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!

Spring Snow

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Montana April 2012

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.

Hold On

We are struggling mightily to get out of winter in the Northwest.  It snowed yesterday in Vancouver as well as out at the ocean.  For the Oregon beaches it was the first March snow storm since 1966!  The consequence of this slow transition is we haven’t had nice days or even showers and sun breaks which are typical for this time of year.

An empty coal train is about to enter Tunnel 1.5 near North Bonneville, Wa.  A winter snow storm has left a dusting on the ground throughout the Columbia River Gorge.

I can feel my photographer self suffering from the lack of interesting light.  I’ve wanted several times to run out and photograph but the gray just isn’t motivating.  I have a few images in mind but really a clear or partly cloudy day would suit them better than the rain and gray skies.  Things are bad enough that a couple of days ago I found myself photographing the trees blowing in the wind because that was the most interesting thing happening.   Don’t get me wrong, I like photographing that stuff but I’m in the mood for real light soon!

A change in the weather will come.  It always does. In the mean time I continue to share my snowy gray day images because winter still has a hold on us.

More Snow in The Gorge

Most of the snow from the January 15th snow storm fell west of Bingen.  The result was I spent the day west of Bingen too!  Snow in the gorge has been pretty sparse lately so I wanted to take advantage.  Most of the morning I hung out around North Bonneville photographing Amtrak, several BNSF westbounds, and two eastbound UP trains.  The gorge is pretty narrow and cluttered with trees around North Bonneville.  I knew I wanted a wider view to demonstrate what the snow looked like so after lunch I drove to Dog Mountain to wait for an eastbound.

Since it was Monday maintenance was out in full force so I took a quick trip to Underwood during a lull to see what the White Salmon River looks like after the Condit Dam breach.   I’ve read many people’s complaints about how the breach has ruined one of the best salmon fishing locations in the Gorge.  I will agree that the river is choked with muck but since the October 26, 2010 breach we really haven’t had any high water.  Once we have a few heavy rains it appears a river channel will reappear there.  Now, what will happen with the back water areas?  Good question.  I’m sure mother nature will show us.

I arrived back a Dog Mountain about the same time and eastbound stack train was going through Stevenson.  Perfect.  I climbed the hill and gathered in the photo I was looking for.