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Showing posts from March, 2007

Pandora's Box

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On a beautiful early summer, beneath an amazing sky of blues and whites, surrounded by rolling wheat fields still in their spring coats of green, by a lone pine tree and an old concrete foundation lies Pandora.

Pandora has a marred history, although from the quiet breezes that blow through the grasses on this summer day, you'd never know. It is located at MP 1866 on the Pacific Extension and the site of a lengthy passing siding used by the Milwaukee's transcontinental freight trains. This piece of the transcon existed in the "gap" between the electrified portions on the Rocky Mountain Division to the east and the Cascade crossing to the west. It also existed in the gap of block signals. This was dark territory where trains moved on the authority of written instructions only, without the safety net provided by signals along the line.

On February 19, 1977, in the days before bankruptcy, the westbound train #200 ran through its designated point for a meet with an ea…

Old Ribbons

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As the 1960s turned into the 1970s, several things became clear. First, like the Rock Island (another large Granger road), the Milwaukee Road had been attempting to make itself more attractive to merger partners by maximizing short term profits. This translated into reduced money spent on such things as track, freight cars, and locomotives. It was a plan that, while slightly underhanded, seemed to make good business sense for a management that was becoming increasingly tired of railroading as an independent company. Simply take some of the money that would have gone into infrastructure and apply it to the profit statement instead. Within a couple of years, a different railroad would buy the 'very profitable' Milwaukee Road and none would be the wiser.

The second thing that became clear was that there existed a slight problem with this strategy for, also like the Rock Island, no merger partner came forward. So after many years of neglected maintenance, derailments and trav…