Smoke from nearby forest fires dominates the morning as an eastbound Southern Pacific train on the Modoc Line starts the climb out of the Madeline Plains. Once the train reaches the summit at Crest a few miles ahead, it will be all downhill to the crew change at Wendel. In less than four weeks, SP will be acquired by Union Pacific. In a year, these rails will be permanently out of service. Today, with the track gone, the grade is a hiking trail.