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NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 4:28 p.m.

One of C&NW's unusual "hammerhead" RSD-5s slogging away in South Dakota. The RS-2 and RS-3, and their 6-axle variants, were configured to have either a steam generator or the dynamic braking gear in the short hood. But on the rare occasion where a railroad needed or wanted both dynamic brakes and a steam generator onboard the same unit, Alco had to build them with an extra-tall short hood, giving them the nickname "Hammerheads". PRR and Western Maryland had some "Hammerhead" RS-3s (one of which is preserved at the Rochester & Genesee Valley in Lehigh Valley colors and having been re-engined with an EMD 567 by Conrail) and C&NW had a few hammerhead RSD-5s, which was a C-trucked variant of the RS-3.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 4:33 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 4:33 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 4:33 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 4:34 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 4:39 p.m.

C&NW C425 #402 leading a freight at Eagle Lake, Minnesota. The RS-3 behind it has the cab windows blanked out and that was because C&NW had converted it to a road slug. The #402 and sister C425 #404 were paired up with the RS-3 slug and rattled around Minnesota.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 4:40 p.m.

Another view of #402, #404, and the slug. In this angle, you can see that the RS-3 also lacks an exhaust stack, another indication that it has lost it's prime mover and is being used as a slug.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 4:42 p.m.

C&NW SW1200 #1211 doing some street running in Chicago.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 4:45 p.m.

Quite the mix of power, there's C&NW, Milwaukee Road, Missouri-Kansas-Texas, and Conrail all represented on this eastbound freight at Baxter, Iowa.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 4:53 p.m.

C&NW F7s in commuter use flank one of the C&NW's reviled "Crandall Cabs". When Amtrak began to cull the tired E-units from their roster in favor of the new SDP40Fs, C&NW grabbed up a handful of ex-UP E8 and E9 A- and B-units. With no more long-haul trains to run, C&NW found itself now owning E-unit boosters with no real use. Rather than let them go to waste, C&NW cut the ends off and added a nose that was similar to the new SDP40Fs, updated the 12-567C prime movers to give them all a horsepower rating of 2,400, and added other new features like Automatic Train Control, Automatic Train Stop, and Head End Power.  Named for Assistant Superintendent of Motive Power, M. H. Crandall, the Crandall Cabs were a thrifty way to get some use out of some unneeded B-units, but, god, were they homely.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 4:54 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/21/22 7:22 p.m.
NickD said:

Sadly, in other news, Montana Rail Link is to be no more. Spun off from Burlington Northern in the 1980s, it operated the old Northern Pacific line from Sandpoint, Idaho to Billings, Montana on lease to a gentleman named Dennis Washington. The story I've heard is that at the time, BN was having some real issues with the work force based out of Livingston, and so decided to split the operation off to be run as a shortline and get around the union issues they were having. It was leased on a 60 year lease to Washington, but he has decided to terminate the lease this year and let it be reincorporated back into Burlington Northern Santa Fe as the MRL Subdivision, with all MRL employees making the move over to BNSF.

The reason for terminating the lease is unknown, but a good portion of it is believed to be due to the fact that 90% of the traffic was BNSF traffic originating offline. BNSF would drop off trains at Billings or Sandpoint and MRL would work them to the other end of the line and swap them over to BNSF power. BNSF had actually tried to take back the MRL years ago, but Burlington Northern had given Washington such a lucrative deal that it would have then cost a fortune to buy the lease back. With 90 % of the line’s traffic from the BNSF, the BNSF could threaten to take its traffic somewhere else (the ex-GN line north from Billings). Or Maybe Washington is ready to retire or his children are no longer interested in running a railroad.

The MRL earned a lot of attention during the '90s and '00s due to the rugged scenery and the railroad's love for the 3600hp 645 V20 engine. MRL had a huge fleet of SD45s that they accumulated and even owned a few F45s in the dark blue and white. There are still some end-cab switchers, GP9s, and GP35s, which will all likely bite the dust or be sold off when BNSF takes control again. The GP40s and SD40-2XR rebuilds might hang around, while the SD45 variants, what's left of them, will probably be retired immediately. No one wants to deal with the 45-series anymore.

Its come out that BNSF bought out the Montana Rail Link lease, and analysts have said why BNSF had to do it.

In recent years, BNSF has made significant capacity investments on its routes to and from the Pacific Northwest. To the east of MRL, BNSF built new and extended sidings between Fargo, N.D., and the Billings, Mont., area while adding centralized traffic control and positive train control even though it was not mandated to do so. BNSF also expanded its terminals in Forsyth and Glendive, Montana  and Mandan, N.D.

To the west of MRL, BNSF is building a second bridge in Sandpoint, Idaho, to eliminate the single-track bottleneck where MRL and the BNSF converge. BNSF also has double-tracked from Sandpoint to Spokane, Washington, and installed double track and extended sidings from Spokane to Pasco, Washington.

BNSF simply can’t add more capacity on the ex-Great Northern Hi Line across Montana’s northern tier though. There’s just no room to double track where it goes through Kootenai River Canyon.

That brings in MRL. MRL is the old Northern Pacific line from Sandpoint and Jones Junction, near Billings. Darius Gaskins, who was BN’s CEO at the time, insists the MRL deal was necessary. BN didn’t need two parallel mains at the time and due to high labor costs and union-management animosity the decision was made to favor the GN route and lease the NP to Montana Rail Link. “

Since then, while MRL has added capacity, it has not done so at the same pace as BNSF. BNSF could more than double the traffic carried on its route from Fargo to Jones Junction – if not for Jones Junction-Sandpoint capacity constraints on MRL.

There aren’t physical barriers to adding capacity on Montana Rail Link, it's that the lease wording gives the proudly independent regional little incentive to lay new track or hire more train crews to support BNSF volume growth and seasonal traffic surges.

Twenty five years ago BNSF CEO Rob Krebs sought to undo the lease but MRL owner The Washington Companies would not budge. Since then BNSF has taken a carrot-and-stick approach. At times it offered MRL more volume in exchange for capacity expansion projects. At other times BNSF diverted traffic off MRL to the Hi Line. But neither approach, or good faith efforts, could get BNSF and MRL on the same page.

Before the pandemic hit, a traffic surge tapped out capacity on the Hi Line. MRL couldn’t serve as a relief valve because it didn’t have enough crews or sidings. Traffic backed up on BNSF, with congestion raising costs and taking a toll on service. BNSF can’t take full advantage of the millions spent on capacity projects unless the MRL constraint is removed.

So it makes sense for BNSF to take MRL back and they'll likely sink a bunch of money overhauling it and getting the capacity up to balance traffic flow and get freight moving. It will also give BNSF a fallback in the event of traffic disruption from bridge or tunnel failure or weather events.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/22/22 7:02 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

Those are all amazing C&NW pics. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/22/22 7:20 a.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

It's ironic that the C&NW, always portrayed as a poverty case, still outlasted so many other Class Is. And the C&NW still lives on, with the one GE AC4400W that continues to evade the UP paint shop 27 years later.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/22/22 8:26 a.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/22/22 8:28 a.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/22/22 8:31 a.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/22/22 8:50 a.m.

Strasburg Railroad has announced In-Cab Experiences for one day each on #89, #90, and #475. I'd really like to take the throttle on #89, since it's the only Strasburg engine I haven't seen operate, but with the house purchase going on right now, now isn't a great time to drop $450. Maybe next year.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/22/22 3:37 p.m.

I also believe Strasburg intends to have #31 back up and running this year, which is the first time in over a decade. It has been a back burner, rainy day project for years, but 2022 is the 60th anniversary of it's arrival at Strasburg, which was when steam returned to the Strasburg Rail Road. During the fall they began working on it in earnest.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/22/22 5:12 p.m.

Reading & Northern just announced that Reading #2102 will be pulling Iron Horse Ramble excursions from Reading to Jim Thorpe this year on May 28, July 2, August 13 and September 3. That may be easier to swing financially, especially if I chase it instead of riding.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/22/22 9:11 p.m.
NickD said:

Apparently the NYS&W GP40 assigned to the local Utica Division, #3040, is getting temperamental in her old age. Last winter it was down and out for some mechanical ailment for about a week, resulting in the NYS&W borrowing an Alco C425 from Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern while repairs were made. Then last week, the #3040 spent a couple nights tied down in New Hartford after some sort of electrical issue stranded it. It was fixed and seemingly back to normal, only to suffer another mechanical failure while out and about today. I know that the Suzie-Q shipped #3618, an SD45 that still retains it's V20 engine, up to Utica for some extra horsepower on trips to Sangerfield this spring, but I believe it only was used once or twice. I did see it still in the NYS&W yard at Utica, but someone said that some of the industrial track in Utica is restricted to 4-axle power. I'm going to guess that the switch into F.X. Matt Brewing is probably one of those. An SD45 isn't like an SD39-2, where it's a small light machine. An SD45 is a big, heavy bruiser. And the #3040 is the only 4-axle unit left on NYS&W's roster these days, after the short-lived GP40 #3042 was retired in 2014.

Spotted in Cortland, CSX is sending up an ex-Clinchfield GP38-2 to relieve NYS&W #3040

Recon1342
Recon1342 Dork
1/22/22 11:24 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

That'll be nice. GP38-2s seem to be pretty popular as local freight luggers.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/23/22 9:04 a.m.

In reply to Recon1342 :

The SD40-2 is the gold standard of Class I mainline units, but the GP38-2 seems to be the darling of shortlines. It's odd that the GP39-2 never really took off, since it offered 250hp more than the -38s but with four less cylinders (turbocharged V12 versus supercharged V16), making it lighter and thriftier on fuel.

The NYS&W guys might miss the extra 1000hp of the #3040 if they have to take a trip to Sangerfield, since there is the nearly 2 percent grade of Paris Hill. Of course, SD45 #3618 is still onsite, so they might just use the GP38-2 for switching on the Utica Industrial Track and use #3618 for trips to Sangerfield

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/23/22 10:57 a.m.

At Utica aboard Adirondack Railroad's ex-UP City Of Los Angeles dome car for their Cabin Fever Limited trip to Remsen and back. Three cars, a smooth side passenger car, a diner, and the dome, with MLW RS-18u #1835 running LHF on the trip up.

Also the first view I've gotten of their new M420W, #3753.

Also, no photo, but an Amtrak Empire Service train stopped to allow passengers on, and the Utica police showed up, three officers went aboard, and they came back off with a girl in handcuffs. That was different to see.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
1/23/22 6:29 p.m.

#3573 through the dome window.

#1835 smoking it up as we cross the Utica Marsh

Climbing Remsen Hill

An old NYC promotional poster. Utica was a terminus for the St. Lawrence Subdivision and the Adirondack Division, plus a station on the Mohawk Division.

 

After returning to Utica

Inside Utica Union Station. In addition to serving three divisions of the NYC, it was also a station for the DL&W and the NYO&W. Utica was once on track to be the 5th largest city in the US, and also had a trolley system, the West Shore Railroad and the New York State Railways 3rd-rail electric interurban line from Utica to Syracuse. 

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