Denton Nights

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series CMR Photo Freight 2013

CMR 1824 leads a freight train through downtown Denton, MT passed Central Montana Rail Inc’s. shops.

On June 1st I was privileged to ride a chartered photo freight on the Central Montana Railroad.  Twenty of us chartered an 8 car train, 2 locomotives, a caboose, and two fabulous CMR employees.  In turn the CMR ran us to various photo locations between Arrow Creek and Ware where we photographed the train and worked with the crew perform run bys.   What a deal eh?  There is nothing like having your own personal train and crew to set up great photos.  Sound like fun?  You bet it was!

Friday night as the heavy rains cleared Jeff Robertson and many of the riders set up for a night photo session in Denton, MT.  Carla, the general manager and engineer, was kind enough to spot not only our train in front of the the elevators in town but pull a few of the locomotives out of the shop to anchor the scene.  This of course was one of the first of many wonderful things Carla helped us with on the excursion day.

Other than a bit of the usual Central Montana wind the night photo shoot turned out wonderful.  Jeff did a great job with the lighting and making sure everyone had a chance to do their own exposure and composition.  After I made my request I moved around to various locations while everyone else set up their shots.  By 11:45pm I was tired and headed back to Stanford for the night.

Next up: Riding the photo freight!

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.

Happy New Year!

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Montana December 2012

 BNSF’s Shelby-Laurel manifest train blows through downtown Stanford, Mt. on a cold December morning.  The snow which fell on Christmas eve lingers around town thanks to temperatures which hover near zero.

Happy New Year!  Yep, it is now 2013 in the Pacific Time Zone.

How was your 2012?  Mine was pretty good. In January last year I published my thoughts about where I would go in 2012.  From the looks of it I accomplished 5 of my 7 railfan photography goals for the year.  Here’s my summary:

– Watch for snow in the Columbia River Gorge.  Last year was a bust hopefully this year will be positive. (Met)
– MLK holiday railfanning somewhere in the area. (Met)
– Montana at spring break.  I’m looking forward to another visit to Central Montana, this time while the snow is still around. (Met)
– GorgeRail in May.  I’ve signed up to be a presenter, so make sure you can find your way there. (Not met, however I did present at Autumn Leaf in October)
– Hot Rails/Gaynor Campout in July or August.  I’ve passed on a couple of trips to Stevens Pass lately so this will get me back up there again. (Not Met thanks to family obiligations)
– Autumn Leaf in October.  I think I enjoy fall best in the Northwest so this should be a good time as always. (Met)
– I have a few weeks of vacation to use this year so I’m sure there will be more. (Met)

Moving on to 2013 I can see some similar items on the horizon.

– Repair my 70-200mm lens in January.
– Tracks in the Snow in February.
– GorgeRail in May.
– Hot Rail/Gaynor Campout in the summer.  This year I have a chance to make it since we don’t have a huge family event planned
– Autumn Leaf in October.
– September may contain a visit to Canada.  Plans for this were just discussed today so this is very tentative.

On top of the usual I need to assign myself a photography project.  I have some thoughts but I need to think through the ideas and get plans put together.

What plans do you have for 2012?

I Got Lost

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Montana December 2012

I got lost.  The Lost Local that is. On my last day in Central Montana the local which runs out of Great Falls to serve industries and branch lines from Moore to Conrad made a trip to Moccasin and the Grove elevator loop.  As normal the local power is primarily painted in BN colors though this time one odd duck, the 2352, came along.  On the southbound trip the train consisted of 2 covered hoppers.  On arrival at Moccasin they lined themselves into the Grove elevator loop and headed around to the fertilizer facility.  There they spotted the first car over their dumper.  While the first car dumped the power ran around the loop to the other end.  They then spotted the rear, now first, car and waited while it dumped.  I found it unusual (these days) they waited for the customer to unload the product instead of just spotting and running.

Lost Local

BNSF’s Lost Local passes the Grove shuttle train elevator on its return trip to Great Falls.  Dear BN BNSF 1504, your logo is showing through!

The next chore involved a 31 car pickup.  After two tries with the dispatcher to see if they could get paper work on the hazardous cars they knew they had to pick up they reluctantly backed on the the Central Montana interchange track and began the search for their cars.  Come to find out their pick up was not amongst the 60 or so tanks spotted on the interchange.  Instead they found their 31 empty rail cars sitting on the Moccasin siding.  I’m not sure why there was so much confusion over the location of the pickup and whether or not the Great Falls yard had given them the right paperwork (which they had).

Once on their way north I chased the train to a couple of my favorite photo locations around Benchland, Stanford, and Geyser.  With the sun and the mountains out I chose a couple of locations which would put the train right in some of the best scenery in Central Montana.

Lost LocalThe Lost Local, with empty rail cars in tow, is just about to blast through Geyser, Mt.  Geyser is set at the base of the scenic Highwood Mountains.

Another Day in Central Montana

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Montana December 2012

For Christmas this year my family and I trekked east to the Central Montana town of Stanford.  As readers of this blog know I usually visit here in the summer however our last two trips have been “off season” thanks to our desire to spend more time with our young niece.

Travelling in winter can has it challenges especially when there are 3 passes to cross between my home and Stanford.  Fortunately on the trip east we encountered no issues.  When we arrived in town we found no snow and temperatures in the mid-teens.  Christmas Eve day saw around 4″ of snow fall with temperatures plummeting to -8 on Christmas morning.  The snow was the consistency of powdered sugar and wasn’t even slippery.  Other than having to sit in a very cold vehicle getting around is pretty easy.

On Christmas Day I told my family I didn’t expect any trains since almost all the trains passing through Stanford are low priority manifests.  I was shocked when just after 3pm a manifest rolled south through town.  I headed out and found one of the remaining locations with sunlight still on it.

A Train For Christmas

As the sun is about to set on Christmas Day, BNSF’s southbound M-SHMLAU exits the Windham tunnel.  In just a few moments the sunny part of Christmas will be gone.  For the crew the remaining 8 or so hours to Laurel will be in the dark 0 degree night.

On the day after Christmas clouds once again ruled and when the northbound Laurel-Shelby rolled through I headed out for a couple of locations I knew would work well with the clouds and light snow.  In addition to this image of the train at Hay Creek north of Geyser I caught it in the canyon between Spion Kop and Raynesford at the Williams Creek bridge.

Another Day in Central Montana

The “Laurel-Shelby” train crosses Hay Creek north of Geyser, MT.  The snow and 10 degree temperatures don’t seem to hamper operations through Central Montana. 

I have a couple more days in town before I have to head back west.  Until then I’ll continue to enjoy the cold weather and snow!