Vananda is a former unincorporated village in northwestern Rosebud County, Montana, USA, along the route of U.S. Highway 12. The town was established in 1908 as a station stop on the Chicago, Milwaukee,
St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, then under construction across Montana. The railway used Vananda as a water stop for its steam locomotives, and built a small reservoir near the townsite to ensure an adequate water supply.
Although the land around Vananda attracted numerous homesteaders during the decade following the railroad’s completion, the region proved to be far too arid and inhospitable for intensive agricultural use, and by the 1920s the town was in decline. The railroad through the area was abandoned in 1980, and Vananda is now a ghost town.
The Vananda townsite has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
My hopes, whenever I hear ghost town, invariably end up in the ditch alongside chip wrappers and plastic bottles, and I’m sorry to report that little remains in, or near, Vananda. The day we passed was gray and moody, underlined by a stiff, unwelcoming wind. No one was around, not even a curious dog. A fence and padlocks kept the curious away from the brick school building, the sole reason I’d stopped.
We moved on, slowly. A short ways down the road I found further dereliction and was grateful for the subtle colors. In their awkward, abandoned positions both trailer and bus appear resigned to the fact that their time, like Vananda’s, is long past.