PNWR Background Gallery - Page 1

      Oct. 12-14, 2002 was a special excursion on the MRL from Sandpoint to Billings, MT using the SP&S 700 pulling the Montana Rockies passenger train. My friend Robert Gatchel and I had planned on going back to see it for quite sometime. I was going to ride with him for the three days and after that I would rent a car spending a few days around Billings while he headed south towards Cheyenne, WY before he was to head for home. I in turn would fly back home that Wednesday evening.

      We left Seattle Friday night and drove to Sandpoint, ID for the night. The following morning, Saturday Oct 12 was sunny but cold. We first drove out to the Colby area near Clark Fork, ID and were soon joined by Ted Curphey and Drew Mitchem. We waited for quite sometime and soon heard the steam train was on its way. But then we learned there would be a meet here at Colby between the steam train and a westbound freight. As the freight would be blocking the pasenger train we decided to move further east for our first shots. Upon arriving at Heron, MT the decision was made to split up. Ted and Drew drove on east of Heron to an overlook while Robert and I set up at the west end of Heron siding. We could hear the train off in the distance and after a bit of a wait it finally approached. The sound was great as was watching it roar past. Then we took off after it and managed to arrive at Trout Creek, MT just ahead of the 700. Ted also showed up so the three of us all got different views passing the semaphore located at MP 535. We got more shots of it between Thompson Falls and Plains, MT before it stopped at Paradise for servicing. Robert and I moved on east near Quinns and waited for it there. About an hour later it showed up and after photographing it caught it again east of St Regis at the paired set of semaphores as did Ted and a small group of photographers. Next planned location was Westfall. I had arranged to meet up with MRL engineer Dave Franz there and was pleased I finally got to see him in person. A westbound freight with 2 warbonnets led by ATSF 644 met the steam train at Westfall and after the 700 passed some of us went back to the semaphores east of St Regis to shoot the freight there. Ted did likewise and after that he followed us to Missoula where we all got rooms for the night.

      Sunday morning was again sunny and cold. We had figured on the SP&S 700 having a mid morning departure from Missoula but boy were we wrong! It left promptly at 8am so we didn't even catch up with it till Garrison where it stopped for servicing and a photo runby. Robert and I moved further east for a planned shot and waited for it to arrive. A number of others also showed up and when it came it put on quite a show. Really impressive! We knew a eastbound grain empty was right behind so we waited for it before moving on to Elliston where the eastbound grain empty ran around it and soon the SP&S 700 was again on its way. Lots of stack talk when it hit the grade just east of Elliston. Then Robert and I drove on over to Helena and got lunch before heading up to Winston Hill where we again waited for it. (we seemed to do a LOT of waiting on this trip!) That grain empty was first and the SP&S 700 arrived sometime after that. Then it was an unhurried drive out to Bozeman as we knew there wasn't much of a chance of catching up to the 700 again plus the sun angle favored westbounds and the 700 was moving east. We caught a few freights as we made our way east to Bozeman for the night.

      Monday morning sunny and clear again! Naturally the SP&S 700 left Bozeman later than it did the previous morning from Missoula. We waited quite awhile up at West End near the top of Bozeman Pass but the wait was worth it. The steam train was down to a crawl as it moved around the S-curve before us. The sound was some of the best of the trip. One more shot east of the summit and then it was on to Livingston. There were 3 eastbound BNSF freights coming behind it plus 2 MRL freights ready to head west from Livingston so we decided to photograph them up on the pass. We did not think we could do much better than what we had for the SP&S 700 already. Then it was on east towards Columbus, MT where we found the 700 stopped for servicing and a planned photo run by. We happened to set up at a grade crossing west of the depot and got great shots of the train charging by us while performing the photo run by. NP historians Jim Fredrickson and Warren McGee were also in attendance at this grade crossing and I found Mr. McGee to be a very friendly and outgoing individual. One of the highlights of this trip was my getting the chance to talk with him. After the runby Robert and I headed for Billings. I was dropped off at the airport where I was to pick up my rental car for the rest of the trip and after goodbyes to Robert he left for points south while I headed to find my motel.

      My next two days would be spent east of Billings on BNSF's Forsyth, MT line to revisit an area I had not been to for quite sometime. BNSF runs a number of coal trains on this very scenic ex-NP main line but I plan to wait and use these photos in a future update. I also want to thank Robert Gatchel and Ted Curphey for allowing me to include some of their images of the SP&S 700 in the following galleries. And thanks should also be given to the the SP&S 700 group and MRL who made all of this possible. It was a very enjoyable 3 days and this was a trip I will remember for a long time.

      And now on to the Gallery....

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