It was a December day on Sunday morning, I remember that well. I sat in Church and looked out the window at the world outside. I was a dark shell of a man that day, weighed down by things that seemed to strike deep at the heart. Outside, a snow began to fall, and fall, and fall. The dormant browns of winter were being replaced by a beautiful white blanket that covered the muddy spoiled banks of the nearby housing construction projects. As I stepped outside into the gathering whiteness, I was struck that there was something that should be done. I returned home and gathered my camera gear and pointed the old truck north and out of Pullman.
The Milwaukee Road's last winter was in 1979/80, having been in bankruptcy for two years already. I've been told that winter was a brutal and cold one; one that seemed to punish the crews and the people who worked so desperately to keep things rolling across Lines West. Snow has an uncanny ability to beautify and mystify a scene, and the photographs of old freight trains trudging through Central Washington and into oblivion haunt me. That was why on that cold and snowy Sunday morning, with a heart already heavy about other problems that life seems to send our way on occasion, I headed north to Rosalia to find an old friend who had seen it all before.
The large concrete arches of the bridge at Rosalia are striking at any time of year. Looking carefully one can still find an old Milwaukee Road sign painted on the concrete next to the road. Through icy roads and continuing snow I had arrived beneath the old bridge. Graffiti on the bridge from 1954 still read "RHS" for Rosalia High School clearly enough. Sometimes feeling small is the best cure for feeling bad, all of a sudden things aren't all about you. The cold winds and blowing snow that surrounded Rosalia and the ghosts of The Milwaukee Road can make me feel real small. As I've said before, it is a journey into the heart indeed.
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