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Showing posts from 2019

Across the Great Divide

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The Rockies have loomed on the horizon for the Milwaukee Road for miles and miles.  Glimpses of them could be seen coming and going even as the mainline approached the Missouri heading for Three Forks.  At Three Forks, helpers were added for a looming battle, but even then, miles would pass before Vendome and the sweeping curve that seemed to formally announce the strain to come.  

Now, after churning through the engineering feats of a different time, the transcontinental pushes to the top at Pipestone Pass, more than 1500 miles form Chicago (1505.4 by Milepost).  Above, the remnants of an old trolley pole stands as a watchful sentry on the western approach. Its guy wire still holds faithfully, resisting a missing and long vanished catenary pull force.  This is the final approach to the tunnel, the peak of the Rockies, and the Continental Divide.  Elevation:  6348ft.  Tunnel length:  2290ft.

Peaking out of the trees on the eastern side, the eastern face of Tunnel 11 shows its face, a…

The Great Paradox

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"You look at once happy and sad.  You see something that I can't see.  Your eyes are haunted.  I've a feeling that if I'd look into them I'd see the sun setting, the clouds coloring, the twilight shadows changing." Zane Grey, "Heritage of the Desert"

To explore Lines West is to explore a great paradox: like a joy in finding lost treasure, and sorrow in the tale of Wisdom that has spread out across these landscapes.  The treasure is great and priceless, pointing to a time forgotten and a hope from times long past.  It speaks of depths of history and tales of those who went before and if you could look only into its face there would be haunting, sun setting, twilight shadows advancing and restless quiet.  The Wisdom calls aloud from above where the paths meet, imploring the explorer to look closely and learn, to watch a sunset over the Rockies and consider, and see the advancing grade to the top and know of the former things that no longer come this w…

Fire in the Sky

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From Max Lowenthal's Personal notes of the ICC hearings, July 6-7 1927.   Walter Colpitts is the senior author of the Coverdale and Colpitts study.  [1] "It will be disastrous to the Lines East if the Puget Sound were separated. [There are] possible connections for the Puget Sound [to receive and deliver traffic] ... [but there are] no likely connections for the Lines East." [Vol 2, page 292, Colpitts testimony, Lowenthal notes]. Milwaukee Road's chief financial officer, W.W.K. Sparrow, had independently analyzed the question. "Any breakup in the St. Paul system would be very bad for both east and west" [although] "there are several lines with which the Puget Sound Lines could make connections ..." and do good business. Well before the benefits of Burlington Northern merger concessions added to Milwaukee's ability to 'receive and deliver traffic,' the idea of splitting off a Midwestern 'core' railroad was considered .... and cal…