Thursday, September 06, 2007

Forgotten

Location: Pendroy, MT

The solitude of the Milwaukee Road's transcontinental mainline is, at times, breathtaking. Perhaps all of the western transcons are the same in this respect, but the Milwaukee seems to have selected a route that is particularly removed from people and towns. To feed its mainline with wheat from the golden triangle, it sent lines north from Harlowton to reach the fertile fields of Northern Montana. At one of the furthest outposts from the mainline, at the literal end of the branch line from Great Falls, rests the small town of Pendroy, MT. A sign along US 89 directs the vacationers from Glacier National Park to "Visit Pendroy," though from the looks of it, few travelers do.

The main street of the old town hangs on by a thread and the local saloon with its flickering neon seems the only open business. Where the Milwaukee came into town stand the remains of a few small stock yards and that's it. There's barely a rise in the ground to show where this far flung remnant of the old empire laid claim. The wind picks up and the sky darkens on this summer day. The tall grasses whistle as a summer storm approaches from the Rockies just to the west. In the dimming light, the windows of the old school seem stark and barren. When it was built in 1919, there must have been much optimism. The twenties were roaring, and the newest transcontinental railroad had recently reached the town. Then the world changed and left places like Pendroy off the new map of progress and prosperity.

Today, those who venture off US 89 and visit Pendroy find a town that's been forgotten, at the very edge of a railroad empire that has suffered the same fate. As went the Milwaukee Road, so goes the small towns it touched. Pendroy, replete with the remnants of youthful optimism, isn't unique in this respect and the many ghosts that haunt Lines West show this to be an all too real truth. Standing in the presence of these places that harken back to years past, one can't help but wonder at the changes that have taken place and the direction of things to come.