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Edition #25, March 1, 2006

Milwaukee Road's Gravestones

Photographer: Fred Hyde

                                                                   Photo 2005 by Fred Hyde

Milwaukee Road's Gravestones

I had always wanted to follow the Milwaukee Road's Pacific Coast Extension through Montana. I came to be fascinated by the Road in the late 1970s after reading Blair Kooistra's wonderful article in the June 1979 Trains Magazine. Motive and opportunity notwithstanding, I never made it west during the operational days of this fascinating road. But the Milwaukee to this day has me captivated. I have made several "archaeological digs" west into Montana, Idaho and Washington during the relatively carefree days of graduate school in the early 1980s. Those days found plenty to shoot: depots, mainline trackage (albeit dead), signals, and in spots, the semi-intact bones of the fabled electrification. Each scene was duly recorded on Kodachrome slide film and carefully filed away, much as a scientist would document findings in a laboratory notebook.

Fast-forward 20 years. Now married and with two teenage boys (who are well-steeped in Milwaukee Road Lines West history), we make a pilgrimage west to view the remains of the railroad I'd only read about and seen many wondrous photographs. So much had changed since 1984...the trackage was of course gone, the right-of-way tilled into pasture or "preserved" as a recreational trail. Only a few old trolley poles, abandoned substations and the ever-present 100kV electrical bus that supplied the substations remains. We follow the remains of the trail blazed by boxcabs, quills and Little Joes through Montana, into Ringling, following the memories of the "mainline" dirt road toward Harlowton. East of Martinsdale, two remarkably well-preserved mainline sentinels stand guard over a right-of-way devoid of tracks for over 22 years, awaiting the passage of a train that will never come. As I make the photograph I can almost hear the roar of SD40-2s and Little Joes guiding the ghost of the XL Special over the Belt Mountains, on the Milwaukee Road's amazing journey to Puget Sound.

Fred Hyde

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