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.