Central Montana Good News

A pair of CMR GP-9s lay over in Denton.

Just in time for my weekend train ride on the Central Montana Railroad they have some great news to share!  They will be receiving a $4 Million grant to repair flood damage from the 2011 floods. This should allow them to restore their previous service levels to the region.  How the Moccasin Agri-Hub and end of the BNSF subsidy payments will impact the railroad’s future is not clear.  I believe good marketing and partnerships with BNSF will mitigate those items.  For now though it appears they will be able to run trains again on this former Milwaukee Road line!

Trouble on the Judith

I’m sure after my visit to Denton this weekend I’ll have a clearer understanding of what the future will bring and how soon this trestle will again see rail traffic.

Along The Evergreen Highway

Along The Evergreen Highway

In 1937 State Road No. 8 was designated Primary State Highway 8 Evergreen Highway.  Despite its renaming in 1968 to State Route 14, the “Evergreen Highway” moniker has hung around here and there.  In Vancouver the original alignment is known alternately as Evergreen Blvd. and SE Evergreen Highway.  In Camas and Washougal it is Evergreen Highway, Evergreen Way, and Evergreen Blvd.  If you are a railfan you may have driven parts of the original Evergreen Highway as it closely parallels the BNSF from McGloughlin to to Washougal.  East of Washougal the name seems to not be as popular with people just referring to the road as SR 14.  Most maps still show SR 14 to be Evergreen Highway though.

Prior to 1937 State Road No. 8 was known officially as the “North Bank Road”.  That seems very fitting considering that was the nickname of the SP&S which the road closely followed.

Sunday morning I headed into the west end of the gorge to take advantage of the traffic running heaving after Saturday’s slide.   In addition to seeing three trains, I was treated to a nice Sunday drive.  At West Skamania I pulled off at the Franz Lake Wildlife Refuge overlook to photograph this westbound Rivergate grain train.  Just another day along the Evergreen Highway.

Central Montana Miscellaneous

Here’s a few miscellaneous photos from around the Central Montana…

Grain is ready and so is the train.  August is harvest time for grain and the harvest is in full swing in Central Montana.  With some dry days later this week farmers will be at it from sun up to sun down.  Grain trains are being positioned and one is expected at Grove on Friday.

Downtown Stanford.  Another busy day is in progress in Stanford, Montana with folks coming to town do their business.   Most residents don’t even notice the M-SHMLAU as it blasts through town.
Benchland depot.   The Benchland, Montana depot is no longer next to the track but is still in existence which is not all that common out here.

Moonrise over Benchland elevator.  Like many small elevators in Central Montana the Benchland elevator still stands but is unused.  Farmers now take their grain to the large elevators at Grove, Moore, and Carter where BNSF supplies full trains for loading.

Mocassin, MT – Agri-hub


United Harvest Elevator, Moccasin, MT

So maybe this post’s title is a bit presumptuous but in Central Montana having a multi use track in 2010 is pretty big news.  In a January 11 article, the Lewistown News-Argus (covering Central Montana like the stars!) reports that Central Montana Cooperatives is planning to build a fertilizer hub on the loop track at Moccasin (known as Grove, symbol GVE to BNSF).  The loop track is currently home to United Harvest’s elevator which loads unit grain trains throughout the year.  The two facilities will certainly make Moccasin a much busier stop on BNSF’s Laurel Sub and will increase its importance to agriculture in the area.

Grove Elevator

Coming Soon – Fertilizer

This new facility will likely improve Central Montana Cooperatives’ delivery efficiency thanks to reduced costs to ship bulk product.  Obviously lower or steady production costs will make farmers in the area quite happy. 

With all this good news I want to stop for a minute and consider the other player in the railroad game at Moccasin, the Central Montana Railroad.  They make their living on the carload business distributed to smaller communities along their line.  With the addition of the fertilizer hub what’s going to happen to them when a co-op in Geraldine decides to truck fertilizer from Moccasin because its cheaper?  CMR and the State of Montana are already in a tussle with BNSF over subsidy payments so I’m afraid that the grain shipping business already lost, the subsidy payments lost, and now the potential for the fertilizer business to be lost may not be good for the future of the CMR freight business.

Grove Loop

Moccasin Loop

As a railfan I certainly don’t want to see the CMR lose more business and disappear.  Their line is one of the few operating pieces of the famed Milwaukee Road that still operates 30 years gone and has many scenic highlights that are hard to find anywhere else.  On top of that they host the Charlie Russell Chew Choo that is not to be missed on a visit to the region.

The CMR aside the fertilizer hub is still good for business in Central Montana and should be looked at positively for Central Montana and Moccasin.   It may however be one straw too many for some in the region.

[tags] train, railroad, railfan, photo, photography, montana, grain, fertilizer, community, farming [/tags]