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Friday, June 17, 2011

11-06-17 PHOTOS: Montana Flood Plains

Here is part 4 of my 2011 Empire Builder transcontinental Amtrak trip. The Winter of 2011 saw an unprecedented amount of snow fall upon the mountain west which resulted in the June flooding that nearly cancelled my train. Well one upside to all this water was that the normally parched and brown Montana grasslands were actually green in late June, which I was informed makes things look a lot nicer. Also there was a good deal of standing floodwaters around the right of way which further served to spice up the scene.

Nevertheless I was still forced to alter the break point between these and the Glacier park pictures in order to shift some "interesting" content over into this second set which documents the BNSF Milk River and Glasgow subdivisions (pages 51 and 22 in the employee timetable). Therefore the photos will start at the station stop at Shelby, MT, which occurred right after lunch on that day, then skip ahead to Havre, MT where I decided to head back to the rear of the train as the rainy conditions were letting up. After that there is another break for the wine tasting event before I went back to the back all the way to the North Dakota border. After passing Wolf Point the freight traffic density increased dramatically to the point where we lost about another half an hour waiting in sidings for multiple freight trains to pass us. This wasn't a case of lazy dispatching as every siding we passed had freights pulled over and the dispatcher simply ran out of options.

Anyway you can browse this set of photos by clicking this link here or if you are interested in the full set of photos all across Montana view this gallery here.

We begin this portion of the trip at Shelby, Montana where due to congestion on #1 Main Track our train had to pull around on #2MT to SHELBY EAST and then back into the station platform. Here we see a pretty brisk business of locals entraining and detraining.

Shelby was a crew change point and here we see the engineers handing off to each other with the Clear signal displayed on SHELBY EAST home signal in the background. 

East of Shelby is what appeared to be a new section of 2MT, which turned out to be fortunate as it allowed us to pass a major traffic jam of freight trains stacked nose to tail waiting for our passage. Here we see BNSF C44-9W #5449 with some CN units behind waiting for the jam to clear. 

Behind that was a coal train with another BNSF C44-9W #4751 in the lead. 

After crossing over back to #2 track we were set to wrong rail again at the Inverness crossover taking a Diverging Approach Medium to avoid what appeared to be a double stack intermodal.

After lunch I returned to the rear of the train in time to catch CN SD75 # 5672 and C44-9W #2645 at Burham with BNSF SD70MAC #9412 bringing up the rear.

At Pacific Junction, just west of Havre, the former GN Branch to Helena, MT splits from the Hi-Line. This also marks the division point between the Hi-Line and Milk River subdivisions and the mileposts change from the 900's to the 400s (not sure why that is). The former Helena line has been cut part way through with the northern portion now referred to as the Big Sandy Sub. Pacific Junction marks the first appearance of searchlight signals on my trip and also is the western end of some classic signaling.

Classic signaling also implies those pole lines I love so much.

Entering the station in Havre, MT we passed a freight train pulling into the yard, which contained BN SW1000 switcher #3625 far back in the consist

Havre is a major railroad town on the Hi-Line sporting both a freight yard and large locomotive servicing facility. For the Empire Builder it is a servicing stop where the cars are topped off with fresh water and additional supplies loaded onto the dining car. Here we see the passengers milling about on the platform during the extended stop which also gives people a chance to smoke. 

On display at the station is Great Northern S-2 Class 4-8-4 steam locomotive #2584. 

The station building also provided office space for local BNSF operations. 

The stop at Havre also gave me the first good look at the power on my train that day. Amtrak P42DC #136 was on point with #4 behind

Upon departing Havre it was time for the wine tasting and trivia contest event, but despite several glasses of wine I was still able to spot the evidence of a recent pole-line removal project.

About 60 miles away at the Savoy siding we were passed by our counterpart Train 07, this one much less late than the one that had passed us earlier in the day near Whitefish. 

It was about this point that some of the effects of that year's snowfall began to be evident in the form of a swollen Milk River.  

At some points it began to feel like I was on some old PRSL line to the Jersey Shore.

Seriously, is this Montana or Vietnam? Seriously, these aren't isolated pictures. All throughout dinner the land was completely flooded on either side of the tracks for a distance of up to a mile or more. 

Next stop was Glasgow where we changed over to the Glasgow Sub from the Milk River. The station was similar to Shelby and showed the same signage and ADA Lift upgrades present at the other EB stations. 

Departing Glasgow a grain train with a pair of BNSF C44-9W's was siding on the short stretch of second main track.

A third C44-9W, #4572, was pushing on the rear. 

It was at EAST GLASGOW where we got tagged with our first freight congestion delay. We were delayed about 15-20 min waiting for a westbound double stack intermodal. Of course the warbonet C44-9W #799 made the wait completely worthwhile. 

That wasn't all she wrote for freight as we soon passed a waiting TOFC train in the Nashua siding.

30 miles later it was our turn to overtake the waiting C44-9W #4724 with a double stack train in tow in the Owsego siding

Big sky? More like big water…and rice paddies.

As we approached the station stop at Wolf Point we passed another pair of C44-9W's in the siding track there. 

The station at Wolf Point was still pointed in GN Blue and the ADA folks had been around with the portable chair lift. 

There was a bit of a traffic jam on the Wolf Point siding with one train, headed up by a 3-pack of C44-9Ws... 

Was following another that fortunately had an C44-10W on point in a nod to diversity. 

Another three pack of C44-9W's was on the Polar siding with a unit grain train.

The next siding, Brockton, was also occupied by a unit Ethanol train that has a special load up front of Caterpillar construction equipment. I could sell that something was up because the westbound signal at WEST BROCKTON soon popped up to Clear

The Brockton siding was actually stuffed with two trains that day, the second being another stack intermodal with a pair of, what else, C44-9W's including #1083. 

Our luck finally ran out at the Blair siding where we had to pull over for several westbound freight trains to pass. The first of which was already waiting for us on the main and the second followed about 10 minutes later with a long unit grain train led byC44-10W #7275 which seemed to almost glow in this late twilight.

Like the other unit trains this had a C44-9W (#5465) pushing on the rear.

Well we got on the move eastbound, but then right at the next siding, Culbertson it was time to pull off again for a TOFC train sitting on the main.

Which was soon followed by a mixed freight with a pair of Kansas City Southern units on the front.

 That was the last pullover of the evening, which was fortunate as I wanted to document things all the way to the North Dakota border and it was really starting to get dark out.

At the border we encountered the Missouri River which had overflowed its banks and open natural gas flares because setting one's state on fire is the American way! In the final photo of the day we see the headlight glare from an unknown freight train as it edged toward a Restricting signal into the yard at Snowden.

Anyway, that brings our trip across Montana to an end. You can view the entire set of 700 or so photos at and next time stay tuned for Part 4 of this epic journey from Fargo, ND to the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

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