Welcome to the CMR. On the morning of our excursion the door to CMR headquarters is wide open.
After the night photo shoot my 5:30am alarm came mighty early. Since I was going for a train ride an early call was ok in my book. I made a quick trip from Stanford back over to Denton for the morning safety meeting and briefing on the trip. Jay reviewed the plan of the day and we covered some basic safety item with train, our crew, and our caboose. Sure we are all railfans and think we know better, but reviewing safety tips for the day was an important step.
At 7:45am our CMR adventure headed west from Denton to the station of Arrow Creek where Carla and Kristi ran the power around the train and set us up for a couple of photos. At Arrow Creek the Highwood mountains formed a wonderful back drop for a very CMR scene. In the coming months the railroad plans to repair the washout a few miles to the west and restore train service through the Arrow Creek canyon to Square Butte and Geraldine.
Stopped at Arrow Creek, MT our little train poses for a photo under the Big Skys of Montana.
Since the Central Montana is mostly former Milwaukee Road and was operated by BN for just a few years its MILW heritage shows through everywhere. West of Denton we passed several signs from the MILW era including a flanger board for a crossing and a Station One Mile sign. The Station One Mile sign ended up being our second photo stop of the day. At our stops I found dozens of date nails from the 30’s marking the ties as I walked to and from the train. It truly was a step back in time.
One mile east of Arrow Creek we stopped for a portrait of the train with the Station One Mile sign.
After one more photo stop between Arrow Creek and Denton we headed east into town for a quick stop at the restroom and the beginning of the eastern portion of our tour.
While my recent visit to Central Montana was more family oriented I still had a goal to get over to the Central Montana Railroad’s Judith River trestle. There’s just something about seeing bent steel that just couldn’t keep me away! Fortunately my brother and sister-in-law wanted to see some sights so I dragged them out to Ware to have a look at the damage.
At the north end of the bridge you can easily see where the Judith River left its banks and did the damage. When I rode the dinner train the Judith was confined to the east end of the trestle. However with the high water the oxbow just upstream of the bridge was ‘straight lined’ and that meant trouble for the footing.
I haven’t heard any news yet on when or if the bridge will be repaired. Based on the Lobato Trestle experience this repair will likely be in the millions of dollars to repair. I’m sure there are lots of considerations political and financial involved so we’ll likely have to wait a bit for a final decision.
In the meantime it will be interesting to see what happens with the various pieces of equipment the CMR has. When I passed through Denton I saw a good sized string of GATX bottom dump hoppers. I suppose that CMR was storing those. The bridge is between them and the BNSF interchange so it will be interesting to see when and how they get out of town. The Charlie Russell Chew Choo cars are all sitting at Kingston Jct. south of the trestle and all dinner trains are cancelled through July. I don’t believe CMR has a locomotive down there so they too appear to be isolated. I didn’t see anything on the tracks from Arrow Creek (station) through Square Butte to Geraldine.
In the mean time if you want to visit keep in mind that CMR is fairly serious about trespassers on the bridge. Sure this is pretty much in the middle of nowhere but if you are on the bridge it is pretty obvious you are on the bridge.
Good luck CMR.
7/31/2011 Update – It appears the Charlie Russell Choo Chew is making long term plans to operate from a different location. According to a news article they are planning to move the cars to Ware and operate out of there on what appears to be a permanent basis.