My brother and I were exploring some back roads on the way back to Portland from Bend last week when we stumbled upon a tumbleweed of a city just outside of Madras. There were a few blocks of dilapidated houses and an abandoned train depot strewn with the discombobulated corpses of old pickup trucks.
A quick google search provided some background...
Metolius, was an early 20th century servicing hub for the Oregon Trunk Railroad whose population had peaked at just over 1700 citizens in 1917. But the OTR's elimination of the Metolius servicing station coincided with the onset of the Great Depression, and the town's population dropped to just about 50 residents in 1945. And for the past 70 years, the town has floated in the ether of eastern Oregon agricultural life: experiencing a short-lived boom when engineers built an Deschutes-fed irrigation system to create swaths of farmland in Jefferson County, before gently subsiding to a population of ~700, as of the 2010 census.
We only stopped for a few moments, and I only made a few images in the boneyard along the tracks, but I've had Metolius on my mind since we got back. There was just this embedded forlorness in the abandoned landscape of the town, this pining for the past in the face of the present that captivated me. I plan on heading back soon for a more thorough exploration of the story of Metolius and its residents.