Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Answers to Questions
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.