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March 1998 - Page 55

worth of labors reached its crescendo. On the retum hip, I awoke as we clipped through a scenic mountain valley in extreme westem Montana (we would spend nearly all the daylight hours of that long summer's day speeding to the other edge of Montana) . A t the Whitefish stop, a ational Park interpreter board ed the train and provided insights into the fascinating historical and natural reasons behind the views outside our windows all the way to East Glacier and its impos ing depot constructed partly of giant tree trunks. That bright moming offered an excellent opportunity to view Marias Pass as we rode along the Flathead River past the sites of forest fires and gazed up to where avalanches had roared down the mountains and knocked down long vertical swaths of pine trees. (The interpreter also told of how groups of grizzly bears would gather near the tracks after freight train derailments and feast on the fermented corn, putting themselves in grave danger as they stag gered along the tracks. Their "stash" was eventually eliminated when the railroad installed concrete ties and heavy welded rail , reducing the frequency of derail ments.) Such a ride through the mountains can only be described as tantalizing-the stuff from which new and improved daydreams are formed in the mind of an aspir ing photographer. Towards the end of the year I paid a nominal sub scription fee to receive the Havre, Montana, newspaper by mail for a month (I had purchased one during the sta tion stop there that summer). Reading it gave me a daily ' look at the life of this community of about 1 0,000, and after a short time, I realized Havre was a kind of town all but extinct in t h e Midwest-a bona-fide railroad town. The importance of the railroad in the life of Havre was brought home several times that month: I t s stories told of trepidation over a planned downsizing of the Havre diesel shop with the upcoming Burlington North ern & S anta Fe merger and concerns over Amtrak's plan to reduce the Empire Builder from a daily train to four times a week. With the principle towns of the Highline about 1 00 miles apart, the train served as a way to dis-

tribute products such as fresh-cut flowers to "neighbor ing" towns. Even though Havre boasts a state university and an economy boosted by the surrounding ranch land, it followed the changes on its railroad in a way many towns haven't done in generations. Among the many changes coming about in 1 996 as a result of the merger was the ongoing delivery of 1 64 new General Electric D A S H 9-44CWs. What better place to check out new locomotives decked out in a paint scheme reminiscent of Great Northern's classic Pullman green and orange than the old G 's legendary Marias Pass line? And so at the beginning of Octo bet; Tom Danneman, Mike Danneman, Tim Hensch, and I hit the road for Montana, I remember it as "the year of the Lincoln . " At the oLltset we were skeptical, but not only did all OLlr luggage fit in the Towne Car's trunk but that car took us everywhere-and I mean everywhere.

ABOVE: T he author rode

Amtrak No. 8 , the east bound Empire Builder, on his first long-d istance train trip. Here, No. 8 crosses Midvale Creek in East Glacier.
B ELOW: In rich morning

light, BNSF Pumpkin paint cuts a crisp swath along the Milk River, with unit 992 leading tra i n NO. 4 east of Havre, on October 6, 1996.

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