Summer Skies and Fading Paint


On the way out of Deer Lodge, the Milwaukee Road rolled west by a fuel rack and two depots that bounded it north and south.  To the south of the rails was the freight depot, shown above and below.  Note the telegraphy pole that rises through the roof at the west end.  One can scroll back through the decades online and find it, always present, rising right through the eve of the old freight house.  

Those decades weren't kind to the old house either.  The white paint has washed and faded away, the wooden shingles are increasingly missing.  When these pictures were taken in the early 2000s, the end was very near.  To the north of the former main, the passenger depot has taken on a new life as a church, but no such rebirth has come to the old freight house.  Under the hot Montana sun, the remaining paint continues to fade away and soon the house, the loading dock, and the telegraphy pole that always seemed to rise through the roof will vanish from under these blue skies.

To the north, the passenger station has faired better.  In the photo below, the well kept and well painted efforts to maintain it are obvious.  Unlike decades earlier, no baggage carts are seen and no streamliners are scheduled, instead, it's the bright colors of Little Tikes picnic tables that find space under the eves.  By the time these pictures were taken in the late 2000s, the freight house had departed and it was a different hot summer sky that greeted the wanders of the day.

Looking west, travelers of the transcontinental are reminded that the mountains are never far away from the Resourceful Railroad's run to the coast.  Large piles of aggregate now take up space and a modern 'do not enter' sign reminds those who seek these old memories that the path is often guarded, hidden, and not of this era.


Beyond the guarded right of way to the west, however, just a little hope is offered.  Peeking through the break in the trees that marks the way of hot shots and dead freights, catenary poles are just visible.  At their feet, a small piece of mainline remains in place and to that we journey next.  But here, leaving Deer Lodge behind us, there is a clash of things missing, and things preserved.  A Little Joe is always displayed and a e-unit now keeps it company with a ribside caboose.  Each is a historical marker to what was.  Beyond these relics, the passenger station remains, and the old grain elevator that stood aside the main as well.  But gone are the massive yards and roundhouse.  Gone the shop switcher that pushed electrics in and out of stalls, gone the freight house and fueling rack and the rails that connected them all to the continent.  

What stories could be told of those who worked in places like these?  A crew change point and major shops on Lines West, full of tall tales and local legends under the summer skies.

 



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