Friday, November 04, 2005

A Thousand Miles From

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 marks Terry, MT: 1080 miles from Chicago.

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