We do not feature Marias Pass in this edition as it has been the focus of several programs from various producers. Instead, we concentrate on areas not normally covered in such detail, featuring spectacular scenery from the undulating high plains to mountain passes and riverside running in the north-western region of the state. Freight operations by BNSF and by Montana Rail Link feature, interspersed with Amtrak’s “Empire Builder” passenger services.
The program begins from the overlook on the southern shores of Lake Pend Oreille, near the western limit of the Montana Rail Link at Sandpoint, Idaho. From there we follow the MRL through Eddy, Plains and Knowles. Calling at Avon, an MRL manifest is followed to Garrison where four BNSF GP’s are switching prior to departure.
Heavy stack and coal trains are shown winding their way through Mullan Pass, west of Helena, including a loaded unit coal with five MRL SD70ACe mid-train helpers storming the grade near the beginning of the climb through the pass. A brief scene follows with the range of motive power on view outside Montana Rail Link Mechanical in Livingston.
Heading north via Power, northwest of Great Falls, freight passenger and switching operations in the region of Shelby are featured, including locations at Kevin, Dunkirk, Chester and Joplin on the undulating high plains. West from there, trains are viewed crossing the attractive steel girder bridge spanning the creek at Cut Bank, before focusing on locations between there and Summit, at the Continental Divide, in Glacier National Park. These include Bison, Two Medicine Bridge near East Glacier Park, crossing the plains between Blackfoot and Meriwether and by the Great Northern Railway monument to ‘Camp Disappointment’.
Following a view at the portal of Tunnel 3.8, near Silvertip, by the Middle Fork Flathead River, the remainder of the program concentrates on riverside running in the extreme northwest of the state, near the Idaho border, west of Libby. Here, the railroad follows the valley cut by the Kootenai River, with beautiful scenes near Rankin, Kootenai Falls, and just west of Troy.
The varied motive power on display includes MRL SD70ACe, GP9, GP35, SD45-2 and SD40-2XR locomotives, from BNSF ES44DC/AC variants, SD75M, SD40-2, GP38 variants, and of course, the ubiquitous Dash-9. Amtrak ‘Empire Builder’ services are powered by P42DC Genesis locos. Visitors to the region included a CSX Transportation SD70MAC and a former British Columbia C40-8M operated by Canadian National.