our historic city. “The Last Chancer” was of course a nod to the Four Georgians who gave the Helena gulch one ‘last chance’ before leaving the area.
Riding the Helena Tour Train
The Last Chance Tour Train departs in front of the Montana Historical Society, located near the majestic Montana Capitol Building*. Leaving from this historic museum (which opened in 1865), the Last Chance Tour Train weaves its way through Helena’s downtown district, taking you on a captivating journey through the city’s iconic landmarks, historic sites, and vibrant neighborhoods. Knowledgeable guides provide entertaining and informative commentary, sharing anecdotes and tales that bring Helena’s history to life.
***The Montana Historical Society is currently under construction and its exhibits will be closed until early 2025.
“The Last Chancer” is not an ordinary train, but a living testament to Helena’s storied past. As you step aboard The Last Chance Tour Train you will be transported back in time. Last Chance Tours now operates two trains which have been meticulously maintained over the years. The wooden benches, brass fittings, and the gentle clatter of the wheels create an authentic atmosphere, immersing you in the spirit of the past. The train takes you from the Capitol area to the Cathedral of St. Helena, through the mansion district, and around the Last Chance Gulch area where you’ll see sites like Reeder’s Alley, the Blue Stone House and the Fire Tower before returning to the Capitol area.
Aboard the Last Chance Tour Train, you’ll discover a captivating history. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss! As the vintage locomotive chugs along, you’ll hear stories of pioneers, miners, and the colorful characters who shaped this thriving city. Get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey filled with history, charm, and the spirit of the Old West.