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Bozeman to Sandpoint

by Chris Guenzler

The Montana Daylight 8/23/2003

Following another continental breakfast then watching ESPN Sports Center, we went down and boarded the buses for the train. It was still very wet out and very overcast but with less smoke. Today we boarded the 4100, the ex SP car. We departed at 8:07 AM, went by the Montana Rail Link engine facility then by the south side of their Missoula yard. They announced that we would be running over Evaro Hill this morning. We headed north out to De Smet leaving the line through St Regis and started the 2.0 percent grade up Evaro Hill. The train twisted and turned gaining elevation on this steady climb with our two SD-19-1's working hard, chugging and smoking it up. Up into the clouds and smoke we traveled as I watched the train take every curve from the vestibule. It was an incredible climb. We crossed the line's highlight, the 797 foot Marent Trestle which took us 226 feet over Marent Gulch. The trestle is the third highest in North America.

The train entered the forest as the canyon narrowed through a passage in the mountains which blocked the clouds and smoke below making for an interesting scene. As we crested Evaro hill at 3,908 feet, the sun returned for the first time since Mullen Pass yesterday.

For more Evaro Hill Photos

The Montana Daylight passed through Arlee crossed the beautiful Jacko River then traveled through the community of Ravalli. The Jacko River was bridged again further west. North of the railroad is the southern boundary of the National Bison Range from MP31 to MP 37. The train reached Dixon prior to our route being joined by the Flathead River. The Flathead River drains the western slope of Glacier National Park and the Flathead National Forest then enters Flathead Lake before exiting that lake to flow to here. We followed the Flathead River west to Paradise. We stopped to inspect the train and we spotted three bears across the river climbing the steep slope. Further west the Mission Mountain Range came into view as the train snaked through some curves above the Flathead River before Perma.

Our train crossed the Flathead River at MP 55.2 on a four span through pin connected truss bridge built in 1896. It was refurbished in 1945 and has a total length of 720 feet. Down the rails at MP 62.5, we slowed for the stone walls and ovens that the Chinese had built when constructing the railroad back in the early 1880's.

A few minutes later we were held short of Paradise where the line we left at De Smet returned to our route as the Loram Ballast Cleaning equipment headed towards St Regis on that line.

For more Evaro to Paradise Photos.

Once we got a green signal, we left Paradise with the small rail yard and lunch was served. Today it was something I could eat, pork and oven roasted potatoes with a roll and cake. Salad was also provided. All in all it was a tasty meal. We traveled through Plains and Weeksville as the Clark Fork River Valley expanded with the occasional protrusion of rock narrowing it and bringing the tracks back along the river.

The train went through Eddy and at MP 26.2 the train crossed the Thompson River entering from the north. Woodline has several local industries and at Pipeline we went by the Conoco/Yellowstone Pipeline Terminal. Our train next traveled through the town of Thompson Falls which is the location of the Thompson Falls Dam with a hydro generating station. The Clark Fork River was crossed for the first time today at MP 36.7 before running through the forest to Childs and Trout Creek with just a few views of the river in this section of our journey. We came to the upper reaches of the Noxon Reservoir which required a 16.8 mile line change from MP56.8 to MP 73.6 in 1957. We crossed the Clark Fork River again at MP57.2 on a combination deck plate girder and through truss bridge with a length of 712 feet. The water depth below the rails here is 190 feet.

The Montana Daylight traveled through Tucson, crossed McKay Creek at MP 62.4 and Rock Creek at MP 67.2. I did make out the Noxon Rapids Dam and Power Plant near MP 66 through the trees. To our north is the Cabinet Mountains while on our south are the Bitterroot Mountains whose summits make up the Montana/Idaho border. We ran along the Cabinet Gorge Reservoir to MP 73 but the trees of the forest blocked off the view most of the way. At Heron a line relocation caused the siding to be separated from the mainline by a hundred feet to the north. The train then left Montana and entered Idaho. We passed the back side of the Cabinet Gorge Dam and Power Plant built in 1952 and stands 208 feet high at MP 73.

We entered the Cabinet Tunnel at MP 85.9, a 365 foot bore built in 1882, our last tunnel on our westward trek. The train ran into the siding at Colby and sat for the empty baretable train we passed back in Missoula this morning. They must have needed those empty piggyback flats somewhere in a hurry! Once on the move again, we crossed the Clark Fork River on a 1,174 foot deck plate girder completed in 1955 as part of a line relocation. The old railroad bridge is now a highway bridge off to the south slated for replacement. The train went through the town of Clark Fork before crossing Lightning Creek. West of here the train started to follow Lake Pend Oreille {pronounced pond-or-ay}.

Once Highway 202 crossed over us, we started our shoreline running. We traveled through the town of Hope with the houseboat marina before crossing Trestle Creek at MP 106.5. The Montana Daylight then crossed the final highlight of our trip west, the causeway across the beautiful Lake Pend Oreille. The crossing really was spectacular and lived up to everything I had ever heard about it. Absolutely fantastic is how I would sum it all up.

The train then ran inland with only a few glimpses of Lake Pend Oreille. We ran to Kootenai siding which we entered passing a car used for parts and another one being restored. We backed into the storage track completing our westward rail journey on the Montana Daylight.

Paradise to Sandpoint Photos

The onboard service in Discovery, my mother said was up to the standards of Virgin Airlines, provided by Casey, Laura and Hunter our car attendants, Ian our bartender, Dave Taylor our most wonderful PA Announcer and Mike Phillips, our train manager. The entire train crew who served us did so with always smiling faces and were always at the ready to serve all the passengers. The Montana Daylight is a first class operation in all ways and I could not wait for our next two days heading east to start. Daniel's group was first to be unloaded and we were taken to the La Quinta Inn in Sandpoint while the majority of the bus stayed on to go to Spokane. There would be eight of us making the complete round trip back to Livingston.

Sandpoint 8/23/2003

We were given our keys and went to our room. I walked down to First Avenue to Image Maker Photo and Video for four more rolls of slide film. Next I went to Super Food to get more film for my mother. My mother and I then walked a block to the Sandpoint Cinema to see Jackie Chan in "The Medallion". The movie was excellent and it was the first time Jackie used wires in some of his fight scenes and did an open mouth western kiss. Bill our narrator suggested while I was on the train a few locations along Sand Creek that we could have dinner at. After the movie, we went to the Sand Creek Grill for dinner. We sat outside on the deckoverlooking Sand Creek with the marina and a BNSF Bridge over the opening to the harbor. This BNSF line is what is called the Funnel as it carries all the BNSF and MRL traffic for Sandpoint Jct and Spokane seeing up to 60 trains a day. While we were eating four freights went across the bridge.

After dinner, we walked over to Bridge Street and found the Amtrak Station in the former Northern Pacific Sandpoint Depot. We walked back to the hotel through the Clear Creek Store. Back in the hotel room, I caught up the story while watching "Triple X" before calling it a night.

8/24/2003 Up early, I walked down to Lake Pend Oreille and on the way there caught a BNSF freight going by the depot. I made my way to the lake to collect some sand for Mrs Angle, the best science teacher I know to add to her collection. I walked out to the southeast breakwater and heard an eastbound freight coming. There is a long bridge over another arm of the lake that the BNSF uses to get into town. The freight stopped in the siding just before the bridge and waited for twenty five minutes but it never moved. Here was the scene for the picture I wanted.

Renting a boat would be a good idea on a future trip. I went back to the hotel and when we went to Connies for breakfast, I saw a westbound BNSF freight that my eastbound across the lake had been waiting for. After breakfast, I enjoyed a Coca-Cola while we waited for the bus departure to start our eastbound trip on the Montana Daylight.

For more pictures taken in Sandpoint

Part 3 The Eastbound Trip