Montana By Steam 2002 - Part 5

Oct 14, 2002 Day Three of Montana By Steam excursion, Bozeman, MT to Billings.

Day Three is in the Montana Rail Link 2nd Subdivision, starting at Bozeman MP 140.4 and counting down to 17.7 at Spurling, then in the 1st Subdivision from MP 17.7 at Spurling down to 0.0 at Billings, totalling 140.4 miles for the day.

Engineer: Jim Abney
Fireman: Terry Thompson
Assistant Fireman: AM Steve Speer, PM Matt Baccitich
MRL: Bob Bateman, engineer pilot, Missoula and Kim Kautzman, road foreman/trainmaster, Laurel.
MRL support vehicle: Paul Elsenpeter, mechanical foreman, Helena.

Climbing Bozeman Hill

About two miles out of Bozeman, the grade rises to 1% for about 3 miles, then has alternating stretches of 1.4%, 1.7%, and 1.9% and a couple of short sections at 2.0% until the top is reached 12 miles out of Bozeman. The 700 was able to pull its load estimated at 2200 trailing tons on the 1.6% grade at about 12-15 miles per hour but needed assistance from the trailing MU-controlled diesel helper MRL 392 on steeper sections. On the 1.9% grade the diesel was running alternately between the second and third out of eight available throttle positions.

This day marked the first encounter with driver slip of any amount. The first instance, oddly enough, was right in the siding where we spent the night in Bozeman. From the cab you could look down the rails into the glint of the morning sun and see a thin extrusion of grease on each frosty rail. We had expected adhesion issues that morning all right, but not that soon.

We were pulling uphill in one of the early steep sections through a left hand curve in the shade of a hill in the early morning where the combination of grease from a flange greaser and frosty rails caused the drivers to slip. It took several tries before traction was regained. The highway was adjacent to the track and the sound must have been impressive to onlookers as it filled that narrow canyon.

Don't know for sure if the picture below was taken during driver slip on a turn, but comparing it with the next picture taken a few moments later, it seems plausible.

Photo by Joel King

Photo by Joel King.

In Classic Trains Winter 2002 issue, an article by Don Angle titled "An Engineer's Engineer" describes the skills of Engineer Jack Wolverton as observed by the author from the fireman's seat as they were running the North Coast Limited between Livingston and Butte. Of particular interest is his description of getting out on the running board to the sand dome and digging some sand loose to ensure they would have it when they needed it - while they were running. Those were the days when men were men.

Bozeman Pass is at elevation 5562' and the tunnel is 3015' long. The approach to the tunnel goes through a cut and a sizable crowd was standing on top of the cut and above the tunnel. They all had cameras and video cameras and/or sound recording equipment and in an effort to not spoil their recordings we waited until the last possible second before shutting down the steamer and ramping up the diesel to take us through the tunnel, which resulted in steam-cleaning 45 years of diesel soot off the roof of the tunnel and making smoke besides. We got it cleared up shortly, but the rest of the train had to be pulled through the soot and smoke which gave the passengers a taste of what vintage steam railroading was like at times.

After Bozeman Pass, but before Livingston. Photo by Frances Matlock..

Livingston MP 115.4

We stopped at Livingston for a photo run-by as shown by the following pictures.

The stately Northern Pacific depot in Livingston is still beautiful. Photo by Arnie Holden.

Cars were spotted by the depot for passengers to detrain and enjoy the run-by Photo by Arnie Holden.

Run-by at Livingston. The couple in the foreground are Jan and Bill Taylor, trip narrators and coauthors of the book Northern Pacific's Mullan Pass: On the "Montana Short Line". Photo by Arnie Holden.

Service at Columbus MP 40.3

Salute to Don Wheeler

Following an illness, on October 9 PRPA President Don Wheeler departed this earth, bound for glory elsewhere, during the same moments the SP&S 700 was departing Vancouver, bound for Montana. On October 14 in Columbus, Montana, at the moment Don's memorial service back in Vancouver began, Acting President Jim Vanderbeck led the PRPA crew members in a salute to Don and moment of silence. If you have not done so, please read Jim's tribute to Don

Photo by Dale Birkholz.

Billings MP 15.9 in the 1st Subdivision.

After letting the passengers off at the NP depot in Billings, turning the train required backtracking to Laurel Yard at MP 29.6, a distance of about 14 miles, to use the wye at Laurel. Unlike all the rest of the trip, where the 700 was the primary power, and the MRL 392 diesel was only used as necessary in the helper districts, this turning maneuver was accomplished by hooking another diesel engine on the rear of the train (making it the front) and towing the train, including the 700 and the 392, to the wye and back to Billings. Under these conditions, firing the 700 becomes what some call "mobile spot-firing", in that the engineer is just using enough throttle to provide thorough cylinder lubrication, and so the fireman must keep a sufficient size fire to match the draft and keep from chilling the tubes and maintain a steady pressure.

Where did it go?

Having seen the 700 and the cars along this platform while the passengers were being unloaded, but missing it when it was quietly towed away, this little Montana cowgirl's expression prompted the title. Photo by Frances Matlock..

Randal O'Toole (wearing white cap)- selling books dawn til' dusk. Photo by Frances Matlock..

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