It's a warm July day in the Idaho Panhandle. In the yards of the St. Maries River Railroad sits a collection of old cars that could easily be at home in a museum. Old snow plows are lined up with an old ribside caboose and Hiawatha baggage car that still faintly reads "The Milwaukee Road." A few ancient log cars are stored here in the yards as well. They're old beyond the point where interchange is allowed and are restricted to St. Maries track as a result.
Other relics sit about the yards as well - in various stages of livelihood. What makes them so unique is that they have not journeyed very far from their original stomping grounds. These yards go back to the time of the Milwaukee Road's western extension and its vision to access the west coast. The original mainline through town is still used several times a week as forrest products from St. Maries, ID make their way to Plummer and interchange with the Union Pacific. Large mainline trestles, like the one at Pedee, are still used - a stark contrast to the many others that lie dormant across the rest of the Pacific Extension.
Tucked into a corner of the old Milwaukee yard are the remains of an outside braced boxcar. Today, it is a tool shed but its paint and markings belie its history. Still legible on the old boxcar door: Automobiles. The old car dates back to a time of large 4-8-4 steamers and mallets that roamed the mainline through town. Bridging the sections of electrified mainline, these large steamers ruled the St. Joe River Valley and the wandering prairie lands of the Palouse that lay beyond. Tucked in behind them: scores of forty foot boxcars like the old one in the photo above.
On this warm July day, the passage of time seems thick with significance. The old auto carrier tells of a time of fresh new Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, Plymouths, and other marks that have vanished from the landscape. The events that have played out in intervening years have left us reminders in the absence of these storied companies and the presence of faded and flaking paint. Instead of fresh Detroit iron in a new outside braced boxcar, we're left looking at the remains from those old days gone by. In many respects, relics like this one are a real historical marker. It's a nod to the past and the ways of those that came before. It's also a nod to the significance of all of those years that have come and gone between.