Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Early Morning Gold

Location:  Choteau -- somewhere with big skies and big spaces.

This is Choteau, MT on a clean and clear summer morning in 2007.  Rain had passed through the night before and the built-up dirt and haze that accompanies summer had washed away.  Only unlimited ceiling and light blue remains on this start to a perfect summer day.  This corner of Montana was home to a number of railroads, and this little town hosted the Milwaukee and Great Northern lines that came up from Great Falls.  Grain poured from this little town, and others like it along these far flung branch lines, and filled Milwaukee's decrepit ribside boxcars right up to the end. 

In the quiet morning, there are a few holdovers that are worth mentioning and thinking about.  Here in Choteau, one relic is the old grain truck.  This C60 can trace its design back to 1973 when the models were refreshed as part of GM's truck redesigns.  They would be produced in similar style through the mid-80s along with related vehicles like the Suburbans and pickups.  They weren't fancy:  vinyl seats were common and the manual "wind wings" provided cooling on hot days.  The grille suggests that this could be one of the early ones, and the seemingly bent frame suggests its been doing its job for a long, long time.  Just like the worn out SDs that the Milwaukee Road rolled through here, this C60 isn't perfect but it knows its purpose and hangs on.

Other relics include the grain elevators that trace their history back to the railroads that first penetrated the lush farm country of the Golden Triangle.   Concrete silos were added later, but even these likely date to the 1950s.  All of these relics are gathered together here on a beautiful summer morning, bathed in a bit of dew and the quiet of a day that hasn't quite started yet:  the sun rises early on the northern plains.  It's morning on the Golden Triangle and, for me, the beginning of a tour through this part of the state.  Old Milwaukee towns and trestles, the GN Hi-line, and even an Empire Builder lie ahead.  It was a big day that started with a quiet collection of memories.

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