Thursday, April 12, 2012

Division Points

Like its name suggests, the Trans Missouri Division of the Pacific Coast Extension crosses much of the territory defined by the large, meandering river.  1118 miles from Chicago, the Resourceful Railroad enters Miles City, MT.  In better times, it was the location of division offices with large yard and maintenance complex - the first encountered out along the PCE.  In other times, it was the original start point for the Lines West embargo of 1980.  Never far away in these parts of the plains is the old NP, the first line to strike out for the Northwest Coast.  It is still active today and lends the sounds of diesel prime movers and whistles to the local community despite the Milwaukee's lasting absence.  Below, west bound coal rolls through the eastern edge of Miles City behind a quartet of EMD products that reveal the continually changing landscape of railroading in general.


 Years ago, machinists and blacksmiths worked here in Miles City, rebuilding and maintaining the Road's fleet of coal powered steamers. Today, the yards that once sponsored these Milwaukee crews and switchers now host more modern cars bound for maintenance in the old complex.  In the 2003 picture below, early morning light glows off the sides of old rails and tank cars near the dark outline of  Milwaukee era servicing facilities.  Today the shops are owned by Transco, but can trace their history back to Trinity Rail as the sign attests.  Even the outline of the old Roundhouse is still clearly viewed, courtesy of the Transco Website.



Across the Milwaukee's West, few things were done in a small way.  Even today, 30+ years after the 1980 embargo that marked the end, the large presence of the line reminds us of what was there before.  On this sunny summer morning, the skies are a high blue and just as in years past, the shop switcher begins making its rounds.  Rail cars will be shuffled and reworked, then bound for the NP connection at the east end of town.  Unlike times of the Milwaukee Road, however, there will be no through freights calling at the yards.  The days of 500 mile inspections at Miles City are over.  There will be no first or second section of the Thunderhawk or XL Special, and there will certainly be no trains calling at the station just west of the yards.  Although tracks remain here in this little piece of the empire, they end just west of town, swallowed by prairies and big sky where the journey west continues.

5 comments:

SDP45 said...

I caught myself letting out a big sigh as I read through what was written, longing to actually see what you had painted with words.

Thanks for the reminder of the Milwaukee. Long may it live, even if only in our minds.

Dan

oamundsen said...

You have got to get to work on your book! I never rode the Milwaukee Road but your photos and writing have given me great context for my several books on their trains. Thanks!

LinesWest said...

Thanks for the kind words guys. Maybe I'll have some more time this summer to work on the book. Right now, I'd like to just generate a few more posts more often, but there seem to be a lot of other demands for the time. I'll work on it though, no worries.

Anonymous said...

Nice.

Best regards, Michael Sol

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Another thought provoking post about an American Icon. Yet one cannot sugar-coat the weaknesses that brought this line down.

At the top of list, a management team that made puzzling business decisions.

And operational problems, not the least of which the mixture of diesel and electric trains, along with the incumbent problems they presented.

Indeed, Thomas Wylie, head of electric division, finally had to undertake the problematic and expensive task of wrapping the aging General Electric box cab d.c motors with steel wire, to keep them from flying apart in an attempt to coax more rpm’s out them.

All to gain 10 miles per hour over ground. From 35 mph to 45 mph. [ http://www.oil-electric.com/2008/09/milwaukee-road-ge-motors-worlds.html ]

Not a winning formula against faster schedules, nimble management, and aggressive marketing by the Great Northern and Northern Pacific.

Basic Econ 101.