Sagebrush and Sky
Relentless is the climb around Vendome Loop and the Rockies as the transcon continues its push west. Above, the skies show signs of nighttime and the end of day, and the valley floor is increasingly left far below and behind. The Great Northern crests the Rockies near Glacier National Park, with high peaks and evergreens that are draped in thick blankets of white during winter months. But to the south, the Milwaukee plies a high desert with Butte still on the far side of the ascent.
This is full scale, serious mountain railroading. Heavy rail marked these grades accompanied by the hum of hardworking traction motors and whoosh of cooling fans that pulled power from overhead catenary. In later years, it was the deep throb of EMD 20 and 16 cylinder 2 cycle diesels that reverberate in your chest that ruled these grades. It is too easy to forget the scale of what was done here. The sage now encroaches all around the transcon and its assault on the Rockies. Only where wheel ruts have packed the earth does the sage stop, and that seemingly with reluctance. Nature is taking back what was once its own, and the signature of man is fading here just as the sky fades to black above. Another quiet day is coming to a close on the Milwaukee's West with an appropriately sorrowful sky above and the quiet shutter click of a lone traveler on Vendome Loop.