Walking in Old Ways
"Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it" Jerimiah 6:16
On August 12, 1978 the Milwaukee Board of Directors announced their intent to abandon the Pacific Coast Extension. The final abandonment would come after an initial embargo in 1979, a brief reprieve, and then a final shutdown in 1980. Moving west only slightly from the previous photo brings us to the high summer sun of a 2003 day, 25 years after that regrettable announcement. US 12 has been working west with the old mainline since leaving Forsyth and the sun is climbing higher into the skies, yielding unfriendly lighting and harsh pictures of this old way west.
The small girder bridge that still links east and west in this photo is all part of a line that looks as though rails could simply be relaid and trains could run in a matter of weeks. It's interesting to compare this thought to the numbers being thrown around by states like California and companies like Amtrak to develop high speed rail (HSR). The line pictured above was well used for passenger travel in times past (and it wasn't so slow). The Milwaukee operated varnish like the Olympian here. Pulled by locomotives like the 4-6-4 "Baltics" that held the point directly from the Twin Cities straight through to Harlowton. It was the longest continuous run for an equipment set in the U.S. at the time. Right here on this little girder bridge that still stands as a connection point for the path of old.
Despite the harsh colors and sub-prime time of day for photography, the above photo remains a personal favorite. I think the simplicity of the bridge, locked in place for decades past and decades to come, strikes an interesting tone.