Requiem for a Time and Place

A simple gate blocks the path west 1417.4 miles from Chicago.  The path laid out by surveyors and engineers more than 100 years ago was one that crossed 5 mountain ranges, rain shadows and rain forests, wheat fields and desert badlands, and is now one blocked by a simple fence and tubular steel gate.  The transcon path proceeds from here toward another crossing with the Missouri River at Lombard, MT.  This is private land, inaccessible to most travelers who venture this way.  

Between Maudlow at MP 1417 and Lombard at MP 1430 the railroad winds its way every closer to the Missouri River headwaters.  The Belt Mountains pay it company as do old names with no places like Deer Park and Cardinal.  The ghost town of Maudlow is the gateway to these last few miles through this mountain range, and it is here that we turn south just for a time to meet the railroad further west.

On this day, the quiet times at Maudlow find the ancient school house overlooking the railroad right of way below.  Piles of catenary poles that were collected years ago lie aside the the grassy ridge in the ground that yet marks the mainline west.  The Olympian Hiawatha wasn't scheduled in Maudlow, but The Columbian had Maudlow as a designated flag stop.  This lesser train made flag stops at Maudlow, Deer Park, and Cardinal before a scheduled stop at Lombard.  Times were different when The Columbian ran through this canyon: the two story school house of Maudlow seems built for a brighter future and no one travels to Cardinal any more.

Here there is a lament for brighter days that blows through the grasses in the warm summer breeze.  A lonesome traveler is left only to consider what was, what is, and the important place of forgotten memories.


Kirk DePeel said…
Seeing these pics bring such a sadness to my heart. Why did it have to go? How active it would be today if they hadn't pulled the tracks. What a waste.
as always, evocative photos and words. I find the abandoned schools to be the most heartbreaking things I see in photos of the west. I think they, even more than the farms and the towns and yes the railroad itself, exemplify the hopes and dreams and willingness to make a financial as well as emotional investment in a successful community that the settlers had
jon said…
Cardinal is a lonely place near the west end of the canyon. Old foundations and chimneys mark the place where houses and buildings once stood. Sixteen Mile Creek has torn away parts of the grade just west of Cardinal now leaving it a tough place to get to.
Anonymous said…
Found in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

"The prospects in Castle convinced Richard Austin Harlow to build the Montana Railroad Company, a 157-mile line, to haul silver ore from Castle to Butte and East Helena, Phyllis Smith wrote in “Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley, a history.”

Other towns, including Maudlow - named for Harlow and his wife, Maud - popped up along the railroad. Eventually, it was nicknamed the “Jawbone Railroad” because Harlow had to talk his way out of a host of problems."

Chris (from Switzerland)

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