The Long View

A summer day in 1956, and it's a long road from Chicago to the West Coast.  The Olympian Hiawatha covers 2189 miles to reach Seattle, then 38 more to reach Tacoma.  Total time:  45 hours and 45 minutes.  If on schedule, it reaches this location, Vendome Mt, at about 3:45 in the afternoon of the second day.  Behind it lie the foothills and smaller ranges already crossed as it makes it way west.  In front, a sharp turn and attack on the Rocky Mountains directly.  On this summer day, the Oly Hi is in classic Milwaukee Road colors of Orange and Black, the UP Armour Yellow will come later. I've got the camera set up, it's ready.

I know the train should have pulled at Three Forks on-time, 3:00pm.  It should only be a matter of minutes before the headlight of the approaching streamliner comes into view, still many miles distant.  It will approach silently, born westward by electric power.  The shear scale of the distance makes judging its speed difficult, but it will arrive with a whoosh of blower motors.  Following quickly behind, the extended vista of a Milwaukee Superdome and a few passengers who have taken residence in the great atrium of glass.  I will marvel that the Superdome itself is almost a self-contained city: on-board diesel generators for the heavy duty air conditioning and its own galley.  

Quickly the observation car will slip by, round the turn to my back and follow its electric leader up Pipestone Pass and the famous Vendome Loop.  What time is it now?  It seems like a headlight should come into view at any moment.  It's already 3:50 in the afternoon.  Now 4:00.  Where is she?

1956 "Official Guide"

Comments said…
By golly, Leland, you do know how to create an extreme emotional reaction via photo and text to a situation created by people possessing none of those the qualities needed to even understand what you have expressed. "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap and EHH are our more recent purveyors of total shareholder value as the ultimate measure of worth. Thanks once again for a masterful job.
Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for all these photos and comments about the Milwaukee Road. I am always happy do see new photos of the row and notes.
I am French and I discovered the incredible story of this railway network and the pacific extension particularly. A big waste of money du to bad managment.
I am particularly interested to see what remain of this line now (row, bridges, tunnels....), 40 years later.

Sébastien SCHRAMM
SDP45 said…
Wow! What a way to pull at someone's emotions!

very evocative writing. I almost looked at my own watch

one of the things I've only just realized is how not just sights but sounds or even smells are lost as time goes by. whenever I see a picture of a Joe or boxcab I wonder, "what did it *sound* like?"
Anonymous said…
Thanks all for the comments - Jim you're right about the smells and sounds. I think a while back there were some comments about the smell of creosote in the summer ...Leland said…
Leland, having grown up next to the 4 track main line of the electrified NYNH&H, I loved the smell of hot iron and creosote in the summer along with the look of the turquoise green of the oxidized copper wires against a dark sky which forecast coming rain. All those sensory inputs stay with you as you age and remember. Thanks always for your inspiring work.

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