Rolling westbound with the NP line to Butte, Willow Creek MT lies just over 1456 miles from Mile 0, the place where the great journey west with the Milwaukee began. Under wires since crossing through Harlowton, the line winds ever westward through the rain shadow of the Rockies and now past the elevator that still stands along the NP. The rails through Willow Creek are misleading but they let the imagination dream dreams of things long departed.
Fueled by the instant feedback and fast returns of modern culture, we sit in a world that is defined by the fast pace of change. We gaze at the small stage presented by our phones instead of the heavens, and respond to a tweet instead of bigger questions. A question like how the wind moves the grasses on the grand prairies, or the eternal emptiness of the skies above where the sun runs its course like a Champion each day.
The land of the Western Extension lies spread out along this much Grander Stage, where old transcons meet and dream dreams of yesterday. Where C/30 flatbeds are parked next to inefficient grain silos that can not load unit trains, and the dry grasses of summer sway in a hot, gentle wind. Here the smell of old grain wafts across the passersby and it seems inconceivable that SD45s will not soon break the silence with a time freight. Thoughts and dreams of a different time, that seem somehow out of place in this one.