Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hiawatha Trail, Back in Action

Anybody who knows me knows that I have many varied and somewhat eccentric interests.

Occasionally, they slam into each other.

Everytime I drive up the St. Joe River from St. Maries, I try to find hints of the old Milwaukee Road roadbed. A couple weeks ago, I came across this book in the Avery fly fishing shop. It's a guidebook on where to find old Milwaukee Road roadbeds throughout Idaho. Part of this route is now the Hiawatha bike trail, that many know of as an extremely popular all-purpose recreation trail on the Idaho/Montana border. I've ridden it a few times now, and I was initially amazed by the fact that anyone had the gumption to build a railroad there in the first place. Now, it's amazing to me how something so spectacular could suddenly cease to exist... almost to the point of oblivion. This book was an incredible find to me; it not only describes how and why the railroad was built... but describes how to get to everything that's left. Amazing.

Of course, the more I read into the Milwaukee Road... the more I wonder what it was actually like seeing trains carve through the Bitterroots. Today, out of nowhere, I stumbled across this video on YouTube. Some german guy made a computer simulation of a Milwaukee Road train traveling between Avery and St. Paul Pass. It's set to electronic music, of course... those germans just gotta have it. Anyone who's ridden the Hiawatha bike trail will recognize the terrain; I think it's incredibly accurate.

And as if that isn't cool enough, he's also made a version showing the Northern Pacific's route over Lookout Pass. I've always wondered whether or not a railroad went over that pass... and if it did, exactly how. Here it is! I think it's especially interesting at 3:28, where it's traveling through Taft, MT (where you get off I-90 to access the Hiawatha Trail). Up in the distance, you can see the Milwaukee Road roadbed veering into the mountains towards St. Paul Pass. Cool.

Railroad modeling, the St. Joe River, and techno music. Who knew? :) That "german guy" has a MySpace page, with even more virtual tours of the Milwaukee Road and other stuff.


Idaho Dad said...

I did see this before, thanks. That German guy must really like trains. I'm also amazed at the amount of time and effort that went into building a railway line that only lasted 50 or so years. Bet they never thought people would be paying money to leisurely ride their bikes along those tracks.

Bent said...

Nice Otis. That is really cool