Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Those Magnificent Quads

It was the electric motors on the Milwaukee Road's Lines West that received them: those beautiful quad headlights.

The original lamps that adorned the famous electrics, from the Bi-Polars to the Little Joes, seemed average
enough. Pictures posted across
various pages on the internet show a single headlight centered in a larger reflective housing, just like the steamers and diesels of the same era. Somewhere along the way, however, during the rebuilding that kept those electrics in service for decades and decades, a modification was made. A 4 sealed beam
headlight was installed, making the electrics instantly identifiable. Even the Little Joes received them, and their slightly smaller headlight housing made them all the more distinctive. The photo of the Joe shows the quad light arrangement, slightly truncated on the edges.

But then, it wasn't just the electrics that got this treatment. On a beautiful sunny summer day, tucked away in the back of the yards in St. Maries, ID, a distinctive non-electric resides with that beautiful quad on full display. The plow was a home-built for the Milwaukee, number X900109. The rib sides recall other Milwaukee projects like their distinct cabooses or ribside box cars. It was a construction technique used to bolster the strength of the side walls and it resulted in some very unique Milwaukee equipment.

The paint is badly faded on the old plow and rust resides around many of the weld joints. When needed, however, it has seen a recent call to action. The winter of 2007-2008 required its services on the Elk River branch. Shop crews spent a few days readying the plow and then pushed it out of town using a pair of the St. Maries River Railroad GPs. Perhaps the only disappointment of the trip was the lack of light from that fabulous quad: no power hookup was available from the locomotives to turn it on.

It appears that there will be no further calls to action for X900109. As noted in previous postings, the Elk River Branch is silent and the log cars that roamed there are cut into scrap. For now though, that quad headlight still rests atop the old plow in the yards at St. Maries. It's a nod to the Milwaukee's uniqueness, its home shops, and to those distinctive electric locos that ran the electrified mountain divisions for those many many decades. A magnificent quad.

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