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Showing posts from February, 2009

Small Towns, Big Railroad

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The hustle and noise of big cities seems a far cry from the lonesome quiet that pervades the vast spaces between. Perhaps one of the greatest ways to experience this today is to ride one of the few remaining passenger trains across the great expanses of the West. Chicago bursts with activity on a early afternoon weekday departure. By next morning, trains like the Empire Builder find themselves out in the great seas of open prairie. The expanse under big skies is incredible, broken only by grain elevators and the small towns they stand over.

The Milwaukee Road's journey across the West had all of these elements as well. Long and unbroken expanses of prairie grasses that were separated by small collections of houses and buildings. These little groupings, like Lennep, MT as seen above, made up the prairie towns on the Western Extension. Lennep had a small industry track for the collection of livestock, a school, church, and a few people. The snarl of large electric locomotives…

Progress

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There's a sign at the airport in Spokane, WA that welcomes travelers to the "Inland Northwest."  Spokane must be the heart of this country as it's by far the largest city in the region.  It's a major stopping point for today's travelers along I-90 and a fascinating focus point for a great deal of the area history.  
Spokane seemed the logical waypoint for many of the western railroads on their way from the Midwest to Seattle.  Among many other things, Spokane became a cross-roads for these companies.  The Northern Pacific, Great Northern, Union Pacific, and SP+S all had a presence here at one time.  That doesn't even take into account the various lines that were absorbed into the larger companies (like the interurban 'Spokane and Inland Empire' which became GN or the 'Spokane International' which rolled into the UP).  Railroad history is thick here in the heart of the Inland Northwest.
There was a late entry into the city of Spokane as well:…