Thursday, January 6, 2011

My great adventure ...

One of my holiday gifts this year was a book called Dow's Dictionary of Railway Quotations, a near-perfect present who's intrigued by trains, and who loves both quotes and travel. Unfortunately, the volume's compiler is English, so Britain receives undue attention and the railroads that helped build my part of the world are largely ignored. But so it goes.

So far, at least, I've only found one quote in the book with a Montana connection, but it's a classic ... the best-known statement by the man who is more strongly associated with Montana railroads than any other. James J. Hill was the driving force behind the Great Northern Railway, the "Empire Builder" whose namesake train still traverses Montana's Hi-line. This is the ending of Hill's final address to his company's shareholders, in 1912:
Most men who have really lived have had, in some shape, their great adventure. This railway is mine. I feel that a labor and a service so called into being, touching at so many points the lives of so many millions with its ability to serve the country, and its firmly established credit and reputation, will be the best evidence of its permanent value and that it no longer depends upon the life and labor of any single individual.

There's little doubt, indeed, that Hill's great adventure touched the lives of millions, including many thousands of Montanans over the generations.

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