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Showing posts from August, 2009

Fading to Quiet

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I remember well my first trip to see the logger in operation on the Milwaukee Road Elk River Branch. It wasn't so long ago, just a few years. Leaves on the bushes and deciduous trees were turning to shades of orange and red. The tamaracks adopted brilliant yellows against the green canopy of evergreens around them. The sky was blue and crystal clear and the crispness of a fall day was at hand.
The outbound train to Clarkia that day glinted off the St. Maries River as empty log cars made their way south to be loaded. It was a small, out of the way railroad located in beautiful Idaho wilderness on an amazing fall day. My slides from the day still show the brilliant colorful hues of the West at its finest.
The railroad itself was in immaculate shape. Heavy rail, rescued from the original Milwaukee mainline along the St. Joe River, was placed on the line's many curves. The trestles and bridges looked fantastic. This was a railroad that dripped Milwaukee history as well: …

Interesting Time

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It is an interesting time we find ourselves in. Consider this: we are still able to look back at some of the things that defined the nation's growth and see them as they were. In another 50 years, these relics of past people, past towns, past lives will be truly gone. Another generation, perhaps two, will grow up in these old places and move out into the rest of the world. This movement has been ongoing for decades, but it has an accumulating effect. Little by little, many a bustling little town slowly becomes a quiet field of memory across America's frontier.
In 50 years, a trip along The Milwaukee Road and its Western Extension may still run along US 12, but how many more bridges will be missing? How many more miles of right of way tilled into the fields? How many old grain elevators will be left to mark an old settlement? How many will remember what was?
The photo shows the Handel elevator as it looked in July of 2003. Located near the town of Musselshell, MT the e…

And the One that Remains

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Only a block or so away from the old yards and station of Deer Lodge, MT rests one of the few tributes to the Milwaukee Road and its Lines West electrification. Resplendent in freshly painted orange and maroon, Little Joe E70 sits in the shadow of the old Deer Lodge prison, welcoming visitors from nearby I-90.
The Joe still reflects the power of the Milwaukee's electrification. The lead pantograph is raised and it looks ready to apply 5000 HP to the point of a transcon freight bound for the mountain crossings of Pipestone Pass or perhaps the Bitterroot Range.
This Joe is the only Milwaukee Joe to escape the torch, although examples of this design still exist in Brazil and Illinois from the other lines that acquired them. The spoked drivers are evident on the unit as are a few nods to its original Soviet Union destination. If one looks closely, the mount points for the bumpers that are so prevalent on European rolling stock are still there, nestled behind the large snow plow on…

The Joe that Never Was

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The Milwaukee Road was famous for its Western electrification. The wires were strung between wooden poles much like an interurban line and images of Boxcab electrics and Little Joes can be found all over the web. Especially photos of the Little Joe electric locomotives. These 5000+ hp monsters plied the Rocky Mountain Division from their purchase in 1950 until the wires came down in 1974.
The story of their arrival on Milwaukee property is well known, but interesting. Originally destined for the Soviet Union in 1946, they found themselves stranded state side due to mounting Cold War tensions. Legend has it they were named "Little Joe" as a reference to the dictator they almost knew. They sat for 2 years at GE's plant in Erie PA before finding homes. Some were taken to South America, 3 others to the South Shore Electric Line, and the remaining 12 to the Milwaukee Road in 1950. It is ironic that one of the problems the Milwaukee faced with its electrification in 1…