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A Montana Rail Link freight train.

Nearly 2,800 current and past employees and their families are expected to ride on eight employee appreciation train trips across Montana starting Friday to help celebrate Montana Rail Link’s 30th anniversary.

The trips will run in and around Missoula, where MRL is headquartered, as well as Helena, Livingston, Billings and Laurel, according to a letter from MRL president Tom Walsh.

“It promises to be a wonderful time to reflect with friends, co-workers and retired co-workers on MRL’s achievements and operations over the past 30 years,” Walsh said.

More than 500 employees from over 30 different railroads launched MRL on Oct. 31, 1987. Montana Rail Link is a Class II regional railroad that employs nearly 1,200 people and operates more than 900 route miles of track in Montana and Idaho, on line owned by partner BNSF Railway, one of seven Class I railroads in North America.

BNSF traces its roots back to the Northern Pacific, which completed a transcontinental railroad across Montana in 1883. Much of MRL’s line follows the original NP route.

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Mineral County, veterans issues

Outlying communities, transportation, history and general assignment reporter at the Missoulian