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Something Borrowed

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  The year is 2007 and the location is Victoria, BC.  Via Rail is running a daily Budd RDC set as the Malahat  service on Vancouver Island.  It departs in the mornings from Victoria and heads up the island along the E&N (Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway) to Courtnay, a distance of about 140 miles.  To see Budd cars in operation as part of a daily passenger service is rare anytime in the 21st century.  By the time these two were captured, BC Rail's Budd cars had been gone for 5 years.   Captured here in 2007, the  Malahat  would cease operating as track deteriorated in the years that followed.  There has been talk of restoring the service, however, it seems that little progress has been made and these were on borrowed time.  The combined rail / path bridge that rolled the passenger train the last few hundred yards to the depot has also been redone, without the rails.  In 2011, the service was ended - reminding me of the axiom that once it's gone, it's hard to get back. Bu

Four-axles and boosters

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 The ATSF (former) mainline from Chicago races south and then turns west to meet the southwesterly running former CBQ at Galesburg, IL.  Not far west of its crossing of the Illinois River, the 'transcon' attacks Edelstein Hill, a continuous ~1% rise of about five miles in an otherwise flat Illinois countryside.  Up on top of the plains again, an afternoon hotshot from the early 2000s races west out of Chicago showing the era's mix of power and paint.   These were interesting days to watch the afternoon parade of containers and piggy-backs rolling west from Chicago.  Power varied from unpatched BN Cascade Green units to newer BN 'Executive Paint' MACs and these unique Santa Fe GP60s.  In this set, even a b-unit is helping to pull the tonnage west.  One of the early 'war pumpkins' is present on the point, showing the earlier green, orange and silver resplendent(?) with Santa Fe cigar band striping in Heritage II paint.  Many of these quickly faded to a bleak s

Strength and Endurance

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  When I first traveled to Deer Lodge, decades ago, I knew 'the Joe' was there.  That was in the early 2000s when only 20 years had passed since the transcon had been active and perhaps less than 30 years separated the venerable Joe from the point of an XL-special and a hustle across the Rocky Mountain Division.  Even that seems like a long time, until the passage of another 20 years goes by. Now still there, the enduring presence and unforgettable face of the Rocky Mountain Division still gazes with an unseeing 'quad.'  A static display if there ever was, it has received new paint over the years and even replica trolley lines overhead.  The years have given it company as well - a "Cities" painted Milwaukee Road E-8 rests nearby and a bay window caboose now resides with these fellow Milwaukee Road memories.  But the face of the Joe is unique and haunting.  Decades have passed between the photos, lifetimes even, but she endures.  

Deer Lodge and the Arrow of Time

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  With the run through Racetrack and Morel behind it, the mainline arrives in Deer Lodge, above looking railroad-east.  The street names of Railroad and Milwaukee still belie the old transcon's presence even decades after its departure and fade.   In the harsh mid-afternoon sun, looking east, we would find ourselves looking toward the start of the Deer Lodge yard throat just beyond the elevator complex in the photo above.  The  arial view  shows the same elevator at the top of the photo, this time looking roughly railroad-west.   These difference of decades of photos always capture me.  They speak to something eternal that objects to the decay and change presented.  The passing of generations and memories seems unmistakably foreign to that piece in each of us that remains timeless.  It changes over the years, it becomes more than it was, but it never seems to age like everything around it.  Fighting against the futility, this eternal piece that lives within us all is both fascinate

Chasing Hiawatha

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In the run from Butte west, the path turns north.  The NP and I-90 are ever close at hand and the Route of the Hiawathas splits bluffs and ranges to the east and west in its northbound trek.  Deer Lodge is near, and with it the larger yard and engine facilities that are the first since leaving Harlowton back at milepost 1335.  Here, between Butte's station at MP 1522 and Deer Lodge at 1562 the range lands look green in the early summer that promises cool rain later in the day.   Though it is not difficult to find photos of the Olympian Hi from the western reaches of the Milwaukee's empire, its time with the Road was brief.  1961 would be the last year for the train to operate fully from Chicago to Seattle / Tacoma.  The train that remained in its place would terminate at Deer Lodge and go no further, and in 1964 would go no further west than South Dakota [1].  Western passenger trains, even of the Amtrak era, have a special feel because the great expanses through which they tra

Shelter

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  Rolling through the Deer Lodge Valley in Powell County, MT, the transcon gets ever closer to the major roundhouses and yard at Deer Lodge itself.  Near Morel it continues its westbound, straight as an arrow shot through the big skies that lie between Montana's western mountain ranges.  The Rockies behind, the Bitterroots ahead and nothing but endless skies above.   These skies bring the hope of a warm spring day, the sunshine that accompanies a Chinook wind, and the storms that blow snow and rains horizontal.  They are skies of hope and skies of dread, skies of light and skies of darkness all played out on a canvas that can never be well described.  Decades have passed since the orange and black rolled beneath these very skies.  Though different with every passing moment, they yet appear timeless as the world of men changes beneath them.   Near the old transcon a single room building rests in a valley field.  Surrounded by rusted barbwire fencing with whitewash fading and windows

Stranger at the Gate

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  MP 1544.8 - near Morel, MT As the last transcon built in the United States bisected its way across the mountainous state of Montana, not far from Deer Lodge, it arrived here near Morel.  Just about 1545 miles from the imposing granite of Chicago's Union Station it is found littered with the decaying evidence of something gone wrong.   How frustrating to wander the halls of great and massive railroad stations or sit in the small waiting rooms of others and know without doubt that there used to be 'a way.'  There used to be a ticket to be purchased, a train to catch, and a place to go.  It wasn't hard to head to places with names like Harlowton, Miles City, Three Forks, Butte, Deer Lodge, Spokane, Othello, Seattle, Tacoma and all of those intermediate stops.   But here near Morel, in this run of mainline miles between mountain ranges where speeds could be high and great open expanse of Montana and its huge skies surround the Resourceful Road the ever present reality hit