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Montana 2021
Railfanning the old Great Northern
written by Lindsay Korst

Come along as I enjoy a long explore to Montana, catching trains where I find them. It'll be fun!

Saturday June 19

Redmond to Spokane

I'm out the door at 5:30am and fortified with a quick and dirty McDonald's breakfast at 6am. Checking with Amtrak, it seems #7, the Empire Builder is not only on time, but EARLY into Wenatchee. I'm off to Skykomish to catch it there.

At Gold Bar, I notice red over flashing red at the eastward signals. Something is going to head in there for the Builder, no doubt. But, what?

Turning in at Sky...hey whaddija know? It's Tunnel Days today, so there's lots of vendors setting up along the street. I park across from the Cascadia Inn and head down to the Rocky statue to wait for the passenger.

In the twinkling of an eye (15 minutes), #7's lofty chimes can be heard blowing for the Main Street crossing. As he rushes past, I bang away as #34, a baggage car and 4 Superliners trundle by. I wasn't too happy with this view, so I cheated a bit using a picture of #8's consist that night (courtesy of the Cascadia Inn railcam). It was the same consist I saw. ;p

I've got around one hour to wait for that mystery EB at Gold Bar, giving me time to drive around Sky and take pictures of this and that. Fred Black's X-228 caboose still looks great along the Old Cascade Highway. About 20 minutes before train time, the East Sky signal lights up green for the mainline.

At 8:50, 4 big GE's come blasting past towing double stacks and trailers with no DPU. It's a Z train and I give chase. Holy Toledo, look at all the cars on US 2! Lots of kiddies zooming by in their souped up BMW's, VW's and Hondas. Must be a rally somewhere.

The first stop is Deception Creek. Meh, the light contrast is a little harsh, but it'll do.

Back on US 2, I quickly reach Scenic, but the Z has already rolled into the Cascade Tunnel. Up and over Stevens Pass I go, being continuously passed by hot-rodding miscreants. There is a continuous smell of burnt oil from the cars. At HMP 75.7, I head down the access road to Gaynor Trestle. Amazingly, no one is camping trackside and I have just a few minutes to set up my picture.

Man, the light is making my camera do crazy things. Sorry.

It's a long, bumpy crawl back to the highway and the Z is now way ahead of me. Traffic is moving pretty good on the downhill and through Tumwater Canyon, when I reach Leavenworth. Traffic comes to a dead stop. It's about 10:30 and every single parking place is occupied by a troubled youth with their zoom-zoom cars. It takes about 10 precious minutes to get through the morass of machines, but we're finally moving again. My final shot of this Z will be at Richardson's curve at Monitor.

A leisurely drive up Sleepy Hollow Road and I park at the curve. As I get out of the Tacoma, I hear a horn. Ai-yo. I JUST got there in time, stumble to the overlook, and as a result, my pictures are not framed up as well as I wanted. Apologies.

Coming into Wenatchee about 11:30...another traffic jam. Man, people are out and about this weekend. Wenatch is a scheduled lunch (Carl's Jr. - Hi, Carl!) and gas (Exxon) stop, so I'll probably never catch that Z.

Nonetheless, I head east on good old State Highway 28 through Quincy and past Ephrata. At the little hamlet of Adrian, I come on a most curious sight. At the station sign is a string of BNSF tank cars (I think they might be diesel fuel service cars) AND on the siding is, what appears to be, an entire double stack container train sans locomotives and FRED (F***ing Rear End Device). Funny why they stashed it all the way out here.

Turning back onto SR 28, I spy this notch in the hillside. I'm thinking that's a cut for the old NP branch line that ran through here crossing the GN on a wooden trestle (long since removed).

At the Stratford sign, there's nifty little UFO cloud in the sky. This guy appears to have the old original GN - STRATFORD sign that he kind of schmucked up with a bad paint job. Even Bob Ross wouldn't approve.

Outside Stratford are these two, possibly GN-era underpass and plate girder bridges.

Not much left of the GN in Wilson Creek except this....dusty pink GN caboose (X280). Some chap added a nice pair of metal GN Ry. logos to its flanks though, so there's that.

On the road to Krupp, I came upon this absolutely beautiful vista, spread out at my feet. Had to stop and take pictures, even through no trains were on hand.

What's this? I have reached MARLIN! Apparently that's what the RR calls it, whereas the locals (and USPS) call it Krupp. Leaving Marlin/Krupp, I spot Mrs. Turkey Dinner and her brood (tasty nibblets) beside the road. On today's' voyage, I also spotted a pheasant and perched on a fence post, an enormous hawk. Couldn't get the camera out in time for either of those.

Coming down the long hill into Odessa, I spot a triangle of light. Train! It's not moving either. My hoped-for-westbound materializes into a Loram rail grinding train instead.

Somewhere between Odessa and Mohler, I again stop for a pastoral setting with Kodachrome sky.

Between Mohler and Harrington, my luck was about to change. Drifting downhill on the double track comes a lengthy 4 unit freight with just about everything in the consist. Starting with some Boeing 737 fuselages and parts cars, I see double stacks, trailers, autoracks and general merchandise freight.

RIGHT on that guy's yellows, comes a second westbound -- pure autoracks with only a single GE on front and back.

Harrington's got these funky rock signs as you come up Coal Coulee Road into town.

Just north of the H-burg comes ANOTHER WB and it's a dandy. Just one GE pulling an empty lumber car and Boeing parts car. Modelers, there is a prototype for EVERYTHING!

Oh, blessed mother of acceleration, don't fail me now! It's an eastbound S train (double stack, overseas containers) and I'm catching up to it on the road between Bluestem and Edwall.

In the lead is BNSF #8530, an EMD SD70ACe and pushing on the rear is BNSF #1042, a GE C44-9W in original Heritage I paint. Check the circa-1995 nose logo on 1042.

From Edwall, I decide to head north to Rearden and the Inland NW Railroad museum. But...DENIED! Yes, I arrive just as they're closing for the day (Thu-Sun 10-4:30pm). And they've got a genuine GN caboose (X-237), GN SD9 #598 (sister engine to the one at Sky) and GN/SP&S Sleeper-Buffet-Lounge car "Mount Saint Helens". Damn. Maybe next time.

But bonus ahead! Bombing east on US 2, I pass under the BNSF mainline. The bridge STILL has its GN Ry. logo visible! Pretty good for over 50 years since the merger.

It's getting late and I'm getting tired, but there's still time to visit Western Rail and their motley assortment of locomotives sent in for rebuild or repair.

Final shot of the day (and it's just a grab shot) is yet another WB crossing the high bridge over Hangman Creek.

Sunday, June 20

Spokane to Whitefish

Was hoping to hit Jack in the Box for breakfast, but they don't open until 6. Sigh. Mickey D's again.

It's always a good sign, when you start your day almost immediately following a train.

This one is a monster grainer with 3 units up front, 2 units mid-train and 1 more GE, gamely pushing on the rear.

I finally overtake him JUST before he turned into the Hauser, ID gas station to fill up. Apparently all trains to the coast (Portland or Seattle) get diesel fuel here both coming and going. The view was terribly back lit, but I could see a wide assortment of trains: Double stacks, autoracks, Z train (UPS/Fed Ex), grain, coal and general merchandise.

From Hauser, I'm following the tracks as far as BNSF Spirit (named for nearby Spiritwood Amusement Park), where I can cross over and get on the sunny side. Ah, much better.

I'm not there long before yet another westbound grain train led by an EMD SD70ACe with a magnificent, low-pitched 5 chime horn flashes by. Grain hoppers stretch seemingly beyond the horizon.

Just past Athol is this deep cut I had hoped would make a good shot. Alas, nothing came by in 45 minutes, so I pressed on.

Bottle Bay Road. The gold standard of train spotting in Sandpoint, Idaho. How'd YOU like to live in this guy's house with a view like that?

You can see the pilings they are installing for the second bridge. No decks installed as yet on the pilings, that I can see. Note the "Poseidon" support barge. I hear they also want to install a second bridge over the Spokane River near Irwin, but I saw no evidence of construction.

Next stop, the beautifully-restored ex-NP Sandpoint depot. I got a kick out of the two signs posted on the door:

#1 sign says: "Unmanned Amtrak station WB train departs 11:49pm and EB train departs 2:30am - Station doors will open 1 hour prior to train time and close after train departs." Hmmm...must have locks on a timer or something.

#2 sign says: "This station will be temporarily closed, due to problems with the plumbing. Trains will run as scheduled."

Awfully decent of them to let the trains continue to run.

It will be interesting to see how they manage to squeeze a 2nd Main Track through there once they complete the 2nd Lake Pend Oreille bridge. It looked very narrow to me. Cut the platform back maybe?

Okay, heading north (railroad east) along the old GN to one of my favorite boonie trainspotting places...little Naples, Idaho. The ex-GN depot is still there and the owner has put a brand new GN-looking sign on the side of it. Nice touch!

The funky ex-US 95 highway bridge provides an esoteric vantage point to watch trains. Hey, here comes one now!

From Naples I punched north to Bonners Ferry. Not much left of the GN there, since they tore out the depot, so I'm off on US 2 to Troy, MT.

This ex-GN caboose X-88 resides on the east end of town next to the visitor center which was modeled after the style of the old depot (now gone).

Lunch stop (Subway) at Libby, MT which still has their old GN depot (it's a stop for the Empire Builder). While exploring the station, a Z train blasts through town at 60 mph.

At the turn off for Fisher River Road, I pick up a fist-sized chunk of pink ballast (around 3"H x 3"W x 4"L, quite possibly from the Essex pit (GN days of yore). Great Montana souvenir!

At Wolf Creek, there is this huge cut -- but again, no trains to go with it.

I'm now traveling on U.S. Forest Service Road #36 - the roughest paved road in the entire USFS system. Mile after mile of white-knuckle driving, trying to miss some of the largest potholes you've ever seen in your life. To add to the low fun zone, the tracks are not visible for most of the way. Finally, I reach the second-longest railroad tunnel in the United States.

Hurrah! The access road gate is open and no one is around (it being Sunday). Flathead Tunnel 1970. Apparently, Erica has been here too. I risk certain capture, imprisonment and security camera footage to get a quick photo of the west portal. Oh, I'm so naughty...

Up and over Elk Mountain I slowly trundle, getting bruised and battered by the wretched pavement. It's a wonder I didn't get a flat.

Finally, I reach the east portal of the tunnel. I like the two jet engines for fanning out the diesel fumes. Those look like a couple of torpedo tits, ready to fire, Captain!

Now rolling downhill, I THINK I saw a headlight. Probably wishful thinking on my part. But no, it's a real live train. The first one I've seen in 2 hours.

On its hands and knees, comes yet one more grain train with two engines point, and two DPU blasting uphill towards the summit.

Finally, after getting bashed around for 3 hours, I get back onto the smooth, 70-mph two lane of US 93 and punch for Whitefish. I had planned to come back this way Tuesday on my way home, but no way I'll go through that again. I'm taking US 2 via Kalispell directly to Libby.

Anyways, Whitefish. I fill up the tank with gas, scrub most of the bugs off my windshield, and check into the Firebrand Hotel, just 3 or 4 blocks from the train depot. After hauling my bags upstairs to Room 211, I'm off to the Tupelo Grille for supper. And WHAT a supper. It's New Orleans food and I have Gumbo, Jambalaya, Catfish, you name it. All washed down with a glass of water and a simply marvelous pair of Old Fashioneds. Might have to eat here tomorrow night.

After chewings, I waddle down the street and get my pictures of GN #181 (an EMD NW-3 switcher), the "Bruck" and, of course, Whitefish depot. Even Rocky is on hand to greet passengers at the platform.

Whew, I'm exhausted. Turning in early -- got a big day ahead tomorrow.

Monday, June 21

Whitefish to East Glacier and back

Today's plan is to follow the eastbound Empire Builder (#8) from Whitefish to East Glacier.

Most Whitefish breakfast places don't seem to open until 7am for breakfast (including my hotel), so I'm off to McDonald's AGAIN. My notes show the Builder has a 20 minute stop from 7:21 to 7:41.

I'm at WFH depot 7-ish and #8 is EARLY. I bang off a few shots of the train arriving (that's the new engineer walking the platform).

Before the Builder departs, I'm off to my first stop -- the bridge at Coram. The foliage in this spot has really grown up since my last visit and I can barely get a picture of the train.

Roaring along US 2, I briefly stop at Great Northern Rafting for a picture of their GN X-220 caboose. Consequently, by the time I reach the West Glacier (Belton) depot, #8 has departed. I take off in pursuit along the Flathead River. Hmmm...where is #8? It's a long drive past Essex to Sheep Creek trestle. He's due into ESX at 8:50, so I wait until 9:10 before heading up the hill (must have missed him somehow). I can HEAR him on the scanner (total axles, four four...).

At Summit (Marias), I see a green signal. Hallelujah! Sure as shooting, here he comes around the curve and passes before me in the classic mountain vista.

I bomb down the hill towards East Glacier and overtake him (there's lots of trackwork going on and slow orders, which helps).

I skid to a stop and with just seconds to spare, nail a beautiful picture with Mr. Horsey flipping his tail against the flies. Did I mention the mosquitoes were eating me alive every time I got out of the truck?

Another picture of #8 crossing Midvale Creek bridge just B4 the depot.

Finally, for the piece de resistance, The famous Two Medicine River bridge complete with the red barn. I'm got Amtrak's Empire Builder knocked!

Hype over, I pass under the colorful bridge and check out the Glacier Park depot. Whoa! There's now a green signal for a westbound! Kick! Something to follow back to Essex.

At Bison Siding, the loaded grain train comes slowly trundling up the track, finally stopping. What's this? An eastbound double stack (it's an S train - overseas containers), BUT the grainer is blocking my view. Que sera sera.

I'm digging on the trains having a meet in front of me, when this white car pulls up. Crunch, crunch, crunch, I hear his footsteps in the gravel. Oh, bother... The green, neon "Sucker" on my forehead must be illuminated again.

"Hello" he says. "Hi" I reply. "Say, do you know where the Firebrand is around here?" I pointed in the direction of East Glacier saying I had seen a billboard about Firebrand-something back there (I had). Then he wants to argue with me. I guess he didn't notice my out-of-state plates and camera (tourist me).

Angrily, he says, "My guidebook says it's supposed to be between HMP 204.6 and 205.3 and I can't find it". Like it's MY fault. I threw up my hands and said, "I don't know what to tell you, then." After muttering a few oaths and blasphemies under his breath, he eventually turned around and went back to his car. Wherever I go, these people find me.

I researched later and found out it's a restaurant in East Glacier that closed in 2019 AND a popular nearby hiking trail.

Once free of the galloping goober, I score a few more pictures of the grain train and the S passing each other.

Shortly thereafter, I'm back at Summit (Marias) as he eases into dynamic braking for the long slog down the mountain. Question: How did they manage to put a really crappy-looking freight car right next to the engines, hmmm? Ruins an otherwise perfect picture.  I hate graffiti assholes.

It's getting on towards lunch time, so I decide to bag it and head to the Izaak Walton Inn for lunch.

Had a salad and bison burger for lunch with an absolutely divine huckleberry pie ala mode for dessert. Didn't take a picture of my meal, because I was having so much fun snagging train pictures, right from my trackside seat.

First train was my westbound grainer with 2 units front and rear.

Second train was BNSF 7889. He was moving equipment up and down the track, seemingly at random.

Third train was a westbound S train with 2 units up front and no DPU on the rear.

Fourth train was 7889 again towing these two, very cool, snow dozers -- back and forth.

Mmmm....lunch was good! Waiter forgot to put the Huck Pie on my bill, so I gave him an extravagant tip. Time to walk it off, let's just amble over the pedestrian crossing and go caboose spotting!

Overlooking the tracks are four cabeese: X-97 "Red Caboose" labeled for GN Ry.; X-98 "Green Caboose" labeled for BN Railroad; X-99 "Blue Caboose" labeled for Montana Rail Link; and finally, CB&Q #14602 labeled for Burlington Route.

Walking back down, I get some snaps of the Izaak Walton & GN #441 (ex-Santa Fe) F45 in Big Sky Blue done up as your very own luxury cabin. I would have loved to stay at the I.W.I. this trip, but they were sold out.

Just behind the Inn is GN Ry. X-97 (yes, the second X-97), but a picture of the car frame shows this to be BN caboose #12041.

Hey, HEY! Behind the second X-97, are two more caboose I've never seen before. Interloper Northern Pacific Railway #1506 is a bay window caboose, whilst GN #215 has a more conventional cupola, with both set up for overnight lodging.

A quick drive around the area roads, revealed two more caboose. Out front, where you turn in off of US 2, is GN #314 and back around on Parma Road, is GN X-66 which apparently had its own website (caboose66.com sign nailed to a nearby tree) at one point. The website no longer works. A quick search on the Wayback Machine found nothing, either.

That's a total of 9 old time waycars, cabs, cabin cars, you name it, in the Essex area. A caboose-rich environment, fer sure!

Heavens to Murgatroid! Another set of locomotives comes up from the west end of the yard. One of them is a "STICKERS" BNSF 25th Anniversary locomotive #5828. The first stickers engine I've managed to digitize (I don't get out much). Schweet!

I'm just guessing here, but I'm wondering if BNSF was having an engineer / conductor / trainman "school" at Essex? A nice, quiet yard with a safe location to practice the basics of how to operate locomotives and switch cars. Whaddiya think?

It's about 2-ish and time to head up to Summit to take a few more pictures and hopefully pick up a train to follow back to Whitefish.

I'm almost to the summit when I capture this fellow coming down the hill. Looks like a Warbonnet BNSF as the 2nd unit.

At Summit, I get grab shots of the ex-GN Summit Depot (which looks closed), the BNSF Continental Divide sign and the C.D. obelisk (that's the John F. Stevens statue peaking through the trees on the left).

Flying down US 2 past Essex, I finally catch up to the autoracks of the westbound. I stop briefly to get a good shot of Saint Nicholas Mountain in afternoon light (Hi, Ben!).

Back in the Tacoma, I continue on to Tunnel 3.8 for the final train shot of the day. Note the rafters in the blue-green waters of the Flathead.

Last picture: a grab shot of the former Columbia Falls GN depot, now a knick knack store.

Tuesday, June 22nd

Whitefish to Spokane

After Sunday's shattering experience driving FS #36, I decided on a smoother course. This time I would travel Whitefish to Libby on good old, US 2, the main highway, but lacking any train tracks. No matter.

Another beautiful day dawned in the Flathead Valley as I zoomed south on US 93 to Kalispell. About 10 minutes into my drive, I spotted a couple hot air balloons in the distance. I said to myself..."Self, that red, white and blue one, looks the Re-Max balloon from all those real estate commercials."

Turns out, it WAS the Re-Max hot air balloon soaring high above. Most appropriate as Kalispell and Whitefish have some of the hottest real estate markets in the country right now.

Breakfast in Kalispell was at (drum roll, please), Chick-Fil-A! The staff seemed a bit discombobulated, but the food eventually came out and was delish. Chicken for breakfast, yeah, you betcha!

The drive from Kalispell to Libby was absolutely gorgeous. With the sun at my back, the mountains and lakes along the way were sublime. I must have spotted at least two dozen young deer along the roadside, with only one close call as two dashed across the road in front of me.

I stopped at Libby depot (ex-Great Northern), "read the signals" and listened to my scanner. Red changed to Yellow, then to Green and I heard the dispatcher tell the local trackwork guys that "Two Westbounds and one Eastbound" were coming. Schweet. Two trains to follow to Spokane.

At the west switch of Libby, the first westbound materialized into a loaded oil train with BNSF & CN power front and back.

I overtook the oil train and watched him pass an eastbound "S" train (overseas containers). I intended to catch him once more at Troy, but couldn't find a suitable spot. Oh well. From Troy, the highway crosses the Kootenai River and stays far away from the tracks all the way to Bonners Ferry.

In the back of my mind, I had a spot picked out about 3 miles east of Naples. At this location, the railroad pops out of a tunnel and crosses a short trestle over Deep Creek. I had never captured a train here and the light was good. (Update: This is Deep Creek Tunnel #10.2, just 479' long at RMP 1376.2.)

About 15 minutes after reaching the location, I heard a rumble. YES! BNSF #6811 and CN #3862 came roaring by with their endless string of oil cans. I hopped in the Tacoma and calmly drove (far above prudent speed limits) to the bridge at Naples. Made it!

In this truly international effort, petroleum rolls west powered by BNSF #6811 / CN #3862 + CN #2341 / BNSF #5756.

The WB oil has no sooner rounded the corner when I heard another rumble. This turned out to be a Union Pacific westbound (grain train) led by CP #9732 and UP #4205 (hot damn, an EMD SD70M!) with CP #9637 pushing. The UP tracks are level with the old highway bridge and about 20 steps to the right. The light was bad, but the pictures came out OK.

This is another first for me as I've never captured a CP/UP train along this route (Sandpoint, ID to Kingsgate, BC) on the old Spokane International.

Once Uncle Pete went by, I noticed that the signal on the BNSF stayed red, then displayed yellow and then changed to flashing yellow. Hot diggity dog, here comes the second WB -- also a grain train led by GE-built BNSF #7975. That was 3 trains on 2 railroads in 30 minutes. When it rains, it pours.

I took off after the grainer as BNSF stays close to the highway much of the way back to Sandpoint. He was going slow because he was riding on the oil train's yellows.

Waiting in the pass at Elmira was an EB stack train (more overseas containers), so I crossed over to the sunny side at the crossing and got my meet pictures. The S train had my favorite current model of locomotive, an EMD SD70ACe "Ace" on the point, along with a generic BNSF GE, and visiting from Norfolk Southern Railroad, SD70ACe #1020.

At Colburn, my WB Grainer had a solid yellow over solid yellow and held the main track again. This time, the opposing EB was a grain train or more specifically an empty grain train going back for more oats. Yet another GE-born, BNSF #3784.

Two consecutive meets? Funnel Hype! This is all too exciting. I must go have lunch. After a burger and iced tea, I was once more heading west (geographically south) from Sandpoint to Spokane.

Unbelievably, I once more caught the BNSF #7975 grain train and TRIED to get a picture with Lake Cocolala in the background -- but I wasn't quick enough. About 200 feet north of where I took this picture is a great shot -- Ya can't win 'em all.

Around Athol, ID, I took side roads and found the boonie spot where the UP crosses under the old NP, now BNSF tracks. It's on Old U.S. Hwy 95 just south of Athol (railroad west).

Coming back towards the Washington-Idaho State line, I was WAY ahead of schedule, so decided to explore some things I was curious about. Taking side roads, I explored the side of Hauser Yard (BNSF's big gas station, remember?) opposite Hwy 53. Uh...there's nothing to see. Basically they planted an entire forest of pine trees and bulldozed up a huge berm -- probably by design, to hide it from view. It didn't take long to realize the best view is from Hwy 53 in late afternoon or evening, when the light has worked around. Morning shots on this side are impossible.

Just past Hauser and crossing into Washington, I discovered this old passenger car labeled, "Spokane's finest depot restaurant - Scarlet Lady". I had never noticed it before, probably because when I drive on Trent Rd., I'm always looking towards the tracks.

Also discovered the old GN Hillyard depot formerly located along the highway is gone. They're building a new overpass and the old building probably got demolished in the process.

Reaching Spokane's Yardley Yard, I spot another stickers --- caboose! HAD to turn around and get a picture of that item (BN # 10553). Freshly outshopped. Kick!

At Havana Street, wound around the BNSF yard office (it's a public street) and spotted the City of Spokane observation car #1196!! This is the former GN #1196 "Port of Vancouver" orginally used on the "Internationals" between Seattle and Vancouver BC.

Keeping it company were an unlabeled (possibly GN?) two door baggage car and UP heavyweight (six axle trucks) coach #516.

Still too early to check in, so I wander around the hillside just across Hangman Creek where the GN/BNSF line climbs out of Spokane.

Two items of note were an original GN grade abutment from 1926 (originally visited during the 2016 GNRHS convention) AND the Great Northern Elementary School from 1894!

OK, I've run out of gas. Time to call it quits, go have dinner (a blizzard from Dairy Queen) and type up my notes. Tomorrow: The voyage home along the old Great Northern.

Wednesday, June 23

Spokane to Redmond

Westward, Ho! On the final leg of my railfanning odyssey, I would try to visit all the places I didn't have time for on the way east.

First is a magnificent breakfast at Frank's Diner. I sat at the counter like in the days of yore (pre-Chinese death virus) and the place was PACKED. Early on a Wednesday morning.  No masks, HA!

I set off about 7am. Remember that bridge picture on U.S. 2 from Saturday with the GN Logo mostly visible? Well, the OTHER side has a GN Logo too. Pretty impressive that it has lasted this long (at least 50 years).

From Spokane to about Harrington, it is very time-consuming to follow the old GN as the railroad cuts diagonally (NE to SW) across the state. In a nutshell, the roads use two sides of a triangle, whilst the railroad only uses one.

It turns out, there's not much to see except wheat. Lots and lots of wheat. I capture pictures of the old station signs at Espanola and Waukon. Between here and Odessa I had TWO scrawny coyotes dash across the road in front of me.

At Edwall, I get a better picture of the station sign and discover the Loram rail-grinding train has moved up from Odessa where I saw it on Saturday.

Canby has a wonderful high bridge. I stop and take a picture under less-stressful conditions (I was chasing after a stack train through here on Saturday).

South (west) of Harrington, I catch the first train of the day. It's a Z moving at a good clip uphill on the double track.

Downs has a small grain elevator and a truck scale (not shown). Hey, Old Blue weighs 4,920 pounds! Another, much appreciated feature of Downs, WA, is this chamber of relief where yours truly partakes of his SECOND morning constitutional.

Next stop, Lamona. I hit the jackpot with another Z train, this time heading westward. He was moving so fast, I never did catch him until Wenatchee. Fed Ex as far as the eye can see!

Update 7-3-2021:  It's a small world.  It turns out my good friends Scott and Jan Tanner were out railfanning and took pictures of some of the same trains I did, including the above Z.  You can read about their trip at the following link:


Irby!! Not much going on here, but it's a beautiful setting with lava cliffs on both sides of the track. Those little squares of light green paint, mean that tie will be replaced shortly. It's about a 3 mile drive in from Highway 28.

It's getting on towards noon, time for some "down on" shots. What better place for that, than the fabled horseshoe curve at Trinidad? Green signal! Eastbound coming! It's a sizzling 90 degrees and getting hotter, but I have my sun hat, plenty of water, and camera. I slowly trudge up the hillside for the classic shot.

Just a 25 minute wait and here comes an eastbound S train (overseas containers) plodding up Lynch Coulee at a steady 10 mph or so.

Four big GE's on the point (with a friendly wave from Mister Conductor) slog past.

I even get a shot of Old Blue when a single stack comes by. Finally here comes the DPU, BNSF #7139 and the best pictures of the day are in the can.

Next stop, Wenatchee for lunch and gasoline. I can hear on the scanner that my Z from Lamona (m-m-m-my, Lamona....) has been re-crewed and is heading out of town. Too early for me to head home, though.

Fed and watered, I visit Appleyard and notice two westbounds, BOTH with Freds (f***ing rear end device) on yard tracks. One is an S and the other is a Q (guaranteed service -- a notch below Z status). Perhaps one of those puppies will head west giving me something to chase home!

As I'm leaving Wenatchee (it's 99 degrees now), I hear on the scanner of an eastbound coming into town. At the crossing with the Franz Bakery Outlet (and their colorful yellow delivery trucks) I set up for a grab shot. Nice, clean GE on the point with an exotic Ferromex "ACE" trailing on an empty coal train. Kick.

Next stop is the Wenatchee River Bridge at Plain, WA. I'm here a little over an hour so the sun has worked its way over to the other side of the bridge.

Horn! It's an eastbound empty oiler and just for yuks, I'll display these pictures backwards so I can pretend it's going the other way (all hail the DPU era).

Off to another favorite spot of mine, White Pines Road near Merritt. I spend about 45 minutes here, however nothing rolls by but a Hi-Rail truck. Finally, I lose the light (now all in shade), so it's on to Skykomish for my final trip pictures of #8, the Empire Builder.

But first, a quick stop at Scenic to visit the X-294 caboose. Sadly, X-294's paint job is a victim of harsh winter weather and graffiti assholes.

At Sky, the old depot is looking good in the setting sun. Right on time (approximately 6:33pm) comes the Builder, struting eastward as the sun glints off her flanks.

This concludes my write up of 2021 Montana, a round trip of nearly 1,500 miles. The weather cooperated and I had a blast. Thanks for reading! LIN-Z

Epilogue: Wow, the Spokane - Sandpoint Funnel was really hopping this trip. There's definitely a grain rush on, and those Z trains are as hard to keep up with as ever. I just might have to do this trip again some day!