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.