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Thread: Milwaukee Road's Columbia River Bridge

  1. #1
    DWHonan Guest

    Default Milwaukee Road's Columbia River Bridge

    A few miles south of where I-90 crosses the Columbia River in eastern Washington is a quiet town called Beverly. Tucked against the slowly-drifting river in the shadow of the Saddle Mountains, Beverly's most arresting man-made feature hasn't been used for its intended purpose in nearly three decades, now merely utilized for transmitting electrical power and collecting bird droppings.

    On an early spring morning last year, I visited Beverly and the Milwaukee Road's Columbia River crossing. Standing on the bank with the cold water slowly sliding past my toes, I gazed up at the bridge and imagined I could hear a westbound train approaching, charging hard in advance of the climb to Boylston.

    But those memories are not mine; the Pacific Extension had been abandoned for more than a year before I was born. My memory is of a striking structure stepping across the mighty Columbia, gradually accumulating graffiti, rust and other natural waste, yet still defiantly proclaiming to all who pass by that this place was once traversed by the last transcontinental railroad -- and standing as reminder that trains may one day again ascend the slopes of the Saddle Mountains.

  2. Default

    Beautiful photo and well done text. It is very evocative. I'm glad you posted this over here - a welcome addition.

    I vote to post.

  3. #3


    Oh man...this is a slam dunk for me. A fan of the remains of mainlines here in the Northwest, AND the Milwaukee Road, this little essay is right in my wheelhouse. Great light on the bridge that adds to the text. A color shot with mood....eating my own words here.

    Good job.

    Post ASAP

    Martin Burwash

  4. #4
    DWHonan Guest


    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Burwash View Post
    Oh man...this is a slam dunk for me. A fan of the remains of mainlines here in the Northwest, AND the Milwaukee Road, this little essay is right in my wheelhouse. Great light on the bridge that adds to the text. A color shot with mood....eating my own words here.

    Good job.

    Post ASAP

    Martin Burwash
    High praise indeed coming from you, Mr. Burwash! Thank you for the compliments.


  5. #5
    Two23 Guest


    A little short, but considering this is your first effort it is good. The photo was very good-great light, interesting perspective. You caught my imagination with both the writing and the photo. A thumbs up. You are now going to have to top yourself.

    Kent in SD

  6. #6
    greenthumb Guest


    I am a little late to the approval party, this is an awesome photo Dave. It has a very dramatic feel, yet is subtle.
    The massive river and the massive bridge seem so quite. Short and oh so sweet, very well done.

    Moved to the Railroad History category. I hope to see more of your art here !!

    I just went back and looked at the image again. The light on the bridge, on the water, and on the mountain side is all perfect. Between these elements, my eyes revolve around your image as I enjoy all three aspects without gettng dizzy. They don't compete, but rather compliment each other. Maybe a train on the bridge would disrupt the whole balance ?? No problem there, eh ??

    ~ jeff
    Last edited by greenthumb; 03-04-2008 at 05:49 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Hillsboro, OR


    I think the thing about this excellent shot is the perfect cloud shading of the background behind the bridge making it really stand out with the low angle sun shining on it.
    Great catch.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    close to Lake Ontario in Burlington, ON Canada

    Default A bridge marks time

    Looking, thinking of the photo(s) of this bridge in Fred Hyde's
    Milwaukee Rails book. From the Saddleback Mountains side
    and across the great body of water was a minute train, almost tiny
    in comparison to the geographic wonders surrounding.

    And now the bridge stands, as much of an archelogical exhibit of a time
    that once was that will be no more crossed by the orange and black.

    The naked towers for holding the catenary and rusty pieces of parallel
    steel, the entire structure personifying that was once was. And too remarkably
    free of that graffiti which tends to be splattered upon all items left to nature.

    Will any of us in our lifetime see this bridge once again being that for which
    it is intended or will it one day succumb to the call of the torch and be
    so many pieces in a melting pot somewhere far away?

    The image of itself could easily adorn a movement
    is required to add to its grandeur; for the bridge exists of
    and by itself. Superbly illustrated! Thank You!

    Bryce Lee
    Burlington, Ontario

  9. #9


    Quote Originally Posted by Two23 View Post
    A little short, but considering this is your first effort it is good...
    Not really. My intent always was that a single photo, along with an informative caption, would qualify as an "essay" at least for the purposes of this site.

    In fact, I'd like to encourage more folks to do "one shot and a long caption" submissions, as it's a great way to get started here, and it brings some needed activity to the forum.

    Short shots are easier for the photographer to write, and easier for the reviewers to review, so it works well for everyone. So it's all good!

    As for the photo, I don't have any idea how you got a grey bridge to stand out against a grey background, but you did, and did it quite well. Somehow the shadow makes the photo, even though I'd have guessed a lighter background would look better against the dark grey. The dark color keeps the background from distracting, very nice.
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  10. #10
    DWHonan Guest


    Thanks for your comments, everyone. It's always good to find out that a photo you think highly of is also well-regarded by photographers with much more experience than yourself.

    I spent perhaps 20 or 30 minutes at this spot, waiting for the sun to be just right. My initial desire was to capture a "properly-lit" image, with unobstructed sun flooding the entire image, and eventually that opportunity presented itself. However, while waiting, I took a variety of photos as the clouds' shadows drifted through the scene, partially to have something to do but also because of that quiet little voice in the back of my head which was muttering, "Hey dimwit, you might be on to something here."

    When I finally got home -- and it was indeed a long day, wrapping up with a shot of a loaded Centralia coal train struggling up Providence Hill just before sunset, then having to drive two-thirds of the way across the state back to Issaquah -- and started looking through the images, I was surprised to find that the most dramatic results were not the shots taken under full sun, but rather those with some shadow present.

    It wasn't that the bridge stood out better; instead, the load-carrying structure actually blended with the background more than it did against the brightly-lit mountain. What did it was the Columbia: The reflection of the dark cloud in the water forced my eye into the middle of the image, and the dark band across the middle of the photo combined with the bright piers forced my attention to the main span. The shadow also killed the colors and details of the background, reinforcing the foreground as the focal point.

    But that's just how I saw the photo and chose to present it; feel free to compare for yourself with the attached image.

    Also, addressing Bryce's comment and moving off-topic: Stick around another 15-20 years and you may indeed once again see trains moving across the bridge, or its successor if an engineering analysis determines the current structure has insufficient capacity for today's E-80 loading. WSDOT continues to investigate methods to increase rail capacity in the state, primarily for moving intermodal traffic out of the Ports of Seattle & Tacoma, and reconstruction of the Milwaukee from Lind to Ellensburg would create that capacity, eliminate a crew district on the Seattle-to-Spokane-via-Stampede route, and provide the opportunity to operate directional traffic (westbound over Stevens and eastbound over Stampede) to avoid each route's major limitation (Cascade Tunnel, the grade from Beverly to Boylston). See Appendix A in the Final Report of WSTC's 2007 Rail Study:

    Last edited by DWHonan; 03-07-2008 at 04:44 AM. Reason: Fixed word order

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