Mainline on the Pacific Coast Extension. It's a rare thing to find the old 112lb rail still in place, but it remains in a few scattered places across the West. That makes this place a special one for many reasons. It exists in the Central Washington desert and that bodes well for preservation of historical markers like this one. Though cold winters and hot summers are common, the rain and moisture that does damage to long standing elements of man passes on this landscape. Memories here last for a long time, and the Milwaukee mainline west of Othello is full of them.
The rails themselves reflect the electrified service of the Resourceful Railroad across the Cascade Range. Though the overhead catenary and lineside poles are gone, the rails hold a key signature from this effort: they are forever electrically tied together with thick metal wiring at the rail joints. This served to create a continuous ground, or return loop, for the electrical motors that drove the BiPolars and Boxcabs out across this desolate landscape.
Along this old line, a Milwaukee style cross-buck guards the right of way. It represents an unmistakable older-style that still stands, alerting traffic to trains that will no longer pass. Type-R block signals still dot the right of way here as well, though many have become subjects of target practice. These were placed early in the life of this line and represented some of the first signals with improved lenses for long-distance viewing. They now stand with a vacant and haunted look, well suited for the land and the rails that still pass through. It's a dusty and lonely part of the Resourceful Railroad, but the memories are nearer the surface here than many other places.
The wind blows sand and dirt out here as the sage brush rustles along the rusty rail. These are mere shadows of what came before: a sea of grays and browns along a line that knew bright orange and crimson. It's easy to see the "dust to dust" on this mainline to the Northwest Coast, haunted by all of these marks of past glory.
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.