Sunday, March 29, 2009

The End of the Line

No, not the end of the line for the L4T dynasty, not yet anyway. I'm talking about the rail line that heads south from Crookston, down through the rich farm country of the Red River Valley. This once-proud GN line from Barnesville to Crookston now struggles for life, its north end nothing more than a spur serving the first town south of Crookston.

Beltrami fancies itself quite the metropolis, advertising the "Beltrami Mall" downtown. Passing through town, though, makes it clear that the grain elevator vies for the title of Beltrami's Industrial powerhouse. And even at that, I have never seen more than a forlorn gathering of hoppers on the stub that ends just south of town.

You can imagine my surprise, when passing through yesterday, of spotting Minnesota Northern's SW-8 909 sunning itself just south of the elevator crossing. This called for a u-turn in downtown Beltrami (greatly amusing Mrs. L4T and the heir to the throne, who were both along on this jaunt), and a couple of quick roster shots, even though the sun was in not-quite-optimal position.

A sighting like this is always a welcome surprise. Having decided to take the scenic route back to Wadena, I was greatly rewarded with this opportunity and my gratitude made the cruise south through the "black desert" go by more quickly.

The frequent small trestles across drainage ditches on the abandoned section of the line made it easy to imagine light steam engines dancing across the prairie, stopping at the small towns for water, as they gathered wooden boxcars from the numerous elevators that dot the landscape. It's enough to make one pine for the olden days.

Jim, out

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