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Showing posts from November, 2008

Big Iron

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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 …

The Recurring Question

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What really happened out there?  In 1974, at the peak of traffic on Lines West, what really happened?  In the waning years of the seventies, what really happened?  I'm not sure, I wasn't there.
My first brush with the Milwaukee Road came in the early 80s, from out the backseat window of an old red Suburban that occasionally crossed the Cascade Range on the way to Sand Point.  I knew nothing about it, except those trestles sure were neat.  One trip, I remember the trestle at Renslow had ties strewn about its approaches and I wondered 'why?' even as a small child.  
The question still remains and remains unanswered - why?  From my chair in front of the computer, now a few thousand miles and a few decades away I try to imagine all of the forces that played on the fallen transcon.  Double-counted maintenance expenses in the last years of operation.  Maintenance left undone in 1975.  Electrics scrapped whose value to operation was well established.  A marathon of derailments …