Friday, September 26, 2008

Fanning Montana Part 2

Day 2 (Thursday) dawned clear and bright, with just a hint of autumn in the air. I intended to spend some time dedicated to railfanning today, instead of grabbing what I saw as we travelled along the tracks. I had grabbed a ride to the depot the previous morning to pick up our rental car, and the eastbound Builder was waiting when I got there. With no camera, I made a mental note to try and get some shots the following morning. I had intended to run to the depot for the shots while Mrs. L4T prepared for the day but she surprised me by being up and at 'em by the time I was ready to leave. So we decided to head east right off the bat.

We first encountered #8 at Belton after a wait of only a few minutes. Photos were uninteresting as there were no good angles to be had at the West Glacier platform. I decided to proceed east on a chase and off we went. Even the 70 mph speed limit in Montana was not sufficient to prevent the Builder from passing us on the straight stretch around Nyack. I hoped that the curves and grades to come would slow him up, and I knew he would probably be stopping at Essex as well. I flew by at road speed, and found a likely location well up a hill. Or at least it looked like a hill from the bottom. By the time I reached track level I was sucking for air, and could barely hold still. My shoes were soaked, and my heart felt like it would pop right out of my chest. The Builder rounded the curve as I was tying my shoe, and I grabbed this shot with one shoe untied.

I raced back down the mountain to the vehicle, and off to the races we went. My next target was Goat Lick, where the mountain goats come to lick salt off the exposed rock. I made it with a couple of minutes to spare, as the road is much straighter than the tracks. I was thankful that the sun rose a few degrees so the train would be lit in this shot.

A note about Goat Lick, in case anyone else ever visits-there is a highway bridge just west of this overlook site that appeared to me would have a much better viewing angle of the trestle. If you intend to photograph an eastbound at this spot I would investigate the shot from the highway bridge. I know I will if and when I go back.

I intended to leave the Amtrak at this point, and wait to see what other trains we would catch. However, after a short wait I decided to head east to see what was out and about. To my surprise #8 was still at the East Glacier depot, so I scooted out of town to shoot him crossing the Two Medicine River trestle.

That is really a great spot to shoot. The next move was back west, to see if we could catch some freight coming down the hill and shoot the more arid eastern side of the pass. This seems to me to be the more photogenic side of Marias Pass.

We were waiting at a chain up area when another vehicle pulled up. I walked over to talk to the driver and it turned out to be an English couple who were touring some of the National Parks in the western US. He told me that they had just passed a couple of eastbound trains and they should be appearing soon. I was excited and ready when the first train came down the hill behind an ES44DC.

Since another train was due shortly, I cut off the chase for the 7562 to wait for the next one. Shortly, a vehicle train showed up, again drifting down the grade at a relatively slow speed. I followed him all the way to the Two Medicine River, shooting him in a number of locations. I like these the best.

After lunch at the Two Medicine Grill in East Glacier, I was in the market for a westbound to take me back over the pass. I didn't have to wait too long as a Z train behind a quartet of Dash 9's soon showed up.

I expected a fairly quick trip, but was surprised when he came to a stop at Bison West. A little investigation revealed that he was waiting for an eastbound stacker. Here is the meet at Bison West.

The Z was back on the road in less than 5 minutes, including a display of smoke as he started his train on the upgrade. From here on out it was jump in, drive, jump out, shoot, repeat. I snapped him in a number of locations.

And finally, as he left one of the tunnels on the west side of the pass:

That was all the trains for day 2, and I was glad that I had captured the tunnel and Goat Lick shots, but still had a vague sense that something was missing. But not to worry, we still had a day left.

Jim, out.

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