Twenty miles east of the Fort Belknap reservation is Malta, named for the Mediterranean island but otherwise just another ranching town that grew up along the Great Northern Railway. Along with the above-average Phillips County Museum (431 US-2 E., 406/654-1037, Mon.-Sat. 10am-5pm Apr.-Dec., $5), Malta holds the region’s best place to eat, drink, and sleep: the landmark Great Northern Hotel (2 S. 1st St. E., 406/654-2100, $69 and up), which has a bar-cum-steakhouse and a café with good breakfast specials.
Malta, where the eastbound and westbound trains of Amtrak’s Empire Builder pass each other, is just one of dozens of flyspeck US-2 Montana towns with names borrowed at random by Great Northern Railway promoters from all over the globe. Heading along the highway, you pass near or through Dunkirk, Kremlin, Havre, Zurich, Harlem, and Tampico, all of which were founded by the railroad and settled in the main by Northern and Eastern European immigrants enticed here around the turn of the 20th century by the railroad’s offers of farmlands and homesteads.