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March 1998 - Page 58


ABOVE: O n October 1 2 ,

1996, M R L train No. 2 0 coasts down the eastern slope of Bozeman Pass.
BELOW: S hort-lived sun

light breaks through a hole i n these dark clouds near Bison, bathing this loaded grain train's DPU set in bright light on October 4, 1997.

w ith its grassy hills and serpentine curves around Bison; to mountainside-clinging double track, complete with the timeless huge wooden snowsheds between Blacktail and Essex; and the contorted river-running along the Middle Fork of the Flathead Rivel employing several tUlmels as the line nears Belton. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and on October 1 0, we packed up and checked out of the caboose. Retracing our steps, we followed a pair of BNSF Warbonnet SD75s east out of Glacier to Cut Bank Creek. Traveling east as far as Shelby, we then dropped down to Helena and the Montana Rail Link. The next morning, the good weather continued to hold, and J

c ouldn't help but be impressed by the traffic and the scenery on Mullan Pass. That day, we would travel east as far as the Lom bard area before following train 1 25 into the setting sun on the return trip to Helena. We c o v e re d a l o t o f ground o n October 1 2, though we d i d m a n a g e t o c a t c h a n M R L train rolling down t h e east slope of Bozeman Pass and get i n v i ted u p i n t o t h e c a b of a DASH 9-44CW waiting in the siding at H athaway, Montana. A t day's end, we had crossed most of North Dakota and we were already re-living all the ad ventures just completed after a week in Montana. ot only was t h e t r i p worth w a i t i n g for, i t begged for a n encore. In July 1 99 7 , I moved to Winona, Minnesota. When I re t u rn ed to M i lwaukee to v i s i t M i ke and Tom , w e started for malizing plans for a repeat trip to Marias Pass. They would drive u p from D e nver, and I would take the train. Two more Mon tana enthusiasts, Dave Gayer and Marty Peterson, would drive up from Salt Lake City. In a way, my third trip to Montana was to be a hybrid of the first two since I was both traversing the state by train and photographing Marias Pass. The weather on October 4 was not what we expeli enced a year earliel though possibly more typical for au tumn mountain weather. The peaks wore a dusting of snow, while scattered low clouds and patches of rain de scended on the valleys. Heading out towards Browning ahead of Amtrak, we noticed that there was clear sky, al ways about 1 0 miles east of wherever we were. Shortly before Amtrak arrived, a rainbow started to form from the weather front following us. After trying to get the rainbow in a picture with Amtrak, I had bet ter luck with a grain train that had been in the siding at Brown i n g wa i ti n g for t h e E mp ire B u i lder t o p a s s . O n e of t h e b i gg e s t c ha n g e s we fou n d i n 1 99 7 was that rather than run ning four GEs on the head of a grain train, there were two on the head and two unmanned DPUs o n t h e r e a r. T h i s w a s n 't a l l bad-as w e found with thi first grain train , in a catch-as-catch can w e a t h e r p a t t e rn , we had twice the opportunity to shoot lo comotives in a d ramatic "sun spot . " When we stopped near Bi son to shoot the train over on a fil l , the head end passed while the l ight was flat and overcast. H ow e v e r, w h e n t h e D P U s showed up, a hole briefly broke in the clouds and the train was bathed in light, while the moun tains behind continued to brood

58 ' March 1998

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