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March 1998 - Page 56


ABOVE: B N S F 9 6 6

sheph erds westb o u n d N o . 207 o v e r the trestle at Cut B a n k Creek.
B ELOW: O n October 8,

1 9 9 6 , gra i n tra i n G 0 9 assau lts M a rias Pass east of J ava.

A fter a brief stop in western North Dakota, we made our way up to the Highline at Wolf Point, Montana, and our quest to see the orange-and-green DASH 9s began. We had traveled as far as Havre before the first DASH 9-44CW was spotted at sundown October 5, idling con tentedly outside the diesel shop. The following morning two of the new Pumpkins and a Santa Fe Warbonnet headed east from Havre, and we set up on one of the rolling hills forming the valley of the Milk River. The

5 6 M arch 1998

BNSF Milk River Sub follows the Milk River through a good portion of northern Montana. The combination of the rich morning light at a low northern autumn angle, the gleaming fresh paint of the locomotives, the rich golden dry grass of the hillsides, and the yellow high lights of the river-bottom trees-all under the om nipresent "Big Sky"-was really something to behold. The next morning was spent shooting trains at Cut Bank Creek Trestle. Under a clear blue sky there were plenty of nice shots to be had, but no Pumpkins. With our McDonald's lunch mostly eaten, we heard the horn of a train entering Cut Bank from the east. With great delight, we saw it was freight headed up by a one of the new DASH 9s. Once the locomotive had passed over the trestle, we scrambled into the Lincoln and started the climb out of the valley back up to U.S. 2, and the pursuit was on. At the crossover location of Piegan, we waited a short time for the train to catch up. We paralleled the train to Browning where the crew called the dispatcher to find out if there might be a helper set in the area, since the train was struggling against a stiff headwind. The winds around Browning are so strong so often that a fence has to be erected along one fill to prevent the top containers of stack trains from being blown off. The dis patcher came back with bad news-the train would have to make do with the horsepower it had. West of Browning, the mountains seemed to spring up out of nowhere. The deciduous trees glowed a gold orange tone, from the roadside, out along the creek beds, and up the m o u n t a i n s i d e in broad d ra m a t i c strokes in stark contrast t o t h e deep green o f t h e sur rounding pine forest. The afternoon light got richer and

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