Thursday, August 18, 2011

Decades in the Making

The year is 2005 and a hot summer's day finds the photographer with Velvia slide film and an old Pentax camera pointed Railroad East.  The blues and greens that are captured by Fuji's high saturation  film disguise the 100 degree temperatures and hot breeze that reside in this western mountain valley.  To the left and right, the old Northern Pacific mainline to Northwest Coast enters and exits frame.  In 2005 the NP is home to the Montana Rail Link and its unique fleet of sd45s, a few remaining semaphore signals, and (as always) a close proximity to America's Resourceful Railroad.

This is Huson, MT.  Huson was located at milepost 1662.2 on the Milwaukee Road - just over 1660 miles from Chicago's Union Station.  The Milwaukee's mainline to the West Coast lies directly ahead of the camera and under foot in this 2005 photograph.  The feeder lines to the Milwaukee's network of substations and overhead DC power still mark the old right of way's northern edge, but the grade-level crossing with the NP is gone. 

In 1979, Wallace Abbey photographed this location from the back seat of a 1970s era Suburban hi-railer.  His trip began in Tacoma and journeyed east along Lines West.  The photograph below is just one of many that record the state of the Milwaukee Road main as the 1980 liquidation loomed.

More than a quarter century separate the views and much has changed, though the photos also show elements where time's influence has been less dramatic.  The mountains that form the backdrop show the same profiles and dry slopes.  The Montana blue skies are there, and even the nearby farm has many of the same buildings left in place.  Most obvious, though, are the AC power lines that mark the right of way and the old NP that still crosses the Pacific Coast Extension.  These two views of MP 1662.2 have been decades in the making. 

Special thanks to RailroadHeritage.org for use of this W. Abbey photo from their collection.   Both views are available online at their website with additional background and information: 2005  1979