Friday, January 31, 2014

Separating East from West

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.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

As the Years Pass

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.  

The weather is different, and the parched landscape of 2003 has been replaced by the verdant greens of a late spring.  Life has returned to this part of Montana, but time has taken its toll and even the scant passage of two years has left marked and lasting changes.  I have not journeyed to these ruins since 2005 and doubtless the years have continued to be unkind.  Such is the case with waxing years:  the old mainline and its haunting memory slip further and further towards whence they came.  Books have been written, stories have been shared, but the line inevitably marches toward the land of forgotten, assisted by the cold winds that torment and blow along the Milwaukee's Lines West.