Thursday, June 17, 2010

Building Forward and Onward

Often, it is the things just below the surface that make a history or place interesting.  Old stories of personal sacrifice or challenge that make up the big history are often quite special.  These things lie just below the surface of what is normally seen, weaving the fabric of history into what is now casually observed as "current."

The piles of rock and filler that abound in the picture of Deer Lodge, MT lie atop one of those intriguing old stories.  In the distance, a few poles jut into the sky between the trees.  They are a reminder that this is a special place.  This is a place where America's final transcontinental railroad pushed west toward the mountains in the distance.  This is a place where Little Joes pulled time sensitive Thunderhawk and XL Specials up for crew changes at the nearby depot.  They rolled out beneath those old poles, from between the trees and into the rails of the Milwaukee's Deer Lodge yards, now home to large piles of DOT filler and debris.

Beneath those piles, just beneath the surface, lie the ruins of a company that pushed forward and onward.  It has been a long time since a headlight pierced that space between the trees, even longer since electric wire provided the potential to drag Thunderhawks across the challenging Montana landscape.  These were the visions of progress carried out in their day.  It's not difficult to look at the old poles and mountains in the distance and imagine a scene from yesteryear.  It was a different time:  building and expansion that feels more incredible with each passing year.  It was a bold vision, a bold execution, and a quiet end to the push onward.