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Steam & Excursion > High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)

Date: 11/21/20 08:35
High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: jkh2cpu

We're back in 2009 and I'm chasing westbound SP 4449 about an hour after Havre, MT. We're at milepost 299.77.

1. US Unknown MT 2009-10-17 10:55 1736 SP 4449 He's blasting by without inhibition, and the sky has a curious look to it.

2. US Unknown MT 2009-10-17 10:55 1738 SP 4449 The whole train from the rear.

3. US Unknown MT 2009-10-17 10:56 1739 BNSF 708 This AT&SF lead freight finally gets under way, and way to the left down the track is another BNSF freight waiting for the passage of SP 4449.

Date: 11/21/20 09:19
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: refarkas

Excellent set.

Date: 11/21/20 12:57
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: wcamp1472

In the spring of 1961, I was assigned to the 801st ( eight-oh-worst) Radar Squadron,
Malmstrom AFB, Great Falls, Montana.  Spent a wonderful 3 years there.
No wonder they called it BIG SKY country.

I had just graduated from USAF Electronics Tech school, Biloxi, MS, after 14-months of classroom lessons---
on early days of digital radar displays and centralized IBM target management technology---
part of NORAD.

 ( in case of an airborne attack on the U.S., the early rardar systems could give like 4 or 5
hours advance  warning of an incoming aircraft attack [ over the Nort Pole].
ICBMs can get here in under 15 minutes.."radar detection" became instantly obsolete ....
ergo, the Cuban Missile crisis...but,  also Cuba is 90" away...)

To get to my Post, I opted for a train ride ( on Uncle Sam's bill), Biloxi to Chicago via L&N, then
CBQ & GN to Havre, Mt.  Only ticket space available was a seat in the dome!  
We departed Chicago in the mid-afternoon, April, 1961, via CB&Q ---we  had 2 trains, in one:
the Twin Cities Zephyr, coupled ahead of the ' Builder'!
That was a FANTASTIC trip.

For dinner, that first evening,I walked forward to the CB&Q diner... eating a wonderful dinner,
riding along  watching the sunset on the Mississippi River..
I wanted to sample the Q's dinner in the diner

Arriving at the Twin Cities around midnight, we switched out our  ' Builder', and departed 
for the West, ---- bound for Havre, MT, where I was to take a bus down to Great Falls.

I rode the dome, the whole way, except for great meals in the diner and snacks in
the western-themed GN lounge car.   We had several domes, so I wandered and varied
my time in each of the domes.

What impressed me the most was the vast expanse of the Great Plains of America,
How vast and flat and how straight we went.  I don't remember a single, decent, curve after
we'd left the Twin Cities!   It was straight and boring  probably 1200 -1400 miles.... but I drank-in
every single mile...  I loved the slow drop of the semaphore blades, as they dropped to horizontal,
just as the first dome went zooming by, probably at better than 90-per... ( the first dome was probably 
7 to 8 cars deep..)

Fast-forward to 1974, when Ross was seeking sponsors for the AFT, and with 'W', as CMO of
the High Iron Co., I remembered Ross's earlier transcontinental train trip, The Golden Spike Centennial,
Limited and stopping every 100 miles to shake down the grates --- account of the ash build-up in
the firebed,  had choked off air flow to the fire.  

I remembered the seemingly endless miles of GN trackage, the three days travel time across the plains &
prairies, and deeply feared the prospect of our poor AFT engine-crew fighting coal and ashes all along
that way..... stopping every 100 miles..

That's when I started to look for an oil burner!
And I found one in Portland!

Luckily, my friend and student, Doyle, lead the Team through the 4449 restoration and the AFT years,
he and the whole crew, had made my wildest, lifetime dream become a reality.

Its SOOO great to see these photos...of a dream of mine that had become come to LIFE!
I would have wanted to make that trip back to Portland, but son, Matt, and I DID manage to get
to the Twin Cities for those Fan trips along the Mighty Mississippi ....

It was the first I had actually met the Big Girl ( I'd fought for), and, later, Doyle invited me 'up' for a
cab ride, and I studied Hotwater's oil-firing techniques --- with a coal burner, ( & a small train) its much
more work! 

Great photos, thanks so much..

Wes Camp


Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 11/21/20 14:31 by wcamp1472.

Date: 11/21/20 13:01
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: Keystone1

Wes.......Thank you for your service.

Date: 11/21/20 13:26
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: oyw

Sweet series!

Date: 11/21/20 13:27
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: jkh2cpu

I'm glad these old shots made your day, Wes.


Date: 11/21/20 15:36
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: monaddave

jkh2cpu Wrote:
>>... about an hour after Havre, MT. We're at milepost 299.77<<

You got the "after Havre" (west) part right, but not MP 299.77. You are looking at the signal for Main 2 at MP 997.7. It's the funky way they designate multiple track signals up on BNSF's Hi Line Sub. In your photo #2 you can see signal 19977, for Main 1. Anyway, the town of Hingham, MT are those elevators in a distance.
Dave in Lake Co., MT

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/21/20 15:38 by monaddave.

Date: 11/21/20 15:50
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: asheldrake

GREAT pictures!!   Wes, your posting reminds me of my visit to the NORAD facility at Camp Adair (north of Corvallis, OR)  and their "computer" systems, one on standby, looking for ruskie missles coming over the pole....LOTS of vaccum tubes, MAJOR air conditioning required.....my AF three years in the early sixties was at Hickam....will never forget the Cuban missle crisis alert.  

I wonder what Portland's steam locomotive future would have been if you had lost the coal argument Wes.....

for those of you who don't get the Around the Enginehouse eblast monthly newsletter from ORHF, Wes is on my Portland's steam lomotive heroes list article.   Arlen

Date: 11/21/20 16:34
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: wcamp1472

Sadly, radar won’t pick up the Ruskie misslies...The ballistic trajectory takes them too high...
 I used to know travel-timing ...but it’s about 7 minutes powered rocket, til burn out...when fuel goes out,
missile/warheads enter ballistic trajectory, from outer space, with another 7 minutes down to earth.. 
Most modern missiles are equipped with MIRVs.Multiple, Independently-targeted, Re-entry Vehicles --- meaning 
that there are multiple warhead atomic weapons in each missile's nose cone.

One Missile, several cities.  
Multiple missiles, with multiple warheads to 
the same cities.

So, radar may be able to give fair warnings if airplanes, but not 
much help with missiles ..

Spy satellites can capture the launch of missiles, but intercepting them
is the challenge...and intercepting them soon-enough,  makes a big difference.
Messing with their navigational capabilities and changing the flight path,
is where the focus remains, anti-Missile-wise.

Between us, and Russia, in a Missile fight, we can wipe out all civilization,
20-times over.  

The SALT talks brought it down,  from what had been 50-times over...

Newton's 3 Laws of motion still RULE.... in locomotives and in missiles...


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/21/20 16:37 by wcamp1472.

Date: 11/21/20 20:36
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: wcamp1472

I'm not sure...

What would have been the condition of the axles, if Jack Holst
has not been so SURE?   How many years did he continue that patient
practice?   Who encouraged Jack?  I'm sure he got ridiculed for his efforts 

To me, the coincidences related to the restoration of 4449, have an almost
Spiritual quality.

Take any one of the key players out of the picture, and the chain is broken....
the restoration would never have gotten done

I'm still amazed how the wonderful city of Portland got fully behind the project in 1975.
And who can forget the powerful leadership that Doyle brought to the project.
His certainty was a powerful aspect of his leadership style.   With Joe at his side,
Doyle, knew how to get the job done, meet the deadlines and keep the team together...

He would have had a much more difficult job, if not for the City's support and
array of companies willing to provide all that he needed.

Thank you Arlen and all the staff and volunteers who keep the ORHF alive and throbbing.
Your efforts are astounding, encouraging and reflect kindly on Portland's civic pride.

Thank you so much.

Wes Camp

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/21/20 20:48 by wcamp1472.

Date: 11/22/20 07:52
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: dan

Amazing stories, efforts, of you folks to bring to life the most beautiful engine.

Date: 11/22/20 14:50
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: ProAmtrak

Cool pics and good stories, but the Cuban Missile Crisis, I'm never gonna forget my dad telling me and my brother watching JFK on live TV warn Russia to get those missile's out of Cuba, if not were going to war, he said he couldn't sleep that night and as an 8 year old at the time back in 62, I believe it!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/01/20 19:02 by ProAmtrak.

Date: 11/25/20 15:25
Re: High Plains and not Drifting (Hint: SP 4449 in Montana)
Author: Cumbresfan

I had a similar experience in 2009 enroute to the Steam Festival in Michigan. I signed up first with the Pony Express, then when they dropped out, with the Silver Fleet to go to Minneapolis behind 4449. After Havre passengers were sparse and I sat up in the dome of the Silver Solarium, generally by myself, for mile after mile east from Havre across the plains of eastern Montana and North Dakota. Occasionally I was joined with one or two of the remaining passengers and also enjoyed the open vestibules as we passed through towns. Al and Bert were very gracious hosts and allowed me to ride with them to Chicago behind Amtrak's Empire Builder after the engine was cut off in Minneapolis. An experience very unlikely to be repeated in today's environment. My advice to young people is to take opportunities like this when they arise and not to wait for scheduled vacation time or retirement as they likely will not come again.

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