Warning Warning WarningThis page contains graphic images concerning violence and death that may not be suitable for young viewers.
Leap FrogThree trains left Sheridan this day with crews in the order in which they were called. First on duty, first to arrive, and first to depart was a Centralia, WA coal train (C-SCMCEC). Following it out of town was the H-KCKPAS freight train. I was bringing up the rear of this 3 train parade on the P-MEMSSE intermodal. Our two freights dogged along behind the coal as it climbed Parkman hill. Sidings at Ranchester and Parkman were occupied with eastbounds so we could not go around the coal train there. Aberdeen is not a particularly good place to do it and Lodge Grass had another eastbound in it. So we followed the CEC coal all the way to Benteen. There the dispatcher finally put it in the hole and the H-KCKPAS and my P-MEMSSE ran around it. I followed the H train by Dunmore, Rowley, and Anita. He had a little better power than I did. Despite the fact that I was a 60 mph train and he a 55 mph train he managed to put a few block signals between us on the way up Toluca hill. He dissappeared onto the MRL at Huntley while I had to remain on the BNSF radio channel until past the detector at Moran Junction. Imagine my surprise then when I rounded the curve at Huntley and started up the MRL's siding. There on the mainline was a westbound freight. We were running around it. Was it a train that had come from Forsyth? No, it was the H-KCKPAS I'd been following.
Apparently MRL's Laurel yard had only one open track and it was ours. The H train would have to wait outside the yard until a track was cleared for it. As I departed the west end of the siding I heard the Missoula dispatcher call the H train we had just smoked.
"You will have to wait there at Huntley until I can get a Great Falls coal load around you."
Slap! Oh that hurts. The H train is going to have to wait for that CEC coal train to catch back up to them. You know, the one they and I ran around waaaay back there at Benteen. The coal train is going to re-run around them. I'll bet the air was blue in that cab.
Why would they do that? Because Laurel Yard has no open track for the H train and apparently is not going to have one for quite a while. So the H train will have to sit on the mainline east of Laurel. But the coal train does not go into Laurel yard. It hangs a right at Shilo just east of the yard and heads towards Great Falls pausing only for a crew change. If the H is first it will block the coal train from proceeding.
Still ChuggingMost crewmen despised the U30C/C30-7 era GE locos. They were hard to get on and off because of the near verticle steps. The decks were higher than SD40-2s meaning you had an extra step to climb and it was hard to put your grip up on the deck. The catwalks were narrow and you always got your jacket dirty rubbing up against the hoods. The doors were smaller. The brakeman's window was tiny. Everything in the cab rattled. They rode worse than the proverbial lumber wagon. The earlier U30Cs were poor in the reliabilty department compared to SD40s but the C30-7s seldom failed me and a C30-7 was equal to an SD40-2 when it came to pulling. I liked them. In spite of the rattles the C30-7's cab was considerably quieter than an SD40-2s. And...they smoked like a locomotive. And they sounded like a locomotive. I used to open the side windows even in winter as I passed under an over pass in #4 or 5 throttle just to hear the chug-a-chug-a-chug of the big GEs. Sometimes on summer afternoons, while blasting upgrade eastbound out of Lodge Grass struggling to make 40 mph in number 8, I'd hang my head out my side window to watch the scenery go by and listen to the 5 GEs work. And brother did they tell you they were working!
The C30-7s are getting scarce as hen's teeth now days. But on April 3, 2001 I had two of them on the P-MEMSSE. We were stopped on the mainline at West Parkman waiting on an eastbound coal empty. The two GEs worked fine all the way to Laurel and, yes, they were still smoking and chugging.
Parkman, Wyoming at 6850 feet long is our shortest siding and the 7767 feet of my P train doesn't even come close to clearing the east switch. When the empty train clears in the siding he'll have to wait for me to depart west before he can get out the east end. It is an all BN green meet today. That is something else that is scarce as hen's teeth in 2001.
My Favorite SpeedNow we are smokin. This is my favorite way to get over the road. We're on the P-MEMSSE with 87 loads, zero empties, 5660 tons, and 7767 feet. We won't fit in any sidings except Ranchester (MP 714) and Anita (MP 814). After the empty cleared at Parkman and we got up to track speed I was too busy controlling her coming off the hill to take any photos. It requires all of my attention on the signals, airbrakes, dynamic brakes, speedometer, and judging how the train is responding. But 20 miles west of Parkman we are off the worst of the grade so I have a few moments to point and click. Full dynamic braking on SD40-2 BNSF 6913 and the two GE C30-7s trailing it barely hold this train to the speed limit west of Spear, Montana.
Whoa Nellie! Whoa!
Well that is OK. The little rise on the curve ahead will bring her back down to the legal limit before the track drops off downgrade again when it straightens out on the other side.
If any officers are looking at this I swear it never happened. Must be trick photography. ;-)
Merle's F'sMRL's F45s snapped on my way to the roundhouse. Why is it that the sun is never out and at the correct angle when the trains are ready to be photographed?
Machinery LoadsWe get a lot of Machinery loads through here. This one train has construction equipment, mining equipment, and farm equipment. Eight to 15 machinery loads on the point of a train is not uncommon.
This Unit Has GutsThis is what's left after exploding a horse at 60 mph. It isn't pretty and it smells worse. Oh well, at least this one didn't cover the windshield like some I have hit in the past. (The second "MU cable" with the silver coupling is actually the fuel hose used with fuel tenders).
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