Monday, September 2, 2013

The Route of the Hiawatha

One of Jim's earliest and best memories are of train travel.  Many trips were made to Michigan to visit family.  Pierce, Jim's father, was a vice president for the Milwaukee Road railway, so travel was free.  The route back east went through the Bitterroot Mountains.  This was during the time when meals were served on real china.   The is the car that looms large in what Jim remembers of those trips.

The Milwaukee Road was the last transcontinental railway to be built.  It was the most expensive segment and it was an extremely rugged route.  The rail line started in Chicago and ended in Tacoma.  Construction began in 1906.  The original engines were steam, but in 1914 the rail line began the switch to electrification in the mountains.  Think about it, they had build a dam to provide power, they had to build the infrastructure to deliver power to the catenaries that powered the engines.  It was an incredible feat of engineering.  Then, due to malfeasance or stupidity, or both, the Chicago executives decided to decrease funding for maintenance and end the electrification of the line.  Pierce fought both of these decisions, but to no avail.  The rate of derailments increased, business declined.  Eventually, the line went bankrupt.  Pierce finished his career selling off the assets.  All that infrastructure and right of way, gone.  It was a stunning example of corporate mismanagement and short sighted thinking.
This is one of the trestles.

It's hard to see, but look at the center of the photo, and there's another trestle way out in the distance.  It's a stunning ride.  The people who run the trail have done an excellent job of providing kiosks along the trail.  The people who built and maintained the railway were tough.

We turned around just after tunnel 29, which is almost to the Pearson trail head.  On the way back, we ran in to the COs.  They were on the way down, while we were on the way back.  It was good to see them, however briefly.

We elected not to go through the St. Paul Pass tunnel.  It's almost two miles and it's very wet and muddy.  I'm happy with that decision.  Dark tunnels give me vertigo, I feel like my head is flying away because I can't tell where the bottom of my wheels are.  The ones we did ride today were plenty.  If you read the text on the photo, it says 1,500 gallons of water flow out of the tunnel per minute.  Wet!

Then it was off to the grocery store in Wallace.  Look!  Look what you can buy there.  I haven't seen this since we were in Escalante.  We didn't buy it.  Kim isn't here to make soup for us.  Quelle domage.

It was a good day.  It rained on us a bit at the start, but then it cleared up.  It was good that we went today, as the forecast continues to dis-improve.
Are you watching the Tour of Spain?  Chris Horner, the old guy, is back in the leader's jersey.  Woot!


  1. Glad you had a great bike ride!!

    I've only seen Chicken in a Can on Chopped which is a show on the Food Network. Does not sound or look appetizing!

  2. That was really good soup :) I would make it for you again if we had the right ingredients. it sounds like a lovely bike ride and to meet up with the CO's on top of it, double the fun :) stay safe, I am still amazed that you went over the trestles, not sure that I could have.