March 9 is an important date in Milwaukee Road history. In 1908 on this date the first train arrived in Harlowton, MT from the East. Harlowton would become a small town of major importance to the Milwaukee, and Central Montana as well.
Here at Harlowton, the Milwaukee would construct a large yard and engine facility. The line to the Golden Triangle would originate from the east-west main here at Harlowton, providing the outlet for wheat crops to reach far away markets. Other shipments from the areas north of Harlowton worked their way south as well including oil from the Lewistown area. Harlowton was also the beginning of the Rocky Mountain Division for trains heading west. Here in the big yards, the famous electric locomotives that defined the Milwaukee's Mountain operation for decades would be swapped in and out. March 1908 marked the beginning. In a bit of irony, March 1980 marked the end of the Milwaukee's operations across the west. The last train headed east through Harlowton and scrappers soon followed, pulling rail.
It has been 103 years since the Milwaukee first rolled into the small town of Harlowton, 31 since it left. I find myself reflecting on these passages of time more and more as I get older. As a friend of mine recently observed, time becomes the thing that is most valuable because it is so easily syphoned and committed away every day. The push of life and the frenzy of the days ensure this. At the same time, our memories of special times or special places grow more fond and more meaningful by comparison. Even the photo above is aging: the scene reflects the Harlowton depot as it existed on a hot summer day in 2003. The yard tracks are long lifted and the roundhouse is dilapidated. I had time to pursue the old railroad then, but didn't appreciate the significance of it at the time. Now, only as the years continue to mount, do I realize the gift that times like that are.
Lost Rail is pleased to share a first publication. This is a collection of photographs taken over the course of a year spent in the Palouse. The photos are broken into the distinct and beautiful four seasons of the country. Photos are sourced from the pages of this blog as well as others taken around the Palouse and Inland Empire of Washington State.