Monday, November 24, 2008

Big Iron

There's not much argument when it comes to one aspect of the Milwaukee Road:  it built things on a large scale and to a high degree of quality.

Spanning the valley at Tekoa, WA is an enormous steel trestle that bears witness to this fact.  For decades it lofted the Milwaukee's freights across the valley floor and the tracks of the Union Pacific in this small Eastern Washington town.  Here, and in many other locations like Tekoa, the Milwaukee "simply" built across the valley, dwarfing the small town and the Union Pacific branch in the process.

Today the big iron of the Tekoa trestle stands as the easternmost portion of the John Wayne trail, although it is closed to the public.  The Union Pacific that existed beneath the Milwaukee's Pacific Coast Mainline is gone as well, leaving the old railroad town of Tekoa without any of the lines that supported it for so long.  The past isn't forgotten by this little town, however, as signs sporting large black silhouettes of the Milwaukee trestle still encourage travelers on nearby US 95 to stop by for a visit.

Out in the rolling hills of the Eastern Washington Palouse, the abandoned Milwaukee main finds itself in good company with many other lines that have fallen to scrappers and "progress."  The Union Pacific, the Northern Pacific, and the Great Northern all had lines that split the rolling wheat fields through here.  Most of them have suffered the same fate as the Pacific Coast Extension and now lie as reminders of times past.  In places like Tekoa, however, the reminders of the Milwaukee remain larger and more impressive.  Just like when they were built.

4 comments:

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Yet another interesting post on the "electric trains." You may be interested to see the trestle under construction by scrolling down this page: http://www.tekoawa.com/foundingoftekoa/historicpictures.html

Kurt Clark said...

I've always wondered why railroads seem so much more mysterious when they are gone. Is it because the "physical plant" is left behind, sort of like an abandoned temple or statue? The site of a trestle like this one is both amazing and sad at the same time.

SDP45 said...

I always felt that a right of way with no tracks represents what once was, in the case of the MILW, or could represent what could have been, in many places where rail was not laid.

We are all poorer regardless.

With all the MILW bridges still in place, plus the WA state legislation still in effect, there is that teeny tiny glimmer of hope of trains again on part of the MILW.

Dan

LinesWest said...

Kurt,

I agree - there is something moody about the RRs that are gone. Like an old temple or ghost town, a memory of what was and what is no more.

Dan's right too - there's hope for the line even if it is slight. I've often pondered the potential for a Harlowton to Butte redo as well to give a connection to the UP and get some of that Montana grain of the BNSF. Nothing against the BNSF, but if you listen to the farmers out in MT, they charge some pretty high rates.

Just me thinkin'. -Leland