UPDATE #28 6/23/11
Montana Trip Report

I finally got some vacation time and headed for Montana to get all the detail shots I needed to continue with scenery. I took my oldest son Nick with me and he really helped with navigation and moving shots with the camera.

We left on thursday the 16th and drove all the way to Pocatello, ID. It was a long day of driving but we would get into MRL country early the next day. We came into Bozeman by 11 am and caught our first MRL engines in the yard at Bozeman. I knew of work windows on Bozeman Pass so we headed over the hill to Livingston to see if we could catch the local. It was still waiting for MOW to clear up at 3 pm so we headed up to Muir to catch a ballast train working there. After the MOW was finished we followed the local westward for a while.

The next day we headed for Helena stopping at Logan to grab a few pictures. The old water tower had been taken down and a couple of new industries had been added since the last time I was there. We continued on to Helena to get started on all the pictures I would need for the layout. Catching trains were a bonus on this trip as they were not a priority. We headed up to Tobin to get detail and backdrop shots. We continued from there to Austin siding. While there a helper set came down the hill and we took some photos of it at east Austin. We headed up to Austin Creek Trestle and took a bunch of detail shots. We caught an eastbound on the trestle there. I had heard that the pass still had a big drift at the top but we went anyway. I would have saved 40 miles going over the drift but the 500 foot drop if we didn't make it wasn't my idea of a good time so we turned around.

On the way down we tried to find Skyline siding, Greehorn Creek Trestle and Iron Ridge cut. We did great and found them all. These were some major goals I had set for this trip. We went back to Helena to check for trains and they were pulling out a helper set to shove a 125 coal train over the pass. We headed out to the west side of the pass to get detail shots and wait for the coal train.

After getting all my shots we headed to the new west portal of Mullan Tunnel. I was amazed at how much earth and rock they had moved. I was disappointed that they had just dumped it all just south of the siding. It really diminished the beauty of this whole area. We caught the coal train there and followed it down to Elliston to watch them cut-off the helpers.

At Elliston we caught up with our train and watched the process of putting it back together. With all our goals met on Mullan Pass we decided to follow the train to Missoula catching it at several locations. At Missoula we came into a downpour which continued into Sunday morning. With bad light we decided not to chase any trains out of town but focused on detail shots around the yard.

The next day we woke up to more clouds and rain. The forecast was for partly sunny skies so we headed west on the water-level line to get the detail shots we would need there. We stopped at the bridge near Quinns to get detail shots. The river underneath was raging. There was access to the bridge from down below so I was able to get great detail shots for building this later.

We got stuck in 20 miles of construction getting there. We also hit some more near Quinns siding which made for difficulty getting shots of the west portal near the siding. We headed west to try and catch the day gas train returning from Pipeline. We stopped at Paradise to take photos of the local there spotting a huge transformer. We continued west to find the day gas still at Pipeline. As we got there it was on the main ready to head east so the chase was on. We caught it several times on the trip over the 4th and 10th sub. I was able to find some great photo spots along the way.

We said goodbye to the day gas at Dixon and headed north on the Polson branch to finish getting the last of the detail shots I would need. No local out there so we worked on backdrops, scenery and buildings. We went all the way into Polson to see if we could see any old tracks there. We found one spot that had been paved over in town. On the way back we stopped at a large area where MRL had built a few tracks for local unloading and loading. There was also a propane spur there.

With my photo goals completed we started on our journey home stopping in Kennewick, Wa for the night. From there we stopped in Portland for lunch the next day and finished the last part of the drive. We did a little over 2800 miles in the 6 days. It was a hectic pace but gave me new ambition for the layout.

This was the first MRL engines we saw on our trip. A helper set tied down at Bozeman.

We drove over to Livingston to check out what was around. With a work window going on all we could find was a ballast train working at Muir.

Ballast train power.

We drove around Livingston a while until the window was up and chased the local over the pass.

Local at West end.

We continued east and stopped at Logan. The old water tower was down and they had added a couple of industries.

After staying the night in Belgrade we headed directly to Helena. There was an eastbound sitting in the yard but we were determined to get up Mullan Pass for the day.

After shooting detail shots at Tobin, we headed to Austin where we caught a helper set returning.

We headed towards Austin Creek Trestle and caught an eastbound BNSF there.

We headed for the top of the pass to see if we could get to Blossburg but the famous snow drift was still there.

On the way back down we searched for the road to Skyline siding and found it. I was very happy to get there. The road was not bad at all.

After taking all the detail shots I would need we continued on the same road to find Greenhorn Creek Trestle. The trestle was about 50 yards from the end of the road.

We headed back down the hill in search of Iron Ridge cut. After a half hour of searching on dirt roads we found that too.

We went back to Helena to see if there were any trains headed west to catch on the west side of Mullan Pass. A helper set was coming out to get on a westbound so we left Helena for Blossburg.

After shooting west Blossburg we headed up to Mulllan Tunnel to see what it looked like after all the work. They had cut back 500 feet from the old portal.

The train we had seen at Helena earlier finally arrived.

Mid-train helpers.

2 DPU's on the rear.

We followed the coal train to Elliston to watch them cut-off the helpers.

After pulling the front portion of the train forward it made for a great photo-op with the helpers on the point.

The coal train was put back together and we chased it west.

I had always wanted to catch a train at Jens. The Dpu's turned out to be in the right spot for a great shot.

We spent the next day at Missoula dodging rain drops. There were a few trains around but lighting wasn't great.

We followed a westbound out to Frenchtown where it met a train in the siding.

Back at Missoula we caught this eastbound at East Missoula.

Later in the day we caught the night gas train leaving for Pipeline..

The next day we headed out on the water-level line to shoot some details and hopefully catch some trains. We got great detail shots of the bridge near Quinns.

Later we caught the Paradise local spotting a large transformer for unloading.

We headed to Pipeline to catch the day gas returning eastward.

We followed the train all the way to Dixon.

Gas train.

Gas train.

Gas train.

Gas train.

After leaving Dixon it was on to the Polson Branch.

The rest of the day was spent taking all the detail shots I would need for the branch. We turned at Polson and headed home.