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Swan Land Properties
Low-Overhead Livestock & Dryland-Farm
Stillwater County


  • Ryegate, Montana

  • 2,104 Deeded

  • $1,650,000

Locomotive Butte Ranch is named for the prominent geographic formation on the north end of the Ranch with the same name.  Locomotive Butte is located in the little known, but very special, Big Coulee Valley of central Montana.  Located just south of the Musselshell River and the rural community of Ryegate, the setting for this low-overhead livestock and dryland-farm operation must be experienced to fully appreciate how special and unique this part of Montana truly is.  The broad isolated Big Coulee Basin was the winter range to the historic Montana Cattle Company and the famed 79 Brand in the open range era of the late 1800’s Montana.
Locomotive Butte Ranch encompasses 2,104± deeded acres that are a mix of native pasture, productive dryland crop and mixed upland timber acres rimmed by a stunning and very private network of canyons, rims and dramatic bluffs.
The pastures on the Ranch have been leased for the past several years and have been well managed, and coupled with excellent moisture this year, have created grass that is in exceptional condition and ready for livestock without any rest.  The crop acres are all currently leased and the excellent soil profile provides historical yields that are much higher than the typical yields in the area.  The improvements include a modest, but comfortable manufactured home, metal building for equipment and a shop, historic barn, corrals and several smaller out buildings including a chicken coop and tack room.  There is an artesian well on the Ranch that gravity feeds the stock water network with tanks in every pasture.
Locomotive Butte Ranch will check all the boxes for buyers looking for an exceptional and unknown setting that is spectacular and private, while still having access to amenities and services within an hour.  This productive low-overhead livestock and dryland-farm operation runs very efficiently and reliably with minimal overhead beyond the utilities for the improvements and property taxes.

The Ranch encompasses 2,104± deeded acres that are a mixture of native pasture, timbered coulees, dramatic rock rims and productive dryland crop.

Native Range, Pasture, and Timber
Dryland Crop
1,709± Acres
395± Acres

*** All Acreage Values per Montana Cadastral records.

Locomotive Butte Ranch has been running about 100-150 cattle seasonally on a lease and is estimated by the Sellers to carry about 100± Animal Units on an annual basis with supplemental hay.  Typically, winters in this country are open and ranchers often feed less than one ton of hay per cow from late December to mid-May – contingent on the severity of the winter and operational timing, with weaning and shipping typically done in October or November.

Historically calving has been done out in the pastures when weather permits, or should Mother Nature dictate, moved into corrals closer to the improvements for supplemental feed and shelter.  After calving, livestock is typically moved into the pastures closest to the improvements and then moved to summer pasture on the upper portion of the Ranch until late fall when the cropland is grazed after harvest.  The spring of 2019 has provided excellent moisture and the pastures are all in excellent condition.

Improving fencing and stock water has been a primary focus of the Ranch management for many decades, as reliable stock water in this part of the state is at a premium.  Locomotive Butte Ranch is blessed with an artesian well at the elevated southern end of the Ranch that is connected via pipeline and gravity flows to a well-designed concrete stock tank in every pasture.  This stock-water network provides reliable year-round water to the entire Ranch.  This well-and-tank system is supplemented by a small perennial stream that bisects the Ranch and a couple of additional spring-fed tanks.  This stock-water network allows multiple pastures to be used on a year-round basis and provides operational flexibility with water within about half a mile of every pasture.  There are five cross-fenced pastures on the Ranch, each with reliable stock water, which is a huge benefit in an area that historically has presented stock-water challenges for ranchers.

The dryland crop has been leased to a very progressive and diligent local farmer, who has regularly yielded more bushels per acre than surrounding cropland due to the excellent soil profile and farming expertise  In years with typical moisture, the dryland wheat will average about 60 bushels per acre, and in drought years the soil profile has still produced crops when many other area fields failed.

Both the ranch and farm tenants would be interested in continuing their leases should a new owner be interested.

Locomotive Butte Ranch is accessible year-round on well-maintained county roads coming from both the north and south.  Columbus is located about 40 miles south of the Ranch using Highway 306 and Big Coulee Road, which transitions from pavement to gravel along the way in Rapelje.   The largest city in Montana, Billings, is an easy one-hour trip from the Ranch.  Big Coulee Road continues north about 19 miles past the Ranch to the small community of Ryegate and access to the paved Highway 12.  All of the county roads are well-maintained and offer good all-season access.  The Ranch itself feels like old Montana with expansive views, and the only visible neighboring properties are actively working farms and ranches.Ryegate, about 20 minutes to the north of the Ranch, has a population of about 300 residents and offers a grocery store, gas station, café, bar with a restaurant, post office, church, and a K-12 school.

The small town of Rapelje, about 20 minutes south with a population of about 110 residents, offers a post office, church, K-12 school, and the Stockman Café – a community-owned restaurant that combines with Sunday church service to form the weekly social outlet and the primary hub of the town.

Conveniently located just 25 miles south of Rapelje, Columbus, the county seat of Stillwater County with a county population of just over 9,500, is a regional hub of commerce, medical and business services.  Columbus provides all of the basic services and is home to many restaurants, bars, churches, and a progressive business community along with a historic and classic Main Street that accurately portrays the balanced and healthy Montana lifestyle. An excellent elementary- and high-school system, the Pre-K through 12th-grade public schools offers quality public education with experienced teachers and good parent involvement.  The high school is categorized as a Class B school and provides a great learning environment and competitive interscholastic athletic programs that are always very competitive in a variety of boys’ and girls’ sports.

Billings Logan International Airport (BIL) is located about 70 miles from Rapelje. This airport is the largest commercial airport in Montana.  It is home to Allegiant, Alaska, Delta, Cape Air, and United Airlines and offers year-round direct flights to Denver, Dallas, Minneapolis, Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, with seasonal direct flights to Chicago and Los Angeles.
Recently upgraded, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport at Gallatin Field in Belgrade (BZN) offers several full-service FBOs and excellent commercial services through Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, and United Airlines.  One of the busiest passenger airports in the Pacific Northwest, and the busiest in the state of Montana, BZN offers direct flights to 17 major airports around the nation including Salt Lake City, Denver, Seattle, Minneapolis, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York City.  The Bozeman airport is about two hours away, with the majority of the travel on Interstate 90.
For private aircraft, fuel service is available at the Columbus Airport – Woltermann Memorial Airport – located a few miles southeast of Columbus.  The 120-acre airport, which sits at an elevation of 3,575 feet, has one 3,800+ foot asphalt runway that is in moderate condition.  The airport is suitable for a range of private aircraft and includes fuel service.

Approximate distances to other Montana cities and points of interest from the Ranch:
Rapelje, MT
Ryegate, MT
Columbus, MT
Harlowtown, MT
Billings, MT
Red Lodge, MT
Bozeman, MT
Yellowstone National Park via Beartooth Highway

14 miles
17 miles
39 miles
46 miles
80 miles
84 miles
112 miles
138 miles


The Ranch Compound, which is accessed via Meins Road  ̶ a gravel county road that connects to the primary connector Big Coulee Road, contains all of the improvements.   Good all-weather access roads are important in this county and this Ranch is fortunate to be surrounded by well-maintained county roads that are passable in all weather conditions.

Modular Home

There is an older 1,560± square-foot Fleetwood manufactured home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.  The home is not on a permanent foundation but does have a premade insulated skirt with heat-wrapped pipes.  Until recently the owners have utilized this home during the winter on a full-time basis and during periods of historic cold with no issues with frozen pipes.  The home has proven to be very comfortable for the ranch owners and creates a ready-to-use landing spot should the new owner desire to build another home at some point down the road.

Metal Building

A 40’ x 48’ metal-sided building with a gravel floor has been utilized for equipment storage and has an attached heated shop that has a concrete floor and workbench.  There is an additional covered pole barn along the east side of the building that is used for storage.

 Historic Barn

The barn, which dates back to the homestead era, provides historic appeal to the Ranch and has held up quite well over the decades of use.  It has an open center section that can easily be converted from equipment storage into several calving jugs with temporary panels.  An attached covered area is well-designed and set up for sorting and working calves through a chute and onto a calf table.


The corrals are well laid out and in good functional working condition to handle the demands of a small cattle herd.  There is a chute in the corrals for working cows, and also a loading chute for shipping right from the ranch compound.

Grain Bin

A single grain bin with a concrete floor is currently utilized for dry storage.


The Ranch topography can be generally described as a dramatic and private network of cliff faces, rims and timbered canyons on the southern and western sides that transition into rolling pastures and cropland on the northern and eastern sides of the Ranch.  The highest elevation of 4,700 feet is on the bench above the rims that form the southern border with an elevation change of about 700 feet, much of it on the sheer exposed cliff faces.  The lower portion sits at about 4,000 feet in the middle of the Ranch, and the elevation of Locomotive Butte on the north end of the Ranch is around 4,472 feet.
Ryegate, at an average elevation of 3,652′, has an average total rainfall of approximately 15” per year and an annual snowfall of 46”.  Average summer high temperatures range from 75°F to 84°F with low temperatures ranging from 47°F to 52°F.  Average winter high temperatures range from 37°F to 42°F with low temperatures ranging from 13°F to 15°F.
At an elevation of 4,065’, Rapelje has mild winters with a relatively low snow cover at an average of 58” and total rainfall is 14” to 16” per year. The Ranch is located in the center of the Chinook Belt and has a 110 to 120 day growing season.  Average summer high temperatures range from 77°F to 87°F with low temperatures ranging from 47°F to 53°F.  Average winter high temperatures range from 38°F to 41°F with low temperatures ranging from 15°F to 17°F.

The Sellers hereby make known that there may be variations between the deeded property lines and the location of the existing fence boundary lines on Locomotive Butte Ranch.  The Sellers make no warranties with regard to the location of the fence lines in relationship to the deeded property lines, nor do the Sellers make any warranties or representations with regard to specific acreage within the fenced property lines.
The Sellers are selling Locomotive Butte Ranch in its “as is-where is” condition which includes the location of the fences as they now exist.  Boundaries shown on any accompanying maps are approximate.  The maps are not to scale and are for visual aid only.  The accuracy of the maps and information portrayed thereon is not guaranteed nor warranted.
Electricity is provided by Fergus Electric Co-op out of Lewistown.  Ranch owns two 500-gallon propane tanks, which offers flexibility on who fills them, but currently filled by Town & Country out of Laurel.  3 Rivers Communications is currently running fiber-optic cable along the county roads and when completed will provide a convenient option for high-speed internet, television and telephone service to the Ranch.  Verizon mobile phone coverage is pretty good throughout the Ranch, but there are a few gaps in service based on terrain.

The annual real estate taxes for Locomotive Butte Ranch for 2018 were approximately $2,192.

Locomotive Butte Ranch does not currently have any conservation easements, but the location and grandeur of the setting would certainly be an attractive addition for many local and national conservation organizations should the new owner be interested.

According to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Locomotive Butte Ranch owns a total of one water right.  For additional information regarding the Locomotive Butte Ranch water rights, please contact the Swan Land Company Bozeman Office at 406.522.7342.
Number Priority Date Means of Diversion Source
40A 30016630 2005.09.1 Domestic, Stock Groundwater
All water rights in Montana are subject to eventual re-adjudication by the Montana Water Court and, as a result of that process, may be changed as to the validity, amount, priority date, place of use, and other such changes as the Court determines.  This Basin is currently being adjudicated.  The Sellers have made all of the filings currently required and will transfer the water rights as they currently stand with no warranty of future viability.


The Sellers will convey with the Ranch 100% of whatever mineral, oil, gas, geo-thermal, hydro-carbon and gravel rights they actually own, subject to reservations by previous owners and conservation easement restrictions.  The Sellers make no representation as to the quantity or quality of any mineral or other sub-surface rights appurtenant to the Ranch.
Seller believes that all mineral rights were split off previously, and to their knowledge they do not own any mineral rights. However, if the Ranch does have any mineral rights, 100% of the mineral rights will convey with the sale of the Ranch.
There are two existing natural-gas wells on the Ranch and a pipeline that connects to several others in the region that are checked on a regular basis by the owner(s) of the wells.

The Ranch topography is an enticing combination of wide-open rolling grass meadows and dry cropland on the north and east that transitions into dramatic rims and timber on the southern and western borders of the Ranch that create several impressive and beautiful box canyons.   The Ranch topography creates excellent big-game hunting opportunities for antelope, deer and elk.  This part of Montana is known for very large trophy bull elk, that often exceed 380”.  Bull elk and antelope tags are regulated by a special draw by Montana Fish & Game.  Cow elk and deer tags are general draw and available over the counter.  The Ranch has not been actively hunted for many decades, but has exceptional habitat for antelope, deer and elk, as well as upland game birds like Hungarian partridge,  sharp-tailed grouse and an occasional pheasant.
The Ranch does not include any fisheries, but the Yellowstone and Musselshell Rivers are both within easy-driving distance and offer exceptional fishing opportunities for trout and warm-water species.  Deadman’s Basin reservoir is about 30 minutes away and is home to some huge tiger musky (hybrids of pike and muskellunge) and holds the state record of over 38 pounds.
The nearby Big Lake Complex offers two wildlife refuges–Hailstone and Grass Lake.  It is one of the most productive waterfowl areas in central Montana, perfect for bird-watching and hiking; and hunting is allowed on Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge.  These refuges provide ideal breeding and staging habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds.  These are valuable waterfowl rest stops, whose complex ownership attests to the importance of this Great Plains flyway.  Best viewing times are in the spring and fall.  Also present in the area are sharp-tailed grouse, Hungarian partridge, mule deer, whitetail deer and pronghorn antelope.
Located about 80 miles from the Ranch,  Red Lodge Mountain offers downhill skiing at its best. Boasting no lift lines and small-town attitude, the mountain receives on average 250” of snow during the ski season and has snow-making equipment to supplement.  Standing atop of Grizzly Peak, one can see Cole Creek, the undisturbed Barriers or the far away Crazy Mountains.  With terrain for all ability levels, the ski mountain sits on a base level of 7,433 feet with a summit at 9,416 feet. The lifts can move 10,690 skiers per hour so there is little time spent waiting for a chair.  The resort town is also home to fine dining, art galleries and shopping in the various boutiques and shops.
Just south of Red Lodge is the Beartooth Highway – a 68-mile long National Scenic Byways All-American Road that leads to the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  The Highway runs through a million-plus acre Wilderness providing the opportunity to explore one of the highest and most rugged areas in the country.  The Beartooth Highway has the highest elevation of any road in both Wyoming and Montana, as well as in the Northern Rockies.  The Beartooth Highway has famously been described by the late Charles Kuralt on his televisions show ‘On the Road’ as “the most beautiful drive in America”.
Ryegate is one of many homestead-era boomtowns in Montana located along the historic Milwaukee rail route, located roughly half way between Miles City and Butte.  Aptly named for the location of famed fields of Rye, it is the home to one of the original cattle ranches in the state, the ‘Montana Cattle Company’ that ran under the famous 79 brand.  The number 79 still is displayed prominently on the roof of the old school located just north of the Ranch.  John T. Murphy assembled and operated this massive empire that successfully made the transition from an open-range era in the late 1800s to a fenced livestock operation on deeded ground at the turn of the 20th century.
Ryegate made a hard push to become the county seat of Golden Valley County in the drought-stricken early 1920s and utilized a catchy jingle as part of their effort:

‘Ryegate is the city where they market lots of wheat

Ryegate is the city that has never known defeat

Ryegate is the city that should be the county seat

The best town in Golden Valley County!”

The marketing effort was successful and Ryegate remains the county seat to this day.
Rapelje was first established as a town where local railroad workers of the Northern Pacific Railway lived in the late 1800s.  Originally called Lake Basin due to its geographical landscape, the town was renamed as Rapelje in 1913 after J.M. Rapelje, who was the general manager and vice president of the Northern Pacific Railroad.  In 1913 a post office was established and four grain towers, which still stand tall as a major landmark of the town, were put in business.  As more people began to work at the railroad, the town grew bigger to become a thriving community in northern Stillwater County.  This farming and ranching community has developed into a historical town with a number of grain elevators, a K-12 school, a Gothic-styled community church and the infamous Stockman Café, which is the hub of the community.

Locomotive Butte Ranch is a must see for buyers looking for an exceptionally beautiful and private ranch in a little-known area of Montana, coupled with agricultural production, good stock water, solid grass and dryland crop land in one of Central Montana’s classic agricultural communities.  The setting must be experienced to fully appreciate, as it is truly a hidden treasure with privacy, big views, wildlife and a peaceful setting.  Modest improvements that are very livable create an opportunity for the next owner to put their capital into the land and operation while creating an open-ended opportunity for future expansion.

Locomotive Butte Ranch, as previously described herein, is offered at US $1,650,000.00 Cash or Terms acceptable solely at the discretion of the Sellers.  As of August 2020, the conditions of sale are as follows:
    1. All offers to purchase or letters of intent must be in writing and accompanied by a wire transfer of 5.0% of the purchase price to the escrow account at First Montana Title Company of Billings;
    2. Earnest money deposits will be placed in escrow with First Montana Title Company of Billings;
    3. All Prospective Buyers must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Sellers absolute financial capability to purchase the Ranch prior to scheduling an inspection of the Ranch;
    4. The Sellers will provide and pay for a standard owner’s title insurance policy.  Any endorsements requested by the Buyer or any lender will be at Buyer’s expense.  Title to the real property will be conveyed by a deed;
    5. All of the water right claims controlled by the Ranch will be transferred to the Buyer at Closing, and all of the mineral rights which the Sellers actually own will be conveyed to the Buyer at Closing;
    6. Buyers’ Brokers are welcomed and invited to contact listing broker Tim Anderson in our Bozeman Office for information regarding Cooperation Policies.
The Sellers reserve the right to effect a tax-deferred exchange for other real property in accordance with provisions in Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code.  The Buyer will not be required to incur any additional expenses nor to step into the chain of title on any property which the Sellers may acquire.
This entire Offering is subject to errors, omissions, prior sale, change or withdrawal without notice and approval of purchase by the Sellers.  Information regarding land classifications, acreages, carrying capacities, crop yields, potential profits, etc., are intended only as general guidelines and have been obtained from sources deemed reliable; however, accuracy is not warranted or guaranteed by the Sellers or Swan Land Company.  Prospective Buyers should verify all information to their sole and complete satisfaction.
A 48-hour notice is requested to make proper arrangements for an inspection of Locomotive Butte Ranch.
Swan Land Company has been authorized by the Seller to act as their Exclusive Real Estate Broker on the sale of Locomotive Butte Ranch.  Since 2002, we have focused on the brokerage of significant ranches, farms and recreational properties throughout the Rocky Mountain West.
This Offering is based on information believed to be correct; however, it is subject to errors, omissions, prior sale and change or withdrawal without notice.  Information contained herein has been provided by the Sellers or obtained from other sources deemed reliable.  The Agent does not, however, guarantee accuracy and recommends that any Prospective Buyer conduct an independent investigation.
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Timothy Anderson
With over two decades of experience in real estate and a background in science and technology, I’ve been honored to serve and represent some of Montana’s finest farm, ranch, and recreational properties. Before my time with Swan, I co-founded Montana Real Estate Co. with my wife, where we guided the successful sales effort for Moonlight ...
Meet the Broker
Swan Land Broker, Tim Anderson

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