Coal cars stored near Kolin, MT shimmer in the moonlight.
While Central Montana Railway’s bridges are unusable and under repair the CMR is storing cars where they can. About half of the track from Moccasin to the former GN Judith River trestle is filled with coal cars of various ownership. These long strings of cars stand out on the open prairie and are quite a contrast to the wheat fields that dominate this particular area. Kristi from the CMR told me last month they have over 240 cars stored currently. Nice bit of income for a shut down railroad.
At one of the grade crossings near Kolin I stopped when I noticed how the moon lit the sides of the stored hoppers. I spent 10 minutes or so photographing this spot until the moon moved around to where it wasn’t shining on the car sides any more.
The last bit of my Central Montan Railway excursion included a quick visit to Ware, the current end of the CMR. It won’t be the end of the line too much longer because sometime before winter Carla anticipates having the Judith River trestle repaired. That means the CMR’s connection to BNSF will be restored and traffic can once again flow over the entire line. Good news for the CMR for certain.
Moving in reverse from Danvers to Ware at 12 MPH.
Our excursion crossed one of the other impressive steel trestles at Indian Creek and we stopped for another photo session. Afternoon clouds had rolled in so we had to wait a bit for the sun to come back out before the photo shoot was complete. No matter we had more important subjects to discuss and a few other photos to take while we waited. This group of riders was a pleasure to be around so hanging out together for a bit was no issue.
An abandoned ranch house sits on the hill above Indian Creek while our train rests on the trestle waiting for the sunlight to return.
One of my favorite images from the trip was pointed out to me by Paul Birkholz. He yelled across the cab at me and said to come over and look at the silhouette of our train on the canyon floor. Beautiful! I took several images as the train rolled slowly over the trestle at 10mph. What an amazing afternoon scene!
Elevated over Indian Creek.
As the title of this post indicates, it ends with a caboose. After an enjoyable dinner in Denton a group of us trudged back over to the CMR shops and photographed our caboose as the sun dropped behind the clouds. Jay set some lights into the rear markers and proceeded to illuminate the grain elevator with his light. After a couple of tries we all had the shots we wanted.
My excursion on the CMR ended with this photo of the CMR 100 caboose.
I packed up my gear and made the 30 minute trek back to Stanford. On the way I reflected on the day. I was tired but fully satisfied with the photos I’d taken and the experience I’d had. The railfans on this trip were fabulous and so enjoyable to be around which made the whole thing that much better.
General Manager, lobbyist, and engineer are just a few of the titles CMR’s Carla Allen holds. On our spring excursion she did a little of each.
We as railfans tend to get caught up with railroad equipment, history, rivets, and other non-human aspects of railroading. The honest truth is trains move because of the people behind them. The excursion I rode on the Central Montana is no different. Without Carla, Kristi, AJ, Alan, and many others we wouldn’t have turned a wheel.
Running around in a couple of 1950’s era GP9’s means problems can happen. Sure enough when we stopped at Danvers to get the power around to the other end of the train both locomotives wouldn’t load. With a single ended siding we needed both units move the train around. Initially Carla and Kristi worked on the issue but soon AJ and Alan were involved. After 30 minutes of trying different things AJ and Alan popped open a cabinet and started hunting around for the issue. Soon they discovered a balky relay which stuck in the wrong position and prevented loading. A quick tap of a flag stick put it back in the right spot and we were in business again. Without the right people it would have been a long walk back to Denton!
Our troubleshooters AJ (left) and Alan (right) work to determine which balky relay they need to give a nudge.
With only an engineer and conductor the switching moves at Danvers would have been a challenge. Thankfully we had a couple of additional railroaders on the excursion and they pitched in to facilitate the work. After a quick job briefing Alan and AJ teamed up with Kristi and Carla to move the power to the other end of the train. Without their willingness to volunteer the run around move sure would have taken longer.
AJ Shewan make a joint between our caboose and a flat car.
As you can see people make it happen, even when it is a simple excursion train…
As railfans know there are a few iconic locations where rail lines, scenery, and structures converge into unprecedented scenes. For the Central Montana this iconic location falls beween the Hoosac tunnel and the Danvers elevators. It is a bit of a remote spot where nothing more than a few rattlesnakes and cattle live. Its name is Sage Creek. The highlights of this location are of course the 1700′ long Sage Creek trestle and the nearly two mile long sweeping S curve on either side. Add in Montana’s “Big Sky” and this spot unbeatable.
The eastbound excursion train descends the 1% grade from Hoosac tunnel towards Sage Creek.
On the south side of Sage Creek mother nature built a viewing platform to end all platforms. The hills which define the canyon are covered only in grass and are easy to negotiate for an ideal photographic position. No matter what your taste I think you can find a spot on that hill which will make you smile. For our excursion Jay and Carla worked together to put the train in various spots so everyone could have that perfect photo.
Our excursion train parks in the middle of one of the beautiful railroad scenes in Montana.
On the return to Denton we stopped on the north side of the trestle for another photo shoot. This time we set up much closer to the trestle which gives you the idea just how big it really is.
Our excursion train is dwarfed by the massive Sage Creek trestle.
With a scene as giant as the S curve and trestle at Sage Creek I think a 110 car grain train would be much more appropriate for an excursion.
East of Denton we first stopped at a hill that provides a great view of a curve with Square Butte in the background. This ended up being one spot where a much longer train would be just ideal. Don’t get me wrong, having any train at this spot in 2013 makes it special so I cherished seeing our little excursion train round the bend and come into view.
East of Denton, MT our little excursion train rounds a curve with the famous Square Butte looking over the scene.
Our next stop was a rural grade crossing near the community of Hoosac. Here Jay and Carla arranged for a local gentleman to bring his 40’s era Ford pick up in for a photo shoot with the train. The first set up was staged for Camron’s video. The pickup drove slowly down the road while the train approached the crossing just ahead of it. After that we parked the pickup around the crossing for us still photographers to get a few photos. The old Ford looked great and worked well with our ’50s era Chevys.
A Ford and a Couple of Chevy’s near Hoosac, MT.
Most railfans have heard of the Hoosac tunnel and most probably think it is in Massachusetts. Central Montana railfans recognize Hoosac tunnel is actually located in Montana. After our photo shoot with the Ford we continued east and passed through the Montana version of the tunnel. On the east end we stopped for another photo shoot of with the train exiting the tunnel.
From the cupola of the CMR caboose the Sage Creek valley comes into view framed by the Hoosac tunnel.
Thanks to the recent rains all the hills around the Hoosac tunnel are very green.
Next up, the unparalleled vistas of Sage Creek.