Showing posts from 2019

Morning is coming, but also the night

Photo Above:  Blacktail Viaduct On March 3, 1970 the Burlington Northern merger became reality, and shortly after, access to Western "Gateways" for the Milwaukee Road.  These would prove to have great effect on the railroad, and perhaps, more than just a bit of hope for the transcon.  Though it was surrounded on all sides by a larger BN, there was evidence to suggest that a new day was actually at hand. By year, the results in operating health were obvious (numbers from Annual Reports): 1969 - Net earnings:  -$5.6M (loss) 1970 - Net earnings:  -$8.9M  (loss) 1971 - Net earnings:  $2.9M 1972 - Net earnings:  -$.4M (loss) 1973 - Net earnings:  $3.7M Some of the details from these annual reports show the effect more directly:  1973 Report:   Motor vehicles, carload increase of 5% in 1973 ... long haul movement of motor vehicles to the railroad's automobile marshaling yard at Kent, WA increased 12%.   Carloadings increased in general by 5.9% ove

The Long Shadow

It could be said that misery lives in the moment, but lingers in the moment's long shadow.   Blacktail Viaduct, MP 1510 It's not hard to look at the stately symmetry of the Milwaukee's trestle at Blacktail and wait, expectantly, for Boxcabs to grind across it on their way up the hill to Pipestone.  Or perhaps sets of SD40s working hard to handle increased traffic from the BN Merger's opened gateways.   The opened gateways of 1970 provided a reason to hope,  hence the misery is not just the collapse and removal of America's final transcon, but the failed promise that seemed ever so close.  C.S. Lewis penned that "part of misery is .. the miser's shadow or reflection. [1]"  Blacktail casts a long shadow. Reference: 1)  CS Lewis, “A Grief Observed”

Love and Hate

Trains of thought can haunt the mind.  These are thoughts and memories of places gone and people known.  They carry with them acute awareness of time's endless assault upon the works of men, the lands, and perhaps especially ones own self - all captured in haunting trains of thought. What sets these trains to rolling?  Sometimes it is a glimpse of a red sunset that starts their parade, or an accidental look to the West, or a seemingly inexhaustible heat on a long summer day with unlimited ceiling.  Whatever the cause, they come ... and with them love and hate. Cresting the Rockies and the Great Divide the transcon starts the grade down to Butte.  With the grade come the trestles, and what is today, bike trail.  Along the way houses and driveways encroach and use the old mainline in ways that surveyors and track gangs never foresaw.  Manifests and passenger trains, electrics and orange bay windows are now simply relics of different eras.  Below, Butte herself offers a vista t

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 sh

The Great Paradox

"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

Fire in the Sky

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