Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Powder Blues and Old Emblems

The Milwaukee Road had a couple of impressive crossings of the Missouri River. One, located on the Western Extension at Mobridge. The second, located a bit to the south at Chamberlain, SD. These are but two examples of the impressive engineering that went into this old railroad's westward progress.

Chamberlain is a small town in South Dakota in the lands of rolling prairie and tall grasses. Not too far away, a famed author would later recount her days growing up in De Smet as her father worked on building the railroad west in a little house on the prairie. This is that country.

Memories of the Milwaukee are found out in this sea of grasses as well. The old line across this part of South Dakota still rolls along with the gentle hills, but train movements are exceptionally rare.

In Chamberlain rests the remains of many Milwaukee relics from years past. On this day, a pair of old SD-9 locomotives rest silently by the old depot on the outskirts of town. Keeping company are an assortment of dormant switch stands, boxcars, old passenger cars, and some aging company vehicles. The famous tilted rectangle still adorns many of the pieces here in Chamberlain, although it is clear that time is taking its toll and they wear the mark of the fallen. What was one of the preferred colors prominent in the 1970s - that amazing powder blue - is faded and cracked as is the logo on the door. Standing tall in the background, the remnants of another tilted rectangle looks on.

The dilapidation of an old strategic link in the transportation system is quiet and sad in places like Chamberlain. By dynamic contrast, I-90 rolls along outside of town destined for its own crossing of the Missouri River. Its massive 4 lanes and howling all-season radials are anything but quiet and faded blues. At least so far.