These first 5 pics are on the Montana Rail Link's former BN, former Northern Pacific transcon main. They are taken from the cab of the lead C44 in an eastbound progression in the dim morning light in light snow under overcast skies. Temperature is 18 degrees, a drop of 60 degrees from yesterday.
Starting with the signal bridge at Billings, Montana.
Due to the dim light the signals came out slightly over exposed. The two overhead are yellow, in fact the one on the right is flashing yellow but I managed to catch it in the "on" cycle. It is my signal approaching the End of Double Track ABS and Begin CTC about a mile away from this location.
The pole mounted signal on the right is red. The far switch which it governs movement over used to be a spring switch in BN/NP days. Now it is a hand throw switch. The signal governed movement off the parallel far right track which is the Eastward Auxillary Track. (The track that goes off the far right of the photo and not under the signal bridge is an industrial lead to the power plant and an oil refinery). The 2nd track from the right is the Westward Auxillary Track where we setout/pick-up the Billings coal train I wrote about in my Tales From The Krug list. I am running on the Eastward main and the Westward main is on the far left. The old NP passenger depot is about 3/4ths of a mile behind me. The auxillary tracks were used as auxillary mains for freights to run around passenger trains that were parked on the mains at the depot. Thus the reason for the former spring switch and signal at this location to allow eastbound freights to enter the eastward main off of the eastward auxillary without stopping. The signal still works but of course without the spring switch anymore it won't clear until the switch is hand lined.
The next is the Yellowstone River bridge at Billings. It is about 3/4ths of a mile east of the signal bridge in the previous shot. Followers of this series have seen this bridge before. That one was from the other direction and taken standing outside on a U.P. SD90 but the weather coincidentally happened to be about the same.
This pic is taken about 10 miles east of the bridge and is at Huntley, MT. On the NP until 1965 it was double track ABS all the way from Laurel to here. At Huntley the NP, straight ahead, became single track ABS. The CB&Q "Long Branch" from Lincoln, Nebraska 830 miles away ended at these crossovers. Until the installation of CTC about the mid 1980s this CB&Q line was dark unsignalled train order territory. The approaching P-BIRSSE (the "birdseed") is coming off this BNSF former CB&Q line. In 1965 the NP pulled up the second main line between East Billings and Huntley and installed CTC. The old eastward main became CTC sidings at Lockwood and Huntley. The track on the right which the birdseed is heading into in this photo is this Huntley CTC siding.
My turn now, Diverging Clear signal. I will crossover to the siding then diverge again onto the Q's Long Branch. It is 130 miles to my home town of Sheridan, Wyoming. The train will continue through Gillette, Alliance, Lincoln, and Kansas City, to Memphis.
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