1,490 miles of mainline - the distance from Chicago's Union Station to Vendome, MT. The picture above, taken a decade ago, shows Union Station resplendent in its ornamentation and elegance. It was a majestic entrance to a grand city established by five railroads including the Milwaukee Road. The statue holds a rooster and looks to the horizon, the rising sun and start of a new day.
From Chicago the Resourceful Railroad mainline heads north and then west, out across the Midwest and through the prairie lands of waving grasses and American pronghorns. From Union Station to electrification at Harlowton, it was 4-6-4 Baltics that raced passengers across these lands. These were impressive machines in their own right: one completed 10 round trips in 30 days between Minneapolis and Harlowton ... with no days off or out for maintenance. Each round trip distance was 918 miles .
1490 miles on from the horizon-gazing statue in Union Station lies the grade to Pipestone Pass. Baltics gave way to electrics in Harlowton, and those eventually gave way to diesels in the last days of the Western Extension. A few relics have hung on though - perhaps like Union Station itself. In an open field near the mainline rests one of the ribside boxcars (MILW 34641) that were so ubiquitous for so many years. It isn't impressive in the grand style of lasting stone masonry and elaborate decoration, but it is a survivor that looks back to a different era and is impressive all the same. Somewhere under that top coat of boxcar red paint is likely a "Route of the Hiawathas" slogan too.
1) "Milwaukee Road 4-6-4 Hudson Locomotives in the USA" http://steamlocomotive.com/locobase.php?country=USA&wheel=4-6-4&railroad=cmstpp