One of my first railfan trips of 2004 was to the Montana Rail Link over the
Presidents Day holiday. Hoping to catch some action in the snow I figured
February would be a good time to go. Coming along with me were a couple of
friends, Bret Gray and Jonathan Glanville. This was going to be Jonathan's first
railfanning trip to Montana so he was eager to go.
We spent Valentines Day Saturday the 14th driving across Washington State to
Sandpoint, ID where we spent the night. There was plenty of snow in Sandpoint
so I was encouraged about our prospects for Sunday when we would head into
Sunday morning Feb 15th dawned with fresh snow on top of what was already there!
It was a winter wonderland. My instincts told me to stay and shoot trains on
the BNSF Funnel but we elected to head east into Montana as the MRL was our
primary goal. Naturally the further into Montana we got the more the snow
thinned out till it was almost completely gone. We caught up to a BNSF e/b
intermodal near Thompson Falls and followed it to Plains, MT where it met a BNSF
w/b being led by a Norfolk Southern GE wide nosed locomotive which we followed
back to Thompson Falls. We then waited for the w/b MRL Gas Local at Thompson
Falls and were pleased to find F45 393 was the second unit. After it's
switching was complete we followed it east towards Paradise, MT. While the gas
local headed over Evaro Hill we took the river line to Lothrup, west of Missoula
catching a number of trains before heading back to the small Montana town of
Plains for the night.
Monday morning was overcast and pretty dreary. But at least it wasn't raining.
We headed east and caught up to the BNSF M-PASLAU which was in the siding at
Toole waiting for a couple of westbounds. Leading this e/b was MRL 316. Any
SD45 leading a train in 2004 is worth a second look. We managed to get off a
number of shots of this train plus others at the semaphores around St Regis.
Word was out that 11 of these old signals were in MRL's 2004 budget to be
replaced. This day would capture 5 of them on film. The MRL Paradise Local
also ran with a couple of geeps and like SD45's are a dying breed on most
mainlines. We would follow the local west to Thompson Falls before heading back
to Sandpoint, ID and on home the following day.
While the weather did not really cooperate to produce the "ideal" snowy or sunny
scenes I was hoping for many of the images here are different in a sense of
showing the railroads do operate whatever the weather may be. It can't always
be sunny. Making up for poor weather this trip were catching the MRL SD45 and
even the NS unit leading trains across the MRL. Those are the things I will
remember. Plus the chance to shoot trains passing thru semaphores is something
that won't last forever. These are the things that stand out and will be
remembered about this trip for years to come, especially after those semaphores
are long gone.
And now on to the Gallery....