Sunday, December 11, 2005

So Many Miles

Chicago's Union Station is a busy place, especially around the holidays. Passenger trains from the local regions intermix with the last long-distance trains that come from such far away places as L.A. or Washington D.C. People on their way to visit family for Thanksgiving or Christmas still bustle through the giant Great Hall, where the granite and tall columns can still impress even in this age of micro technology.

Passenger trains still deapart Chicago and head north on The Milwaukee's old mainline to Milwaukee, WI; a line that still sees a lot of freight traffic and quite a few passenger trains too, some still called Hiawathas. Chicago's Union Station was labeled as MP 0.0 for The Milwaukee's line to the West Coast. The miles kept adding all the way to 2192.7, the location of Tacoma, WA. Beyond the Dakotas, through the Montana plains, high atop the Rocky Mountains, over the incredible St. Paul Pass, out across the Washington Palouse country and high desert, over the Cascades, and finally to the Pacific Ocean. The shear scale of what The Milwaukee and the other lines to the West Coast accomplished is breathtaking.

In the above photo, winter has returned to The Milwaukee's signature, still sprawed across the west, seen here near Kenova, WA and Rock Lake. Telegraphy and ABS signal poles still mark the abandonned route of America's final transcontinental line. All is quiet now, but 1887 miles to the east, Union Station still bustles at milepost zero.