Silver Star is the third oldest town in Montana and took its name from a nearby mining claim. It was at one time the only town between Helena and Virginia City and served as a supply point for silver miners in the area. Legend has it that Edward, Prince of Wales, and the son of Queen Victoria, spent three days at the Silver Star Hotel in 1878.
Now, with a population of about 40, you might think you could blink and miss the town as you drive through. You won’t miss Lloyd Harkin’s place though. Seven acres on Rte 41 are surrounded- ed by a chain-link fence that holds his enormous collection of mining equipment. He once had visions of creating a museum, later deciding that he didn’t want to be tied down.
Today, as folks drive past they won’t miss the seventy-eight-foot head frame that was used to lower cages of workers into a mine shaft or several twenty-one-foot wheels standing upright along the fence line. That’s just part of it. The collection contains tons and tons of mining equipment from the 138 mines that Butte was once home to, and some from a few others. He managed to haul away just about everything imaginable from the mines, except the 4,000 miles of tunnel that still lie under the city of Butte.
The metallic assemblage contains everything from ore cars, pumps, railroad cars, pulleys, gas pumps, and some curious items not necessarily mining related. None of the items are a mystery to Lloyd. He was a miner in Butte for twenty-five years and knows the entire story behind each piece. He’ll buy, sell, or trade for the right deal. You can get a pretty good idea of what just went into all those mines as you drive by. A few of the items were purchased by Walt Disney’s set designers and used in movies. Lloyd’s museum never materialized but a great deal of his collections has been donated to Butte’s World Museum of Mining.