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Showing posts from November, 2005

Following the Call

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Is it possible that things can be put on your heart on purpose? That there is some reason we love the things we do, or feel compelled to search out and seek the unknown?

As a young kid, my family lived in Vancouver, BC and we'd drive across Washington to visit relatives in Sand Point once a year or so. I have vivid memories of staring out the window of our old Suburban at the tall curved trestles on the west side of Snoqualmie and then straining for a view of anything on the east side of the pass. I always suspected, but as a five or six year old never knew, that the huge trestle over the interstate east of Ellensburg was the same railroad and somehow I seemed to know it wasn't used anymore. It seemed so huge, so towering, and even in the mid-eighties, somehow sad.

It wasn't until years later that I would come into contact with the story of The Milwaukee Road. America's final transcontinental, and the first and only to be wiped off the face of the west. After moving to t…

A Thousand Miles From

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On The Milwaukee Road, east of electrification lay the flat plains of Montana and the Dakotas. In 1980 near a small town in eastern Montana scrappers began their work to undo what had been done 70 years before.

The passenger trains had been gone since 1967 and had not traveled to the Pacific Coast since 1961. Freight trains with fast schedules had continually evaporated since 1974 and the reliable power that headed them had been shepherded off to other parts of the troubled empire as the seventies closed. To look at photos of SD40-2s leading trains across the Montana plains in the last couple years of service is shocking: the track looks as rough as on some little used branch line. The line had come full circle: expensive and well-engineered to begin with and derelict and accident prone at its death.

In eastern Montana, near the town of Terry, today's saga begins. This is where the Western Extension's removal starts and goes all the way to Tacoma. The original milepost still mar…