Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Answers to Questions

In the years that have spanned the Milwaukee Road's "retrenchment" from the Pacific Coast, there have been more than a few questions posed.  There have been more than a few answers offered.  There have been more than a few arguments started, and more than a few facts misinterpreted.  The common thread is the quest for answers to the question, "What happened out there?"

Although it was Lines West that seems to be the most memorable scar from the Milwaukee tragedy, perhaps because of its seemingly inherent value, all across the Milwaukee empire things were not well.  Travel times across the Midwest were high, slow orders abounded.  Harsh winters reduced the locomotive fleet to the point where Canadian National and Baltimore and Ohio units made guest appearances.  Out on the Pacific Extension, worn U-boats old GPs trudged through the snows and dilapidation of what was left of a modern engineering marvel.

I don't pretend to have the answers to the questions the ghosts of the old railroad conjure.  But on an early spring day out along the transcon, the questions howl like the bitter Palouse wind.   The bridge at Seaburry, WA still stands and carries the vacant right of way across the old interurban line in Eastern Washington.  The photo looks east, toward the Bitterroot mountains and famous Rocky Mountain electrified division.  Beyond that, the plains and badlands of Eastern Montana.  Then the Dakota plains and grand Missouri River.  Farther still, the big Midwestern cities of St. Paul, Chicago, and the rest.  The distance seems so unfathomably vast from the forgotten outpost of Seaburry  --  yet that is what we are left with.  Big distances, big questions, and the cold winds of Eastern Washington.

3 comments:

oamundsen said...

A haunting puzzlement which the bridge photo captures beautifully. I never had a chance to ride Milwaukee trains but remember the images from National Geographic ads of the wonderful Hiawatha Olympian. Very poignant. Thanks.

Kurt Clark said...

It's so natural for me to simply close my eyes, imagine this bridge, and watch as an orange-and-black monster runs hard towards the coast. I barely have tangible memories of the Milwaukee Road growing up in Seattle. While sad, it's nice to visit these outposts to see what's left and how they can speak to each of us.

SDP45 said...

I've seen a photo of this bridge from the GN/SC&P/S&IE side. Now both are gone.

Dan