It began with a stormy Saturday shooting the BNSF snow dozer working on Stevens Pass. I've shot the dozer at work a couple of times previous, but never had the opportunity to get any photos of the crew preparing the machine for use. Here we see the guys getting the various electric and airlines required to operate the plow connected and in good order.
This shot has been floating around the internet a bit, so you might have already viewed it. It is the most dramatic of the group, and yes, I got covered.
No year is complete without a trip or two to Montana. This year I was able to get away twice and head for the Big Skies. The first journey was strictly a family affair with very little railfanning involved.
I did sneak away one morning and caught a westbound coal train climbing Bozeman Hill. For once a nice little herd of cows appeared just at the right moment and positioned themselves perfectly to add a little accent to the scene.
Returning in September, I was allowed to hi-rail over Mullan Pass with a track inspector. Of all the photos taken that day, this is my favorite as it shows to what degree these men go to insure the track is safe.
The "highlight" of the day was removing the greasy, smelly remains of "Yogi", a bear struck earlier by a light helper.
A certain amount of time was spent track side. I love Austin. The open country and the double horse shoes offer an unlimited number of camera angles. Here an eastbound rounds the lower loop with the ties for the siding extension project to the left.
I like this shot because there is so much wrong with it. Backlit, no engines, it is a different look at the lower Austin horse shoe.
A productive morning was spent out on vast nothingness of Winston Hill. The plains between Helena and Townsend are wide open, but they are anything but flat. Here loaded coal train grinds up the hill with a two unit helper pushing on the rear.
Nearly at the top of the grade, a two-set ACe helper shoves through the East Winston switch.
On my last day, I spent a few somber moments with the Livingston dead-line. I realize the Montana Rail Link is operated for profit and not for the benefit of railfans, but I really do miss those old SD 45's.
The year ended on a sad note with an e-mail telling me of the sudden death of MRL engineer Sam Sutton. I had the privilege of riding with Sam on two helper shoves over Mullan Pass. Although I can't say that I knew Sam well, he was a good sport and a good story teller.
So a toast to you, Sam. May you pass through that dark portal and into the light you deserve.