Sunday, September 30, 2012

Musselshell Graveyard


Slowly, ever so slowly, the dry and harsh plains of eastern Montana begin to yield  to a new land that will soon reveal itself to westbound travelers.  The Musselshell river makes its appearance rolling west - and the cuts that it has made in the landscape introduce a rockiness that was missing through the plains of Ingomar and Vananda.

The journey west has been filled with the solemn feeling of an industrial graveyard.  It is a feeling of a missing 'hustle' or purpose that seems so close, and at the same time, so distant from the present.  Time continues to erode this graveyard in real and figurative ways.  Through the summer of 2011 massive rains to this part of Montana did heavy damage to the old Resourceful Railroad.  Bridges are missing and fills are washed away.  Further north along the Milwaukee's wheat lines to the Golden Triangle, the large trestle over the Judith River now lists across the center spans.  Its foundations have eroded and it awaits funding for repair that will likely never come.

In times past, teams of railroad men and machinery would have quickly bolstered the eroding fills and buttressed the bridges that served as the lifeline to the transcon.  Fresh ballast would now be in place, and a year later, slow orders lifted as freight from the Pacific Rim journeys east to the big markets of the Midwest and East Coast.  The stark, stark contrast between those "what ifs" and the present reality make the Musselshell graveyard a gloomy place indeed.  There are a few places where it seems rails could simply be relaid, sadly this is no longer among them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Living in the Promised Land

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 [1].  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.