August 9, 1999 Railfanning (Part 4)
This day found me leaving Bozeman, MT in the morning, traveling over Mullan Pass to Missoula and finding the TroughTrain in Glacier National Park by the end of the day.  A lot of miles and a lot of trains.  So many trains, in fact, that this day is broken up into four parts.  This fourth, and final, section covers Glacier National Park.
Bob Marshall Wilderness  | False Summit  | Marias Pass  |  Blacktail
Java Creek Trestle  |  Sheep Creek Trestle  |  Snowshed No. 12  |  Essex

Mission Mountains Once you pull away from MRL at Ravalli you get to be a scenery fan for miles on the way towards the Flathead Valley.  These are the Mission Mountains on the south eastern border of the Bob Marshall Wilderness between St. Ignatius and Ronan.

I stopped a number times to capture the scenery for eternity on my race north the catch the TroughTrain. 

And there it is, my favorite, the TroughTrain.  I met the family at Essex with the TroughTrain reported as passing Browning a half hour ago.  We head east at a pace only allowed under Montana's old speeding laws and met the loaded, westbound train just east of False Summit.

I'm not really fond of the term "foamer" and try not to act like one but for a couple minutes here I probably was one.

Approaching False Summit, August 9, 1999.
I last saw this train as it was just barely north of the WY / MT border the day before.  I had taken a completely different route across Montana and now we met up on the opposite side of the state.

The sound and feel of three SD70MACs grinding uphill in Run 8 with 18,000+ tons of train has got to be one of the best things about being a railfan.  The clear skies and warm, bright sun on my back only made it better.

Roaring past in the late afternoon sun.

The 1999 version of the Empire Builder.
Marias Pass, Montana
The TroughTrain was moving along at a good clip but I thought it was odd that the westbound coal train was on the eastbound track.  We got positioned on the west side of Marias Pass with the sun quickly fading.  The scanner started to chatter with "high ball Amtrak, out"!  What luck, another train.  In a couple minutes the westbound Empire Builder coasted by ducking in and out of the sunlight with Skeleton Mountain lurking in the background.
Having just crossed the Continental Divide, the engineer of the TroughTrain begins to ease out of the throttle and apply the dynamic brakes for the descent to Whitefish. 
Over the top...
A little help from friends...
Even though I hadn't see the helper yet, I knew there was a one on the end of this train from the radio chatter.  Two "classic?" BN SD40-2s were coupled onto the single SD70MAC which was operating as a  distributed power but is hidden in this image.  That put 12,000 hp on the front and 10,000 hp on the rear of the train.  The helper set remained on the end to restrain the train down the grade.

Blacktail, MT
Above Blacktail, the TroughTrain crossed over to the westbound main to get out of the way of a hot, eastbound Z-train lead by three C44-9Ws in the Heritage II paint scheme.  You'll just have to trust me on this one.  The sun was setting quick but the west slope of Skeleton Mountain was still enjoying its warmth.
Lugging through Blacktail.

Java Creek Trestle
Java Creek Trestle
This is one of my favorite shots along the southern border of Glacier Nat'l Park.  I like this particular shot because you can only see two TroughTrain cars and the front end is already across the bridge.  Although I've heard of other railfans meeting bears here, I have been fortunate enough not to, yet.

Sheep Creek Trestle

Just a few miles east of Java Creek trestle is Sheep Creek trestle.  This trestle is easy to get a shot of because it is located right across from the Walton Goat Lick Overlook.  The 300mm lens comes in handy for spotting the Goats below while waiting for a train.
Sheep Creek Trestle.

Snowshed No. 12
Snowshed Number 12
The whine of the dynamic brakes echoes out of the snowshed as the TroughTrain continues down from the pass.  Soon the train will glide through the famed Great Northern location of Essex, MT.

This might be the last time I can get into the yard at Essex.  Due to problems with trespassers, rumored to be winter cross country skiers, the yard has been or will be fenced off to keep people out.  Its kind of a shame because it was a great place to get up close to the railroad but still keep a safe distance.
Essex, MT yard.

With sunlight now gone it was time to enjoy dinner in the Izaak Walton Inn.  It was ready when I walked inside because my dad and sister had already ordered, you can't beat that.  Other than the images from around the Inn this is the end of the August 9th series.  Hope you enjoyed it even though it took nearly 7 months to get on the internet.

Thanks to Dan Stinson for providing additional location information.
All but one of these images were captured with a Sony FD-91 digital camera.
August 9th Part 1
August 9th Part 2
August 9th Part 3
August 9th Part 4

Return to MWR Road Trip

Last Updated 1/30/00
Made of 100% Recycled Electrons
All Content Copyright (C) 1999-2000 MWR
Comments? E-mail MWR