Showing posts from October, 2008

Days End

Location:  Ruff, Wa.   It's the end of a warm fall day in Central Washington and the heat of the day belies the cold night that lies ahead.  It has been a day of wandering the old Marcellus Branch of the Milwaukee Road, and as the sun sets at Ruff, I think about how it has been a day filled with sagebrush, coulees and ghost towns.  These are common occurrences in the land of Hiawathas, although it seems as though I never quite get used to the feeling.  The quiet invites time for reflection, while the vast openness of the dry plains makes even the biggest of us feel very small.   Progress seemed to come slowly, or not at all, along this old line.  When the line was removed after the final bankruptcy, the rails were still original 65lb material and it seems as though more than a few ties never saw a tie plate.  Vintage 40' ribside boxcars roamed the rails here to the bitter end even in places like Ruff with its high capacity elevators.  Unit trains were common on the line, but tr

Blowing Desert Winds

There are a few places along the Milwaukee Road that seem to hold special significance in the hearts of Milwaukee fans.  Places like Harlowton, where the famous Rocky Mountain Division began, as did all of those amazing mountain passes.  Places like East Portal, where the enormous substation and Bitterroot Mountains are etched in so many Kodachromes of the day.  Places like Othello. Today, there's not much Milwaukee Road to see in Othello.   Rails come in from Warden, stopping along the way at a few local industries, then head out of town under state route 26 before finally disappearing from view, rolling west into the dry desert lands.  Large and vacant plots of sagebrush are scattered to the west of downtown where the Road once had an expansive yard and engine terminal.  Here in Othello, in the days of electrification, trains would swap their steam or diesel power that assisted them across the electrification gap between Othello and Avery for Boxcabs and Bipolars headed to the co