Back in the middle 60's my family made a family vacation to Ohio and luckily for me we took the train. I was 13 at the time and I saved many of the timetables from the trains we rode. It was the GN's Empire Builder eastbound but coming back home to Seatte it was NP's North Coast Limited westbound. I had always been hooked on the NP and even more so after this trip. Years later, after getting a license to drive and a 35mm camera I made it my goal to railfan the entire line from Auburn, WA to Northtown, MN and photograph the places I had once ridden by on the NCL. Washington was easy as I live here. Soon there were trips to Idaho and Western Montana. The scenery was all new and fascinating.
In July of 1993 there was an NP Historical Society Convention in St Paul. This was my first chance to see the eastern end of the system and I railfanned the line from Northtown to Staples, MN. Then in 1995 the NP convention was in Glendive, MT. More new territory. Later trips would see me having railfanned the entire NP from Auburn to Glendive on the west end and Northtown to Bismarck on the east. There was one gap left. Glendive to Bismarck, roughly a mere 215 miles left to fulfill a goal.
July 2006 would be the year I would finally "bridge the gap" between Glendive and Bismarck. Plans were made and on July 11, 2006 I was on a Horizon flight to Billings, MT where I would pick up my rental car and finish the task at hand. It would turn out to be better than any expectations I had. I knew that if former President Theodore Roosevelt was so enthralled by the Badlands of North Dakota he would vacation here often, it was something worth looking forward to. I would not be disappointed. The drive across Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota was mostly sunny nearly every day but quite hot with temperatures topping 100 all but one day of the trip that took place between July 11 and July 18.
After arriving at Bismarck Friday afternoon July 14 I realized my goal had been met and the trip back to Billings would be all the more enjoyable. I had finally seen all of the land the NP had built through and driving back west I was picturing NP SD45's and U-boats grinding up thru the Badlands while sitting at Sully Springs watching a loaded coal train with three blue and white ex-Oakways do just that. It must have been really something!
The drive east from Billings to Bismarck was more or less a scouting run and driving west I knew where I wanted to photograph the many BNSF trains I would see on the drive back. Locations like Beaver Hill and Fryburg Hill were high on my list of places to see. BNSF still was running manned helpers on loaded coal trains out of Glendive over these two hills. They put on quite a show. And of course there was the Badlands. Medora, ND is a tourist trap. I know as I had an enjoyable time buying souvenirs there myself! I will be back. Just not in July. The weather was beautiful but just too hot for me. The Autumn might be a lot nicer.
Looking back at this trip, and the 215 miles of the ex-NP that I had left to see, it can be said that perhaps I saved the best for last.
And now on to the Gallery....