Spring Creek Sunsets

Location:  Spring Creek Trestle, near Lewistown, MT.  2005

Big events change things quickly, but the accumulation of small changes mark the years and decades just as effectively.  The sun comes up and the sun goes down: one day leads to the next as a mix of change.

Every so often, there appears just a few years of stability when the reliability of the status quo seems unshakable.  Recently the expectation of burgeoning productivity and expansive wealth have been questioned, though for years they marked the American Dream.  Cheap energy was a hallmark of the U.S. as was its ability to manufacture products for domestic and global consumption.  For years the railroads owned the landscape and mail was always delivered by RPO car.  Today the RPO is long gone, and the unique Saturday delivery that as marked the USPS seems destined to follow it into history as well.  Many of the towns that were served by these institutions are depleted or vanished.

There was a time, during one of those periods of stability,  when a sunset along Lines West marked the end of the day across the Milwaukee's extension to the West Coast.  It foretold the dawning of another with the usual activities spread out across the system.  The coming day would see locals and patrols out along the lines exchanging grain cars in the Golden Triangle, or serving the railroads and industries of Butte.  It would be another day of pace-setting manifest trains burning miles from the big ports of the coast to the central U.S.  A day of electrified power across the mountains, of sleek passenger trains that rivaled any in the West out amidst scenery that was second to none.  There was a time when a beautiful sunset promised another day out along America's final transcon.

Today the changes have accumulated, and the perceived stability is benched in quiet abandonment.  Above, the Spring Creek Trestle bears witness to another end of day - but is listed as unusable and the lines that it connected in Lewistown are gone anyway.  One day, probably not in the distant future, it will share the same fate as all of those other institutions that litter the historical landscape.  A sunset over Spring Creek promises another day, but merely edges ever closer to an obvious conclusion.  It is always tempting to gaze at the span of only a few years and feel secure in the stability that surrounds us, yet there are quiet places that shout out the opposite is true.  A sunset on Spring Creek Trestle is one of them.


Ole M. Amundsen, Jr. said…
Yes, Leland, it makes a person contemplate the mysteries of quantum physics and the elasticity of time. Poets and physicists work in the same realm! Great photo and wonderful writing. Thanks.
Leland - So much to say - very little time!

First, the photo is great. I've always had a fondness for wood trestles, noted for their grand crossings and meticulous geometric symmetry. Which also begged the question, "How did they build them?"

A fellow I knew who worked on the Canadian National Railways Bridge & Builders (B&B) gang snorted an answer to me when I asked, "One damn stick at a time!"

For those interested, there are many web sources that provides insight. My favorite, (cut 'n paste,) http://4largescale.com/trains/trestle.htm . It is very detailed on the techniques utilized to build the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, which I dare say probably had more "bridges-per-mile" than any other railroad! (142 bridges along its 162 miles of track!)

Next, your wistful remembrance of the "Good Old Days." The North American Free Trade Agreement marked the end of the "Good Old Days." As timely as your article, today's Huffington Business Post spells it out in graphic detail: "Last year, U.S. exports to Mexico supported 791,900 jobs. It's just that those jobs created pale in comparison to the 1.47 million U.S. jobs that would be necessary without the imports resulting from NAFTA." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/12/nafta-job-loss-trade-deficit-epi_n_859983.html )

And I wrote in a recent post about the effects of Globalization, which only benefits those at the top of the heap, using the outsourcing of the Boeing 787 "DreamLiner" as an example.
Anonymous said…
I am commenting on the sunset trestle picture of the Spring Creek Junction i Montana, I live nearby this trestle and have some knowledge of this area on RR. This trestle was used into the 1980's until BNSF decided it was to abandon this line, Central Montana Railroad has since used this line as a shortline from the BNSF connection just West of this trestle to Denton and Gerldine Montana, it is mostly for shipment of grain, it is all on former Milwaukee RR trackage with several other steel trestles and tunnel, they also have a dinner train that runs on a schedule through the summer months and some special runs also. the line currently is landlocked due to a spring flood in 2011 that damaged a trestle West of the wooden one pictured, I would like to see something done with this wooden trestle as there are very few if any left of this size, also the track still connects on both ends of this trestle and run just outside of town, about a half mile. I can be reached at joe6265@yahoo.com
thank you.

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