The 2005 Fergus Falls GNRHS Convention
by Lindsay Korst
Sunday, July 17, 2005
for pictures of the 2005 Convention
I am up at 4am this morning, packed and ready to go by 5.
The Yellow Cab hasn't arrived as requested and I am starting
to get worried. After two phone calls to the dispatcher, it
is apparent the cabbie is hopelessly lost. Finally, I cancel the
cab and Baolu drives me to the airport. As we pull out of
our complex, here comes the cab hesitantly driving up the
street. Too bad fella...
Baolu has me at Sea-Tac in record time and I make my way
out to the S gates after the shakedown by TSA. I am just
starting in on my Burger King sandwich when my plane begins
to board passengers. I snarf down the rest of it and
get on the 757.
I am heading out to the convention a little later than I
usually do, as I attended a friend's wedding Saturday
night. As I squirm in my cramped aisle seat, I am grateful
that I brought along a couple movies on my laptop.
"The Incredibles" really helps pass the time. I work
a crossword puzzle and before long we have touched down
at Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The humid air greets me as I walk down the jetway into
the terminal. It is a long walk to the Rental Cars area
and...Hertz is nowhere to be found! No signs, so I ask
at the Thrifty counter. It turns out, Hertz and Avis
are upstairs, but there are no signs that indicate this.
Thrifty must get asked that question a LOT.
OK, up to the Hertz counter. Oh boy. The two women
in front of me are both in long, painfully-detailed
heart-felt conversations with the Hertz agents. I cool
my heels for a good 15 minutes while the line behind me
gets longer and longer. How hard is it to reserve a car?
Finally, one woman is finished and she gathers her 5
pieces of luggage as slowly as possible, making sure
to block anyone from getting to the agent. On top of
that, she's carrying on a cell phone conversation at
the same time. I step to one side and give the agent
my name. She quickly gives me my paperwork and I am
off to the parking lot.
OK. My car is in slot 426. Here's the 200's, here's
the 300's and here's the.....500s? Where are the 400s?
I track down a garage attendant and he points me
waaaaay off to one side. There it is! Hmmmm...the
agent said my car was "champagne-colored". This car
is GREEN. I check the license plate and it matches
my paperwork. This must be it.
It is about 12:45 in the afternoon, Central Time, and
I've got a long drive ahead of me as Fergus Falls is
a good 150 miles up I-494 and I-94. I have to say,
the Minneapolis area puts our Seattle freeways to shame.
They have wonderfully smooth, three lane freeways
criss-crossing everywhere. None of those sissy,
politically-correct carpool lanes in MSP! And they're
rebuilding and adding lanes at a frantic pace. I say,
Once out away from MSP, I-94 gets a little rougher
(bump bump bump bump bump) as those expansion joints
feel and sound like jointed track. Still, I have it
up to 75 and am making good time, arriving at the Fergus
about 3:30 pm.
After checking in, I have about an hour in the "Rail Fair"
swap meet before the buses leave for Fargo. As soon as
I walk in the door, I am button-holed by Cliff Salmon and
Ron Erickson who ask me to take pictures of Hustle Muscle
"inside and out" tomorrow. (Oh, twist my arm. I think I
can POSSIBLY squeeze that in). It is suppose to arrive
around 1pm on Monday, but that may change if there are
delays in interchange with BNSF.
I find Bob Downing and present him with a photocopy of
a 1931 "Pennsylvania News" (Pennsy Railroad house organ)
newspaper. On the front page is a picture and story
about "Bob Downing Wins Thomson Scholarship". It was
a $800 scholarship which allowed him to attend Yale
University. Bob really got a kick out of the article
and was still talking about it at the banquet three
days later. I also got Bob to autograph the actual
newspaper for me as a souvenir.
Next, I tracked down Ben Ringnalda who had a table
to display the progress on his GN 1291 St. Nicholas
Mountain restoration. I had previously purchased
a tile box and set of 4 tiles with an image of
"St. Nick" to donate to GNRHS as a door prize/raffle prize.
I loaned it to Ben to display at his table.
Check out Ben's St. Nick restoration website here:
He has some very nice items for sale as a fundraiser,
so be sure to check them out at his store link:
Before I knew it, 5pm arrived and we boarded
the air-conditioned buses to Fargo. As a group,
we were having dinner at the "Great Northern
Restaurant and Brewery" housed in the former
It was kind of loud in the large room set aside
for our use (high ceilings) so it was difficult
to talk. I chatted with Peter Thompson who said
he had moved and gave me his new address.
As we were having dinner, a BNSF cab hop (just
an engine and caboose) rolled past us and a
tremendous ROAR arose from the assembled multitude!
After dinner, I went outside and got a few pictures
of the station in the low, evening light.
The trip back to Fergus Falls seemed to take
a while as I was winding down after a very long day.
Monday, July 18, 12:30.
I am up at 6am. Visited the 24-hour Wal-Mart and
got a couple gallons of water and a box of Kleenex.
Filled the Taurus up with gas. Breakfast was at
Debbie's Restaurant where I met up with John and
Bev Tracy. They told me they had been appointed
Convention Officers for 2006 in Kalispell and were
planning on checking out some sites on their way
Back to the Rail Fare I went to take pictures of
1. All model contest entries in the order of signup
on Duane Buck's list.
2. The four Casey Adams photo contest entries.
3. 2005 FF convention models (a Canton hopper car
in two numbers) for Dave Thorsett.
4. Candids around the hall.
As I was taking my pictures, Martin Evoy's wife came
up to me and said how much she enjoyed Martin's website
picture (Spokane 2004) on
and that she
told all his co-workers. Cool! Always nice to hear
that folks enjoy seeing themselves on the websites.
The next step was to attend the continuation of
yesterday's GNRHS Board Meeting at 9am. Here
are some brief notes of things I learned there:
1. I asked Duane Buck if we could put GNRHS by-laws
on the website. They said yes. They are in process
of revising them (last revision - 1992). As soon
as I can get a copy, I will post these in the FAQ.
2. Bev Tracy asked that something be put in
the "Ask Bev" write-up on the
about GNRHS members getting priority on response.
Also to please include your membership number as
members get priority. I added this when
I got back to Redmond.
3. Peter Thompson is going to be doing the
September Goat. We don't know who will
do December 2005 or March 2006 issues as Bruce
Barsness has retired from editorial duties.
4. Motion to open the Casey Adams contest
to any photographers as long as the subject is
Great Northern. The board votes to keep original
requirements (only photos up to 1970).
5. Harry Getz, Lindsay Korst, Duane Buck, Ben Ringnalda,
Dave Thorsett and Jim Chinquist will be running for
the three open GNRHS Board seats in December. Dave T
and Jim C are currently Board members.
6. Phil Gjevre requested a short bio from each
of the people running to publish in the September
Goat by August 10.
7. Duane Buck is the new GNRHS President
8. 2006 Convention will be in Kalispell, not Everett.
9. John and Bev Tracy will be Convention Officers
for Kalispell in 2006.
10. Jim Chinquist will be National Conventions,
11. Bev Tracy will be National Conventions,
12. Bill and Andrea Plano will be doing the
registration for convention next year
(replacing John Thomas).
13. Jackson Street Roundhouse Archivist position
is still vacant.
The Board Meeting adjourned around 11, so I went
back to my room to type up notes and download
After a quick lunch, I headed down to the FF
depot where I ran into Ben Ringnalda. He said
that Hustle Muscle was delayed and wouldn't get
there until 3pm or so. We took pictures of the
depot, then Ben took me over to the "old depot"
which is now a triplex moved several blocks
back from the tracks.
Ben headed off for lunch and I went back to
the 1pm President's welcome and start of the
afternoon presentations on GN subjects. I took
a few pictures until around 2pm when I left to
set up for pictures of the Hustle Muscle coming
I waited at the FF depot and around 2:30, I could
hear the fantastic 5-chime air horn on GN 400 blowing
for crossings in town. The big SD45 was pulling
the train long-nose-forward and leading a string
of ex-Milwaukee Road passenger cars with the
private car Caritas bringing up the rear.
The train stopped at the depot and let a few people
off while I took pictures of the activity. After
about five minutes and some discussion with
Otter Tail Valley Railroad crewmembers, Hustle
Muscle's engineer, Ron Erickson, pulled the train
across river to the yard. I drove over there
and met the train. Ron then invited me up into
cab as previously arranged. Cool! I took pictures
of anything and everything.
While I was taking my pictures, we uncoupled from
the passenger train and with OTV RR crewmen
onboard to line us in, made our way down to
the "#6 track (runaround track)" giving yours
truly an impromptu cab ride. Once we got to
the far end of the yard, we were routed into
the #6 track and came up alongside the engine house.
Here, Hustle Muscle would stay for the next few
days giving cab rides as a fund raiser. The
money raised would go into the "Re-paint GN 400"
fund and in return for our donation, Ron Erickson
would let the donor run the big SD45 up and
down the track.
At 3:10 pm, they started doing the cab rides. I
was signed up for Tuesday night, but hoped to get
a ride this afternoon in case there was a no-show.
I took advantage of the afternoon light to get
pictures of the unit and others running the engine.
Running the big unit put a big, old grin on most
As I was standing there watching GN 400 trundle
up and down the track, a fellow from tomorrow's
train consist asked if I would pass out release
forms for everyone to sign before we could ride!
He gave me 3.
At about 4:30, Ron invited me up for my cab ride
so I gave Ben Ringnalda my camera and he took shots
of me running the big EMD. The speed limit for the
track was 10 mph, but I snuck it up briefly to 15mph
when no one was looking ;p
The engine really gives a noticeable kick in the rear
when you put it in Run 1. I asked Ron if I could use
the horn, but Ron said no as we were close to a
We just used the independent brake (engine brake) as
we went up and down track. Running the locomotive
Went like this:
Reverser in direction desired.
Independent brake off
Notch 1 or 2 to start
Notch back to idle and then coast.
Watch your speed to keep it to 10 mph.
Ease the independent brake back
gently and "feel" the engine to a stop.
Ron also demonstrated braking in dynamics which was
quite spectacular. After quickly getting GN 400
up to speed, he switched to dynamic braking and
once the "click-clunk" of transition was made, he
used the throttle as a brake handle. It was odd to
hear the engine revving hard as if under load, but
at the same time slowing down.
By 5pm, we were all done. Off we went to
Applebee's for dinner with Bob and Leona Ulberg,
Harry Getz, Ben, Rick Bolger and myself. I had
French Onion soup and Santa Fe chicken salad,
with Pepsi. Both entrees were EXCELLENT!
When the check arrived, Bob Ulberg paid for
EVERYBODY! Thank you Mr. Ulberg! He said he
recently purchased the GN X640 caboose and will
be moving it to his property in Oregon.
Back to the motel to brush my teeth and download
my HM pictures. I paid $30 to get 200 copies made
of the release form from the front desk. One of
these days, I'll submit the receipt for a refund
I started to hand them out at the bus loading
at 6:30-6:45pm. Tonight, we were headed to
downtown Fergus Falls to watch the classic
Buster Keaton movie "The General" accompanied
by the Fergus theatre's organ in a special
showing just for us. After passing out as many
of the forms as I could, I still had quite a stack.
It turned out that around 70 people were
eating downtown at a restaurant which was running
late. Many people walked in after the program
At the theatre, I gave my remaining stack of forms
to Bev Tracy who said she would pass out the rest
Tuesday morning before the train ride.
The evening's program included the following films:
Bugs Bunny/Yosemite Sam cartoon (featuring Dopey Dick)
Woody Woodpecker train cartoon
The Lively World of GN (late 60's - Big Sky Blue)
Portrait of a Railroad (BN - 1973)
The ubiquitous school buses had us back at the hotel
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Another early start today. Breakfast at the local Burger
King as there was not enough time for a sit-down meal
-- maybe tomorrow.
Ben and I rode the 2nd of 2 school buses to the depot.
The train was not in at the station yet, so they had us
wait on the bus. On bus radio, we could hear the
dispatcher say people back at the hotel were starting to
panic because there were no buses to take them to the train!
After a quick consultation, they let us off and we handed in
our release forms and walked through the depot to the platform
while the two school buses went back for more people. It was
a beautiful, sunny morning as I took pictures of the crowd on
Shortly thereafter, our train pulled in with Hustle Muscle
leading the way. Once it was stopped, they started to board
passengers in the front. A bunch of us walked further back
in the consist where Mike Lunak (dressed in his snappy GN
brakeman's uniform) opened the vestibule trap door and let
Initially, we boarded what we thought was a coach.
It was just like the other coaches, but it turned
out to be First Class (there was no sign posted
when we boarded). We sat in there and discovered later that
they had oversold First Class because the Caritas was mainly a
sleeper with a small lounge. So they stuck some First Class
passengers in this coach and they "took turns" going into the
rear car for its amenities (lounge seats and open rear platform).
Ben and I were just enjoying the ride in coach when Jim Larson came
by and invited us back to the Caritas business car. As a result,
we got an unexpected ride on the open platform! We rode it
from about Barnesville to Moorhead when we swapped
with more people. THANK YOU, Jim!
It turns out there were about a dozen of us coach passengers
in this car (a First Class Only sign magically appeared
on the door after we departed FF). Oh well, Ben and I both
gave a nice donation to paint Hustle Muscle so I don't
feel too guilty.
We made good time from Fergus Falls to Barnesville to Moorhead
on Otter Tail Railroad's well-maintained, 40mph track.
At Moorhead, BNSF let us cross their mainline quickly and we
wyed our consist and parked at the ex-GN Fargo depot with the
train now pointed towards Fergus Falls.
I heard later that BNSF very kindly held something like 4 trains
for us while we occupied their track in Fargo. THANK YOU, BNSF!
At the one hour stop in Fargo, we all got off and took lots of
pictures of the star of the show, GN 400 in excellent light. It
was here that a local caterer drove down the platform with our
sack lunches which were loaded onto the coaches.
We departed promptly at 12:30pm and with only a slight delay at
the BNSF mainline diamonds, we were soon across and heading
towards our photo runby spot at Barnesville.
I managed to talk my way past Jim Larson across the tracks (to
the sunny side) and hid myself in a tree, so I wouldn't be in
anyone's picture. I got a nice shot of the Hustle Muscle
roaring past with the ex-GN water tower in the background.
Some of guys reported there was a GN flatcar in town, so after
the runby, I hoofed down there for a shot. There is also a
GN-style whistle post in town which was recorded for posterity.
Back on board, we made our way to Fergus Falls. As we
passed through Rothsay, MN, I managed to get a picture of the
old depot which is still along the tracks and connected to
some newer buildings.
The train ride itself was very comfortable although the
air-conditioning got a bit weak on the way back (it was HOT
outside). I'm told in the first coach, the Waukesha generator
smoked, sparked and quit running. They moved people
to the other cars and all-in-all, I'd say the ancient
equipment did remarkably well, considering the conditions.
Our train got back to FF around 3pm (early). I caught
the first bus back to download pictures and add to my
notes. Ben stayed behind to photograph HM and catch
a later bus.
I got to the Business Meeting at 4:45pm. Someone said
I would need my laptop as I was presenting the model contest
pictures in 15 minutes! Well, this was news to me. No one
had told me this before. I had assumed Wednesday at the banquet.
Back to my room I went and fetched my laptop. I got back
just as the Business Meeting was starting. Jim Larson officially
turned the GNRHS Presidency over to Duane Buck. Jim also thanked
Mike Lunak for all his help over the years.
President Buck then said the hotel had wanted an
exorbitant amount of money for a projector (for the model
pictures) so he just read the winners names off instead.
I guess I didn't need my laptop for this meeting after all.
A bunch of us met up for some Chinese Fooooooood at a
local buffet and Harry Getz, (also running for a GNRHS
Board Member spot) picked up the tab. Very nice of him!
Harry, you've got my vote! We told silly jokes and
gossiped about nothing in particular and had a grand time.
Afterwards, I came back to my room (8pm) and called it an
evening. I'm pooped! Another early start tomorrow so I
must get to bed early this time.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Bus trip of the area - GN artifacts, etc.
It wasn't as early as I thought. A 9am start today
which is much more civilized. Ben and I rode the 3rd bus
of 3 and fortunately, they are nice coaches with A/C.
First they took us on a tour of FF including the old
FF depot and an original GN section house still being
used as a residence by the grandson of the original
track worker who lived there. Cool! The wooden boards
on the house have a very rough-cut look to them. Boonie!
I'll come back here Thursday morning to get a better
Our narrator today was Steve Neuman who grew up in FF
and gave us a very interesting running commentary all
along the route.
We saw where the GN and NP crossed in town. It was originally
a diamond crossing, but now is two switches instead.
We drove past the NP depot and saw where the Otter Tail
Railroad ends (at an industry just east of town -- then
it becomes a bike trail on the old GN right-of-way).
I've noticed that locals around here call it "R Tail"
instead of Otter Tail. Many things are named "Otter
Tail something" which is quite a mouthful.
After finishing with FF, we rode out to Breckenridge
and saw the brick GN depot. The X-111 caboose on display
was delivered in Big Sky Blue, but the local group
preferred the old red scheme and painted it that way.
X-111 was open for us to inspect. Breck depot is going
to be restored, eventually, according to Jim Larson.
We reboarded and took a tour of the industries served
by the local shortline, Red River Valley & Western Railroad.
An RRV&W employee rode the bus and pointed out the sights.
She said we had only time to visit either the car shop or
the diesel facility. With a show of hands, we chose the
diesel facility and got there at 11am. Unfortunately, our
bus captain nixed this stop and we proceeded straight to
the Eagles lodge for lunch. This didn't make any sense
as my itinerary said lunch was at 11:30. As a result, we
stood around for half an hour waiting for the other buses.
A lot of folks were upset about missing that stop. It
isn't often you get invited into a railroad facility
The folks at the Eagles lodge in Wahpeton, ND treated us
very well. They had a video going of the RRV&W snowplow
battling snow drifts (an ex-GN Bros plow, the X-1500).
Lunch was a slice of turkey or ham on a roll with either
egg salad or pasta salad as a side dish. LOTS of food.
They kept bringing it out, so we went back up there for
seconds and thirds.
At 1 pm, we were back on the buses and off to the Rollag museum.
Ben and I hustled over to the Baker depot on the grounds which
was open for inspection. Then we came back and saw two
GN stock cars and GN speeder. They also had a couple
steam locomotives and an NP caboose. The number on
the GN hopper car we saw was 72377 (I think).
Back to the buses and they then drove us over to the
Baker depot and let folks off who wanted a picture.
Then it was back to FF via Pelican Rapids and the
ex-Erhard GN depot which "serves the best $2.99
breakfast in the area."
Back to hotel at 4pm. Took a quick shower, changed
into a Lacoste and clean dress khakis. Downloaded Bus trip
pictures and typed up notes.
5pm was happy hour and I got myself properly liquored
up for the banquet. I had a couple beers in the hotel
bar, then switched to Bloody Mary's for dinner. I had a
nice conversation with Bob Downing and Rick Bolger until
they opened the gates for dinner.
They picked our table to be first for the buffet which was
chicken and sliced roast beef, au jus. I set down my plate
and managed to take a few pictures of folks at their tables
before setting down to eat.
Dinner was very good although I managed to splash both the
au jus AND bloody Mary mix on my WHITE shirt (it never fails).
To those who care, I rinsed out the shirt afterwards and it
has survived stain-free!
For entertainment, we had a local Scandinavian choir group
get up there and sing us some songs in Norwegian! Couldn't
understand a word of it, but it was fun to listen.
Next was the door prizes and then the raffle prizes (from
I made out like a bandit winning a Hiawatha tote bag
in the door prizes and a framed Oriental Limited
advertisement (color) in the raffle. In fact, our
table turned out to be extremely lucky as practically
EVERYONE won either a door prize or raffle prize or
Norm Priebe wound up with the St. Nick tile box and I
got pictures of the other prize winners as well.
I went back to my room afterwards and downloaded the
rest of my pictures to my laptop. Wooo-boy, I've got
a long list of people to send CD's to. While in my
room, I used the handy WI-FI to bid and win a nice
item on Ebay I had been watching.
A bunch of us met in the bar after banquet. Kris
Werner came over and we had a short chat. He's the
fellow who made me (and Ben Ringnalda) the nifty
luggage tag displayed above. He bought me a glass
of cabernet and I bought him a beer. It's always
interesting to meet the locals. Skol!
Thursday, July 21, 2005
I can sleep in this morning as my flight back to
Seattle doesn't leave until Friday morning. I check
out and take some pictures around Fergus Falls, then
head for I-94 and the three hour drive back to the
Today's first mission: Pick up an official-can't-buy-
it-in-a-store-Minnesota-GN souvenir. Taconite pellets.
Consulting my trusty AAA MSP map, I see the mainline
west out of Northtown yard is a likely candidate. I
drive north from the yard until I find a level crossing.
Bingo! The ballast is peppered with the little marbles
of iron ore and clay. I fill a small baggie with the
pellets and stash it away. Nothing like THAT in soggy
Washington state. Just salmon, coffee and wood chips.
Next step is to visit Model Scale Hobbies in St. Paul
for a book buying expedition. Sadly, Como Books is
closed, so MSH will have to do. I pick out a few
books for my collection, pay and leave for my hotel,
the dingy Days Inn at the Mall of America.
I check in, then head for the Mall. First item of
business is to pick out a little bauble at the
"Black Hills Gold" store for Baolu. Trinkets --
they make the world go 'round!
I have a very nice dinner at Tony Roma's and then
after a couple beers, call it an evening.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Just a travel day today. Turn in the rental car
and fly home. Taxi gets me to my door about noon.
Fergus Falls was just as much fun as Spokane and
had the added panache of a genuine Great Northern
locomotive to play with. Kalispell in 2006 should
be a blast as well with Glacier Park, Izaak
Walton Inn, Flathead Tunnel, Marias Pass as just some
of the nearby attractions. Hope to see y'all there!
I'll be driving the white F-150 with Washington
GN GOAT license plates. HARKOW!