The long, sweeping curve into Ingomar, MT highlights the Milwaukee Road's entrance into this small town out on the Montana plains. The photo above looks east, back toward the places and spaces already traveled, and to those beyond the start of abandonment at Terry. Ingomar itself is one of the few survivors that exists out along an old US highway and this abandoned transcon. The streets are gravel and the shops few but nonetheless, Ingomar holds on.
Ingomar was one of the towns plotted by the railroad as it headed west in 1908. As with many of the other small towns plotted by the Milwaukee Road, it was to serve as a hub for the local settlers and an access point to the railroad's growing empire that stretched to the east and west. Looking south along the main street, the US flag still flies high on this hot summer day in 2003. It marks the Jersey Lilly - one of the local watering holes left over from a time of grander intents.
The station still stands at Ingomar as a converted residence and is still lined closely to the old mainline that strikes through the north side of town. Also left behind is an old Milwaukee tender, likely from an S2 Northern steam locomotive. The classy white stripping and outline of the tilted emblem are clearly visible as the relic sits in the weeds just off the main. The story goes that water was supplied to the town by the Milwaukee Road when potable water could not be found . Although no longer in use today, it stands as an unexpected and haunting reminder of the steel machines that used to traverse these promised lands.
The view above is the last one of Harlowton, for now. The image looks east, down the throat of the large yards that once held the lands here. The old station and signal stand just to the left of the plow and Deer Lodge's yellow mule. The skies overhead are gray, and the day is one of a cool spring where the sun struggles to break free, highlighting just a few square feet for only seconds a time.
Railfans and photographers traveled from near and far to this place to capture the 'lasts' that included the Little Joes and western electrification. Then there were the last Dead Freights, and the last of the salvagers that passed this way. On this day there is only one photographer here though, looking down the yard throat and gazing backwards at what was, wondering what could have been.
"In Montana they have blizzards that freeze cattle standin' in their tracks. An' horses freeze to death. They tell me that a drivin' sleet in the face with the mercury forty below is somethin' to ride against"Light of the Western Stars, by Zane Grey
There are hundreds and hundreds of miles that now lay behind us in this journey to the Milwaukee's West. Alcazar is located 1467.5 miles from Chicago's Union Station, along these shores of the Jefferson River, winding along with the remains of the Northern Pacific. Like many of the haunts that have rolled by in the run west, it is a name with no place - lying both in the shadows of the Rockies and the fading memories of a Nation.
Here the Rocky Mountains loom ever closer and rise ever higher. They are aloof and unattainable but ever present and mighty. The Continental Divide lies ahead and so does the inevitable throttle-up that will hoist tonnage to the top.
"As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so one who goes down to the grave does not return." Job 7:8-9
The year is 1972. GE has released a proposal to the Milwaukee Road to close the electrification 'gap' between Avery, ID and Othello WA while supplying new electric locomotives to handle trains across the expanded Harlowton to Othello electrified lines. Perhaps the most intriguing part of this arrangement is GE's offer to finance the deal itself. Significant unknowns lie ahead for the nation, a fuel crisis looms and an economic downturn as well. The best of Milwaukee's electric locomotives in service entered their roles more than two decades prior. The oldest date from the teens. Out on the mainline, away from the decision makers, the trains continue to move, benefitting from the port and operating agreements spawned by the BN merger conditions. But back in the midwest, far from places like Two Dot or Harlowton, decisions are being made, future directions de…