This week I’m spending spring break with my family in Central Montana which of course means you all get to see some BNSF Laurel Sub action here on dogcaught. The good news is the action seems to be plentiful.
So far traffic has been much improved over the last two years. I’ve seen…
1. Daily Laurel-Shelby and Shelby-Laurel trains. During the economic downturn this symbol was cut back and it seemed there was one train in one direction each day. Back to one each way each day!
2. Windmill blades. A loaded blades train headed for Canada passed on Sunday. With the Spion Kop wind farm in the planning there will like be more blades visiting these parts.
3. Loaded coal for the Sweetgrass, MT interchange. I’m not sure where the coal goes once it reaches Canada (probably Prince Rupert) but there seems to be a train every 3 days or so.
4. Fewer slow orders. Trains are getting over the road much quicker now. The speed through Stanford has even increased from 25 to 40! Sometime after July last year about a mile of concrete ties were installed in the canyon between Armington an Raynesford.
For the rest of my visit it looks like I’ll get to see the daily manifests, a coal empty and a load, as well as the lost local on its wanderings. It should be a good couple of days of railfanning!
Yesterday it was 70 degrees here in Central Montana. Today it is 30 and snowing. Welcome to spring in Montana!
The train in this image is a unit train from Great Falls and is headed to Pipestone pit near Whitehall, Mt. This is one of several trains expected today including the Lost local which is on its way to Moore as I write this. Since it was so warm yesterday the roads are mostly wet so getting around to photograph trains in the snow is fairly easy. Hopefully I’ll have a few more snow images from today.
On the second morning of my Montana visit a unit windmill train passed through Stanford. The south siding switch was still reversed from a meet the night before so they had to stop to line the switch and copy a new warrant. The sight of a train of blades strung out through town made quite an impression on the residents It seemed like several times over the next few days people were talking about the wind mills. Of course Stanford is already excited about the Spion Kop wind farm so the sight of blade made everyone very talkative.
It will be interesting to see where the construction materials for Spion Kop will be off loaded. Stanford and Geyser don’t exactly have the best locations for removing heavy loads from a train due to cramped quarters. I suppose a spur could be built right at the wind farm since the track passes right through. Most likely that won’t be cost effective so they will likely be offloaded somewhere with available land and access to cranes and then trucked in. A spur would be interesting though…
Central Montana has no end to scenery. Despite visiting the area for 6 straight years now I’ve never stopped west of the Hay Creek trestle near Geyser. Why? Who knows. It seems like a prefect location with the tracks nicely in the foreground and the Highwood mountiains and their foothills in the background. It could be I’ve not stopped here because there is no nice place to park. In this part of Montana that’s not an excuse though as there is plenty of room off the highway shoulders.
This time I did stop and I captured the Lost Local on its return to Great Falls passing below the Highwoods. In the morning when the local went south there was a couple of inches of snow on the ground. As the day moved along the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Away went the snow. In fact by 1:30PM when I photographed this location the heat waves coming off the grass were quite strong. It is interesting how things can change so quickly during a Montana spring.
One last thing about the Lost Local. It has always fascinated met that more often than not it will have exclusively BN green locomotives. How do they do that? Someone in Great Falls must have some skill at getting just the right power.