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Showing posts from 2014

Harsh Contrasts

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Location: 16 Mile Creek
MP: ~1416 Miles from Chicago Union Station

16 Mile Creek and Canyon were favorite spots for Milwaukee Road photographers to capture some of the best "varnish" the Resourceful Railroad had to offer.  Along with all of the dramatic photos of Eagles Nest tunnel, are images of Little Joes pulling Olympian Hiawathas resplendent in crimson and orange, Super Domes, and Creek series observation cars.  Of course, over the years even while the railroad was operating, contrasts were stark.
As orange gave way to armour yellow, passenger Joes gave way to poorly suited Bi-Polars relocated from the Cascade Division.  These would run out their final miles across the Rockies.  Then the passenger trains stopped running altogether followed by the Joes, Boxcabs, and then the front-line power.  Finally the trains and then the rails were gone as a final pull-back was completed.  Each December 19th that passes notes the last bankruptcy of the railroad and hopelessness in a s…

Appearing from the Shadows

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The path back to 16 Mile Creek and America's final transcon has led south out of the small town of Ringling and up and over small passes where cattle roam and the road is single track.  On this little path, it is easy to feel alone and lost - even if just for a moment.  The mountains that climb around a sole traveler seem too high, the dirt road too infrequently passed, and there are none of the sounds that mark civilization: no car horns, no cell phone coverage, no slamming doors - just all-encompasing quiet. In some ways this makes it easy to see the land the Milwaukee built through in its push west.

Pushing on and through the doubts, past little pieces of Americana along the way, the road empties into a wider valley where, once again, the Resourceful Railroad lies in pieces.  Far across the valley floor, a brace of wooden trestle bridges loft the smooth right of way between fills on timbers that seem too spindly for the likes of a Little Joe.  At their feet is the remains of an …

The Railfan 5 Challenge

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The challenge was first posed by Mr. Eric Gagnon, over at Trackside Treasure.  It was taken up by several others, that include some other Lost Rail friends: Oil-Electric and Confessions of a Train Geek.  Robert over at Oil-electric passed the challenge directly to me.
The challenge:  share five photos that visualize my introduction to and development as a ferroequinologist.   This is a difficult challenge: actually choose 5 photos (I have included 5.5) that show my journey as a rail "enthusiast."  Perhaps this is made easier for me only because many of the formative pictures are still kept by my parents so I am left with a smaller selection.  My choice of 5 spans the decades and leads to a future second installment, picking up where this series leaves off. 
Picture 1:  CPR 374, Vancouver BC ~1982 CPR 374 was the first locomotive to pull a train into Vancouver.  The date is pre-1983 when she was removed from her park setting (where children liked to play on her) for restorat…

Fallen

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In the days before the Milwaukee's retrenchment to the Midwest, small roads like this Maudlow Road were the connections from one isolated outpost on the transcon to another.  Over modest passes, through fields where cattle wander aimlessly without fencing, and beneath the big skies above.  In good weather the roads were passable, in more difficult times of year they were treacherous.  The Milwaukee Road itself must have been the preferred means of access to the lost places like Francis that exist west of Ringling and within the traces of 16 Mile Creek.

This is the American West in many respects: isolated, alone, dangerous, and indescribably beautiful.  On this June day, in a picture now well dated, the little road from Maudlow continues to survive and meander its way from one small settlement to the next.  If there are specific times or places where one can fall in love with the West, this must be one of them for me. 


ps - Speaking of the West, the new book from Big Bend looks f…

Last Run of the Wheat Line

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Most often, this site considers the "real" Milwaukee Road in images that record what it left behind.  On occasion, however, the focus drifts to the world of a re-created Milwaukee Road in the form of models that bear the Resourceful Railroad insignias.
Recently, my own Wheat Line (Warden, WA to Marcellus, WA) hosted its final run because of an imminent move to a larger scale.  The outbound run out to Marcellus is just a caboose hop, with the final cars being pulled from the line as the train works its way back to the transcon at Warden (all locations simulated ... poorly). Unlike the real Wheat Line, 100 ton hoppers were allowed as far as Ruff, WA in this version.  For the most part, however, the 40 foot grain boxcars still ruled the branch line, resplendent with rib sides and Billboard lettering.
For your enjoyment, the documented final run of the Wheat Line:

Milwaukee 534 and 5054 leave the mainline at Warden and head north and east out along light rail:


The elevators of…

These Things Remain

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Leaving the small outpost of Ringling, the Resourceful Railroad travels through large tracts of private ranch land where visitation can be difficult.  In the midst of these wanderings, the railroad runs through infamous locations like "Eagle's Nest" tunnel and into the 16 Mile Creek canyon.  For now, Eagle's Nest is a missing element to my wanderings of Milwaukee miles.  In similar fashion, the old substation remains and cattle platforms at Francis are notably missing as well, but perhaps that blank can be filled sometime in the future.
Leaving Ringling by road, one turns South to a meeting with the railroad once again at Maudlow, while the railroad heads West and then Southwest.  With the Rocky Mountains ahead, the road to Maudlow reveals exactly where the transcon must head, and the crossing that it will face.  The single lane dirt road through these hills and canyons makes no effort to traverse the relatively flat confines of 16 Mile Creek.  As such, the mountai…

Captivating Expanse from a Distance

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Distance was a word with which the Milwaukee Road was familiar.  In fact, Western US railroads in general crossed exceptional distances that their Eastern counterparts would never match.  The old NYC "Waterlevel" mainline from New York to Chicago was 961 miles and the PRR counted its "Broadway" route as 908 [1].  The longer Erie (Hoboken to Chicago) was 976 [2].  By contrast, the Great Northern line to Seattle was 1782 miles, and started in St. Paul [3].  
1392.8 miles into its own push west, The Resourceful Railroad rolled through Ringling and below a captivating expanse of Big Skies.  Ringling itself was named after John Ringling, one of the brothers of the Ringling Bros. Circus who had purchased land in the area [4].  Small yards were at one time placed at Ringling for interchange with the White Sulphur Springs Railroad.  This line diverged to the north, serving the small town of White Sulphur Springs.  In later years, the line provided forest products to the m…

Those Magnificent Quads ... in Iowa

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Those Magnificent Quads were a distinctive feature of Milwaukee electric locomotives.  Even now, the remaining Little Joe in Deer Lodge sports a lighted quad as part of the static display of Milwaukee Road motive power.  The Joe rests north - south, 180 degrees (and a few city blocks) out of place from the mainline it ruled.  The headlight shines only on low power, and the dimly lit scene before it never changes.  It is a far cry from the glories of times past when high power lumens cut through miles of dark tunnels or charged up the formidable grades of the Rocky mountains.  But the Quad exists still today, and even in static form, is something quite special.
1100 miles to the east, another set of quads yet roams.  The Iowa Traction Railroad runs the quad arrangement on its own electric locomotive, #54.  54 was built in 1923 by Baldwin Locomotive for the Southern Iowa Railway [1].  Interurban lines once criss-crossed the Midwest, Iowa Traction is essentially the last and runs switchi…

Spaces of the Past

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"Who plundered those wide open spaces of the past, and how can we get them back?" [1]
Just down the gravel trail mainline from the US89 crossing, the depot at Ringling stands next to the old right of way.  This picture dates from 2003, more than 20 years following the demise of the Milwaukee Road.  Now, an additional 10 years have passed, and as noted in the comments to the prior post, the power lines are gone.  These old telegraphy poles that stood in the lush grasses of this early summer day have faired no better.  The gaping windows of the abandoned depot seem to suggest that the building itself has defied all expectation.  Even the photograph speaks of a different time and an old technology: the vibrant colors of Fuji's Velvia slide film are difficult to replicate, even in this day of modern technology and digital processing.
In the intervening decades from mainline to gravel road, there has been an onslaught of technology and progress. In the past 10 years even, th…

The Long Road to Ringling

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Leaving the mountain pass of the Belt Range behind, the Milwaukee begins a slow descent toward a meeting with 16 Mile Creek and the Missouri River in the miles ahead.  While the old transcon has closely followed two lane highways for most of its trip west of Miles City, it now veers South, working down the side of the Belt Range and through sparse grazing country typical of this part of the West.  In the photo above, only a thin, straight line laid out along the hillside speaks to the old railroad that claimed the land as an active mountain pass.

Coming off the Range itself, the line approaches the small town of Ringling, MT.  US 89 travels north-south by Ringling, the picture above looks east from the crossing.  Times have changed the view significantly: US 89 used to pass over on a small bridge while electric wires and Little Joes passed beneath.  Today, the old AC power lines that mark the electrified railroad still show a rising profile lofting up and over the ghost of the old el…

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

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The foundations laid for those who lived and worked here are very visible in this last look at Loweth. The land is full of greens and foliage as this part of Western Montana comes out of spring and fades into a long, hot summer.  
Westbound trains would leave the summit of this first of five mountain crossings, heading downgrade towards the small town of Ringling some 8 miles ahead.  From the crest of Loweth, the path to the west looks directly at the Rockies and the arduous climbs that lie ahead.  Also ahead, the headwaters of the Missouri River, a rejoining of the Northern Pacific, and Butte on the far side of the pass.  

Directly ahead, a lone signal stands in the gap where the transcon passed.  Dark today, but a high green to ages past. 

If You Knew the State of the Art

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Loweth, Montana lies some 1380.9 miles from Chicago at the crest of the Belt Mountains.  In some sense, it's just a place on a map with an old two-lane blacktop running through it.  But Loweth was was state of the art.
"From Harlowton to Avery three mountain ranges of the continental divide are crossed, with summit elevations of 5788, 6322 and 4150 ft.  Heavy grades and a large proportion of curvature are encountered, the maximum grade being 2 percent for 21 miles..."   [1]
It has been suggested, by the author if no one else, that the people who settled the Milwaukee's West were tough and dedicated in ways not often encountered today.  The weather was extreme with brutal colds and summer heat.  Some spots were arid country, existing in rain shadows of the mountain ranges that the Milwaukee crossed.  Yet people settled and lived in these harsh and beautiful places.  And it was to these places that the Milwaukee went as well.  Loweth exists as a reminder of the technol…

Separating East from West

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Among the engineering marvels of the Western Extension were these: the many substations that dotted the Rocky Mountain division in Montana and Idaho and then the Coast Division in Washington.  Here the old mainline climbs and curves its way to the crest of the Belt Mountains with the outline of the Substation at Loweth looming on the horizon.  Mountains separated this country's east from the west, and the Resourceful Railroad crossed the first of them here. 
The grade to the top is as grueling today as it was decades ago: 1.4%.  How easy it is to imagine boxcabs lugging hard at the compound curve as they work their way westbound.

As the Years Pass

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When this blog started, the Milwaukee Road had only been gone from the West 25 years.  It had been a quarter century from 1980 to 2005 when these first writings made their way to the net.  Since then, the years have continued to pass and the Milwaukee's retrenchment to points east now approaches the 35 year mark.  Left behind was a sprawling signature that spanned states and geographies.  Towns like Lennep were left without a transcon and Montana grain growers without a second option.  

Since 2011, the postings and pictures have been slowly working west from MP 1080 in Western Montana to these pictures here, just west of Lennep, at MP 1379.  The mainline is climbing the first of its mountain passes here, on the way to the summit of the Belt Mountains at Loweth.  The original alignment of the Montana Railroad, an early Milwaukee predecessor, is seen in the background of the old Type-R signals.   The first photo was taken in the summer of 2003, the photo below only two years later.…