Forgotten Memory

In the rustling tall grasses of Montana prairie the trek west continues.  The civilization of Miles City, with its offices, restaurants, and Wal-marts, briefly blotted out the empty feelings of this land - but here near MP 1140, the expanse is inescapable.  In different times, this was a place named Sheffield, but like so many other locations across the Milwaukee's West, it is now more a name with no place. 

The old corrals here certainly date back to Milwaukee times.  Feed pens and loading ramps still dot the site but it's not hard to see the general decay of decades.  In the West, some elements of the Milwaukee are simply gone, but others paint a picture larger than that of the railroad itself.  Here, the reflection painted is one of a changed culture and changed economy as well as the vanished transcon.  Like a forgotten memory that tugs at the mind but will not rise to the surface, the days of cattle by rail exist only in places like these.  The grasses are tall and the wood is old.  There's the sound of an old chain hitting a post, clanking in the soft wind.  Years ago at the end of a business day the gates were closed and the people walked away.  But like the old railroad that plied these parts, there would be no next time.  Days grow to months and then to years with the tall prairie grasses gradually taking back and obscuring the past. 


Always a pleasure to discover your latest prose. The Milwaukee has always fascinated me, from the days of growing up near the main lines west of the Twin Cities and watching the orange and black come crawling through on the double track. It's a real treat to have someone so dedicated to preserving the history and real sense of what was lost through greed, malice and ignorance.
SDP45 said…
I have to agree with the above poster.

When will you be writing a book reminiscing about the Milwaukee?

oamundsen said…
Leland, "a name with no place." says so much in so few words! Tony Hiss (In Motion: The Experience of Travel, The Experience of Place:...., All Aboard with E.M. Frimbo:....)writes beautifully on similar themes: you are in a class of very wonderful writers and we readers want more! Great photos too.
Anonymous said…
Hello Leland,

Keep up the great work! I really enjoy reading about the Milwaukee.

Just three weeks ago, I drove back to my original homeplace in Detroit Lakes, MN (D.L. as the locals call it) for my father's funeral. This time I drove the scenic route of U.S. Highway 59 from Clarkfield, MN to D.L.

This route is interesting as it crosses or parallels six major railroads in Minnesota as listed below:

Minnesota Prairie Line at Clarkfield (formerly Minneapolis and St. Louis before 1960, then Chicago and Northwestern).

The former Great Northern mainline
through Morris, MN and the GN branch line from Benson through Appleton.

The Soo Line mainline from Barrett to Elbow Lake, MN.

The abandoned GN secondary mainline from Waite Park to Fergus Falls.

The partially abandoned NP branch line from Wadena through Fergus Falls and then through Wahpeton and Oakes, ND.

The double tracked Northern Pacific Hi-Line (now BNSF, of course) at Detroit Lakes where it crosses the Soo Line Glenwood to Noyes, MN branch line.

And finally, U.S. 59 parallels the C M St.P and P mainline (now Twin Cities and Western RR) from Montevideo to Appleton where it interchanges from the BNSF.

I pulled over and looked over the trackage at a few grade crossings for a quick leg stretch. TC & W has performed a commendable job of maintaining the trackage: very straight and level. The telegraph poles, now obselete of course, are scattered in the right of way with most of the wires hanging limply and downed between the poles. I am really surprised the copper salvagers have not taken advantage especially with today's high prices.

There are even the old chevron switch signs still standing at Milan and Appleton, MN as well as numerous original mile marker signs.

This is a neat drive for the Minnesota railfans.
Anonymous said…
I forgot one more abandoned line along U.S. 59. One can see a few isolated remnants of the old GN branch line from Fergus Falls, MN (Carlisle Junction) through Erhard, Elizabeth, and Pelican Rapids, MN.
LinesWest said…
Thanks everyone - and great info on the Minnesota area. That's one I haven't spent much time around but would love to. The Dakotas would be fun too ... so much "used to be" out there.
Anonymous said…
h'lo -- just found this blog the other day and wanted to express my appreciation for your work. my general interest in the CMStP&P stems from the fact one of their many granger branchlines ran right through the middle of our farm (the Milwaukee built things to last in Iowa, too, by the way) but it wasn't til last summer, when I was out west for the first time, that I began to understand the sheer accomplishment that was the Pacific Extension.


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