The Long Road to Ringling

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 elevated crossing.

Ringling itself lies at MP 1392.8, almost 1400 miles from Chicago's still busy Union Station.  While the passage of years seems to have compressed the time, nothing can compress the expanse of miles.  Out beneath the big skies, so far from towering skyscrapers and distracting noise, the magnitude of what was done and then undone is inescapable.  Each step west along the old railroad seems more difficult than the one before, adding more miles and places to the list of "what used to be."  To continue west will yield only more names with no places, forgotten stories, and cold wind.  Out in this land, along the Resourceful Railroad, there is no shelter from it.


ChrisW said…
Nice blog Leland. I've read for a long time but was unable to log a comment until now. I see on Google streetview that the transmission line has gone now. Does the Ringling Depot still stand? I went through here back in '96 enchanted by the country and the history. There once was a SW-1 roaming on the White Sulpher Springs branch: I'd like to have seen that in person.

in New Zealand
Unknown said…
Thanks Chris, indeed you're right about the power lines, here's the google view:,-110.804118,3a,75y,70.77h,87.14t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s5IXce2D65ihakx7Lodnzkw!2e0

As far as I know the depot stands, but it has been a few years since I have been out that way. SW-1 would certainly have been neat to see.
ChrisW said…
MILW SW-1 on the White Sulpher Springs & Yellowstone Park Line, don't ya just love the sound of that rolling of the tongue?

Ted Benson's book "One Track Mind" has the pictures....

in New Zealand
Jim Davis said…
Leland, once again I compliment you on your photos and great words. I remember Ringling from a trip back to the midwest on the Hiawatha in the middle 50's after my father went to work for the Milwaukee in Seattle in 1952. Will be visiting some of these places next summer to see them for ourselves. Great blog, we enjoy it so much, nice to see that someone other than a Milwaukee family cares as much as we do.

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