The Wonderful World of Black & White:

Fernwood, Idaho

When I was a child in the mid-Fifties, only the "rich" kids up the block were able to watch Cisco Kid on their family's color TV.
Their parents had purchased one of the pioneer RCA sets, causing my father to remark, "It cost more than our Chevy!" Years later, when Disney began broadcasting The Wonderful World of Color, we average kids still, in effect, watched The Wonderful World of Black and White.

When it came to photography, the rich family took 8 mm Kodachrome home movies. My folks shot Verichrome Pan in a fixed lens, Bakelite box camera that came as a premium for opening a $25 account at Bank of America. Some of Wx4's earliest photos originated from this arrangement.
The effects of my achromatic childhood still linger with me today. My memories of the Eisenhower era generally play devoid of color (save a hint of salmon - a horrific hue then liberally applied to two-tone automobiles and Formica tables). Thus when I view a color photo of, say, a Southern Pacific Daylight 4-8-4, it looks wrong, retouched - it doesn't jive with memory. I could swear that those locos were actually painted in grayscale…really!
In the summer of 2012 I encountered an increasingly rare thing, a relatively ancient railroad structure still performing homely service despite an advanced state of decay. When I was young - in the times before bean counters and lawyers dictated that economy and liability necessitated the demolition of run-down assets - railroads abounded with old depot buildings reincarnated as section houses or storage sheds, particularly on hidden, remote branches where high officials rarely tread. They soldiered-on in their subsequent roles until their roofs fell-in.

In truth, the ex-depot at Fernwood Idaho, seen here, had entered not-so-genteel retirement with the abandonment of the St. Maries River Railroad's (ex-Milwaukee Road) Elk River Branch a few months previous to my visit*, but save for the extra patina of rust on the rails, I would never have known it. The anachronism of the scene struck me a few milliseconds after I first spotted it, and I was entranced.

Thus, on this page you see Fernwood properly recorded in the appropriate format: as Fifties-era B&W snapshots. My memory countenances no other way.

*Lightly used in its last few years, the Elk River Branch was formally abandoned sometime during the previous year (date, Milwaukee fans?). The line is severed by new highway paving not far north of Bovill (the old W&IM connection), and the wye where the branch connected to the main line at St. Maries is torn up. Two 2012 issues of The Milwaukee Road Historical Association's The Milwaukee Railroader cover Milwaukee Road and St. Maries River Railroad history and operations in the area.

Click on the above images for larger views. To satiate your color photo fetish, go here and here.

Milwaukee Road Index