Sweeping Curves and Great Expanse

 Milepost:  1535.7  Finlin, MT

Heading west from Butte we parallel the Butte Anaconda and Pacific and then keep pushing further west as it drops away behind us.  Looking back, the Rockies are seen as a compilation of layers forming the horizon line.  The varying shades of darkness give depth and great expanse to the scene from the old right of way near Finlin, MT.  We are nearly 1540 miles form Chicago's Union Station, have crossed multiple mountain ranges and found ourselves in the shadows of old stations and substations both large and small.  In these fields near Finlin, the old telegraphy and AC power lines seemingly fortify the old transcon on either side.  Look carefully in the distance of these two photos and you can see them sweep slowly away in broad curves as they fade in the distance.  The photo above looks south on this small stretch of north-south running, the photo below looks north.

It is only a small stretch of north-south mainline that ends in sweeping curves at either end,  a carefully plotted and executed 'S' surveyed a century before these photos were taken.  And despite the fact that rails are gone and grasses have reclaimed what was theirs, telegraphy wires remain in place.  It is a little bit of history locked in time, resting here between great mountains and expanse.  What the scrappers left behind still holds on and feigns a readiness to serve once again.

This is the Milwaukee's west: a haunting and lonely sweep of expanse showing both the great design and promise of what was and the future of what will inevitably be.  They crash together in a single moment where you can feel time with its manifold sorrows and hopes.  Where electrics roamed grasses flow in western winds.  Where Superdomes graced elevated curves that sweep us in and out of this panorama, the line-side poles and AC lines just fade into distance.  Where people have been, they no longer wish to go and names like Finlin drift away.  


Fred M. Cain said…
"What the scrappers left behind still holds on and feigns a readiness to serve once again."

Life is full of riddles and surprises. There are elements in today's political world who want to move the country away from dependence on carbon. Some of those same political elements think we should emphasize railways and de-emphasize highways and airports. I cannot say whether that is sound planning or if I could support that.

But maybe just in case, it wouldn't hurt to point out to those politicians that much of the Milwaukee Road's Pacific Extension was not only electrified but derived its power from hydro sources. In other words, had it survived as it was before about 1965 or so, we could've said in today's lingo that it had a "zero carbon footprint."

Some times the strange or unexpected happens. We are not making any predictions here. But every once and a while, facts can be stranger than fiction. In a perfect world it could happen. In a perfect world, perhaps even the "gap" east of Othello can be closed.
LinesWest said…
Fred, I've always thought that the Milwaukee was an excellent, early example of "green" energy use and efficient transportation. The analysis out there (http://www.milwaukeeroadarchives.com) on what the electrics were able to do compared to the best diesels of the day are amazing. All with zero carbon footprint too.

I consider the layout of this transcon: avoidance of many major metropolitan areas, set up for efficient and clean transport, and great connections at either end, even before mega mergers accomplished much of the same - all of the ingredients are there. Add in the reduced impact on environment, in 2021, it is a clear winner.


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