Monday, November 01, 2010

Trans Missouri


Miles City, Montana was a point of activity for the Milwaukee Road's line to the Pacific Coast.  Company shops were located here as was the division headquarters for the line's Trans Missouri division.  The Trans Missouri linked the Milwaukee's famous electrified Rocky Mountain Division in the west with Mobridge and the crossing of the Missouri River in the east.  Here, in the Trans Missouri, the line plied the plains of the great American West.

Comprised of both fertile ground and desolate badlands, the Trans Missouri wrestled directly with the vast distances and big skies that greet westward travelers to this day.  While many seem appalled at the boredom of traversing this land, it offers unique opportunities to witness the true scale of the world in which we live.  Out on the Trans Missouri, it is difficult to hide from the sobering reality that we are, in fact, quite small.

Trains arriving in Miles City were subject to 500 mile inspections.  Great hotshot freights with names like Thunderhawk paused here in Miles City as they made their sprint across the plains.  Miles City saw the Milwaukee Road's passenger power show true grit across these plains:  a single locomotive held point on the line's varnish for the entire distance from St. Paul to the start of wires over the Rocky Mountain Division.  Miles City was also a home to the rival NP, and the two railroads left town heading east within a stone's throw of each other.  Miles City was a real point of activity.

Today in Miles City, much of the old Milwaukee Shops still stand.  Via their connection with the old NP (now BNSF), they're even in business as a private corporation, Transco.  The salvage of the shops has led to another interesting remnant here on the Trans Missouri:  mainline.  From the crossing of the Tongue River on the west side of town, to the shops and connection with the old NP on the east, the mainline rails of the Pacific Coast Extension still hold ground.  Standing on the Tongue River bridge and staring west, it's not difficult to imagine the rails continuing out across the flatlands ahead.  It would be another 200 miles to electrification and the Rocky Mountain Division.  200 miles out across a vast landscape looked over by the big skies of the Trans Missouri.  Although famous for its electrics and mountain ranges, this too was Milwaukee Country.  Land of the Resourceful Railroad.

4 comments:

SDP45 said...

Is this the same Tongue River that I've heard about recently that involves building of a new line for hauling coal?

Dan

LinesWest said...

Hi Dan,

I suppose that it is, but defer to those who've looked into it more than I have. I can't remember the specifics on that line or its placements.

Best,
-Leland

Oil-Electric said...

Once again you manage to dig an off beat file to post! Well done. There is coal spotted in various areas up there.

Back in 1924, the NP put in a mine to strip out coal for locomotives. The town was "cleverly" named Colstrip. (coal strip...)

When the NP matriculated to diesel in 1958, it sold the mine and town to Montana Power Company in 1959.

The coal was then used to run power plants.

This past July, The Northern Plains Resource Council threw a monkey wrench at Arch Coal, trying to stop construction by Arch Coal to build a new railroad along the Tongue to get at 1.5 bt of coal at Ashland.

(We've got to get off this coal fired power plant nonsense. When the last car load of coal goes through the rotary dumper, then what?)

Dial "Riverton" into Flicker - there is a nice set of photos showing the Miles Station and more views of the now BNSF bridge.

LinesWest said...

Hi O-E, thanks for the notes on the local coal. I knew someone out there would be able to provide some info on that.

I'd agree that we need to be aware of what we're up to when we start to "zero out" coal fired power plants. One thing this country has a lot of is coal -- we should remember that when we talk about energy security as well as environmental security. None of these things have simple answers, but I'd sure like to have a more complete discussion of the real issues out there in the big media land.

Good thing we have websites like O-E to put the missing parts of some of these stories out there in a well researched and well presented manner.

Best,
-Leland