Across the Great Divide

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, and below, the passing siding of Penfield that opens up just east of the Tunnel portal.  

From this vantage, fleeting glimpses of Butte, MT come in and out of view as the mainline begins a descent and rolls across 4.1 miles of what today is known as the Milwaukee Road Rail-Trail or Thompson Park.  Beyond that, Janney road takes over along the right of way, named for the long forgotten Janney station and substation location.  What began as a feat of engineering that included aspects of Civil and Mechanical today ends with the sound of hikers and mountain bikers out along the trail.  


SDP45 said…
Great post that had me standing there with you as I read it.

Fred M. Cain said…
This is one of the greatest travesties in the American field of transportation. This should've NEVER been allowed to happen. If we could only forget that there ever once was such a thing, it would be easier to just let go of it. But no. It still haunts after all these years.

Maybe someday, if our Nation should ever regain its former glory this can be fixed. I would hope so. It's pleasant to dream about. It's far more desirable to dream about the possibility of a fix than to mourn over these sad pictures of what has been lost.

In a perfect world, this COULD be fixed. There has been a lot of talk about a "Green New Deal". Although I'm skeptical about such things, the sad truth is that there had been no "carbon footprint" here. The doggone thing was electric for Pete's sake with all the power coming from "white gold".

If there's even an ounce left of justice in this mixed up world of today, then perhaps there's hope. Hope that it might someday return. I continue to hope for that in spite of the fact that I know, I will never live to see the day.

Fred M. Cain,
Topeka, IN

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