Saturday, December 27, 2014

Harsh Contrasts

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 season of hope.  Harsh winters would follow, and silence after that.

Is it time that presents the continual reality of contrast, or is it something else?  The what is and the what was, the restored and the broken down, the old and the new, the have and the have not.  Even the photo above is full of contrasts that range from lights and shadows to the objects that have been captured on the old slide film.  The tranquility of an empty Montana road and a babbling 16 Mile Creek stand in contrast to the mainline railroad that once ran the gauntlet through these canyon walls.  

The small outpost of Maudlow lies ahead as the Milwaukee Road continues its run westbound.  It has been, and will continue to be, a run full of harsh contrasts and stark reality.