Thursday last week I visited Vader, WA with the idea that the cantilever signals there won’t be there much longer. The nationwide PTC mandate has BNSF replacing signals and upgrading the signal system at quick pace. While work to stand up replacements hasn’t begun in Vader I’m certain the plans are in place and it will just be a matter of time before it does.
From 4pm to 8:20pm 14 trains passed! Daytime maintenance held the train traffic up a bit so the early evening time turned quite busy. At one point the UP local was switching Napavine while 3 northbound trains stacked up from Vader to Napavine South. Soundbound trains kept rolling but only so the dispatcher could clear a path for Amtrak Cascades trains 508 and 509 could meet more conveniently.
It was a good night to be hanging out with friends and enjoying the activity.
I ran across a set of UP locomotives in Vancouver last Sunday. The first thing which caught my eye was the little red signs hanging on the trucks. With the signs being clean and the trucks coated with years of road grime the signs stood out. It seems Union Pacific wants only tread conditioning brake shoes applied to this locomotive and they need a sign as a reminder. I wonder what the little red sign will look like after a few years of time on the road?
While Central Montana Railway’s bridges are unusable and under repair the CMR is storing cars where they can. About half of the track from Moccasin to the former GN Judith River trestle is filled with coal cars of various ownership. These long strings of cars stand out on the open prairie and are quite a contrast to the wheat fields that dominate this particular area. Kristi from the CMR told me last month they have over 240 cars stored currently. Nice bit of income for a shut down railroad.
At one of the grade crossings near Kolin I stopped when I noticed how the moon lit the sides of the stored hoppers. I spend 10 minutes or so photographing this spot until the moon moved around to where it wasn’t shining on the car sides any more.
Coal cars stored near Kolin, MT shimmer in the moonlight.
The last bit of my Central Montan Railway excursion included a quick visit to Ware, the current end of the CMR. It won’t be the end of the line too much longer because sometime before winter Carla anticipates having the Judith River trestle repaired. That means the CMR’s connection to BNSF will be restored and traffic can once again flow over the entire line. Good news for the CMR for certain.
Moving in reverse from Danvers to Ware at 12 MPH.
Our excursion crossed one of the other impressive steel trestles at Indian Creek and we stopped for another photo session. Afternoon clouds had rolled in so we had to wait a bit for the sun to come back out before the photo shoot was complete. No matter we had more important subjects to discuss and a few other photos to take while we waited. This group of riders was a pleasure to be around so hanging out together for a bit was no issue.
An abandoned ranch house sits on the hill above Indian Creek while our train rests on the trestle waiting for the sunlight to return.
One of my favorite images from the trip was pointed out to me by Paul Birkholz. He yelled across the cab at me and said to come over and look at the silhouette of our train on the canyon floor. Beautiful! I took several images as the train rolled slowly over the trestle at 10mph. What an amazing afternoon scene!
Elevated over Indian Creek.
As the title of this post indicates, it ends with a caboose. After an enjoyable dinner in Denton a group of us trudged back over to the CMR shops and photographed our caboose as the sun dropped behind the clouds. Jay set some lights into the rear markers and proceeded to illuminate the grain elevator with his light. After a couple of tries we all had the shots we wanted.
My excursion on the CMR ended with this photo of the CMR 100 caboose.
I packed up my gear and made the 30 minute trek back to Stanford. On the way I reflected on the day. I was tired but fully satisfied with the photos I’d taken and the experience I’d had. The railfans on this trip were fabulous and so enjoyable to be around which made the whole thing that much better.
We as railfans tend to get caught up with railroad equipment, history, rivets, and other non-human aspects of railroading. The honest truth is trains move because of the people behind them. The excursion I rode on the Central Montana is no different. Without Carla, Kristi, AJ, Alan, and many others we wouldn’t have turned a wheel.
General Manager, lobbyist, and engineer are just a few of the titles CMR’s Carla Allen holds. On our spring excursion she did a little of each.
Running around in a couple of 1950′s era GP9′s means problems can happen. Sure enough when we stopped at Danvers to get the power around to the other end of the train both locomotives wouldn’t load. With a single ended siding we needed both units move the train around. Initially Carla and Kristi worked on the issue but soon AJ and Alan were involved. After 30 minutes of trying different things AJ and Alan popped open a cabinet and started hunting around for the issue. Soon they discovered a balky relay which stuck in the wrong position and prevented loading. A quick tap of a flag stick put it back in the right spot and we were in business again. Without the right people it would have been a long walk back to Denton!
Our troubleshooters AJ (left) and Alan (right) work to determine which balky relay they need to give a nudge.
With only an engineer and conductor the switching moves at Danvers would have been a challenge. Thankfully we had a couple of additional railroaders on the excursion and they pitched in to facilitate the work. After a quick job briefing Alan and AJ teamed up with Kristi and Carla to move the power to the other end of the train. Without their willingness to volunteer the run around move sure would have taken longer.
AJ Shewan make a joint between our caboose and a flat car.
As you can see people make it happen, even when it is a simple excursion train…