Classic Geep

Classic Geep

Just another from this spot, but more of a long telesmash to show this classic first generation geep still hard at work earning her keep.

Here’s another look at our lucky Labor Day run of Montana Rail Link train 840, the Helena Local. Their only job for the day was to deliver 23 cars to the Ash Grove Cement plant at Montana City, and as soon as that chore was complete they high balled light engine right back to Helena Yard.

Here they are near the end of MRL’s short 4.9 mile long 13th Sub Branchline shoving their train up the weed grown lead and across Montana Route 518 into the big plant that is the only reason for the survival of the branch here. Interestingly this is one of the only sections of MRL trackage that is not of Northern Pacific heritage. This line was once a part of the Great Northern Railway’s Great Falls to Butte route built by the Montana Central Railway in 1888. Merged into the GN in 1907 the line provided access to a the great mining town of Butte that was served by four class 1s all vying for lucrative traffic interchanged rom the Anaconda Copper Company’s Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railroad. Known as the 8th Sub of GN’s Butte Division in latter years it was cut back just two years after the formation of Burlington Northern in 1972 when the southern 30 miles of the line across the Continental Divide at 6352 ft Elk Park Pass was abandoned. 35 miles from Montana City to Basin hung on for another decade until it was cut back to its present length in 1982. The five mile stub was sold to the new MRL in 1987 though interestingly BN and BNSF retained the north end of the line from Helena Jct. to Great Falls which remains intact but out of service to this day.

I’ve always loved branch lines and most of the MRL’s are sadly now out of service having succumbed as a result of Montana’s flagging timber industry. But this short but scenic one hangs on and to make it even better is home to one of the coolest sets of motive power to be found anywhere. For the past few months, the assigned power has been MRL 109 and 355. Both are veteran ex Burlington Northern units, the former a GP9 originally blt. Feb. 1955 as Northern Pacific 210 and the latter an SD45 blt. Dec. 1971 as BN 6558. Long known for its preference for the 20 cylinder EMD brutes, the MRL rostered some 52 indivdual units of the model at varying times during the past 35 years (and over 80 if you include dash 2 and cowl variants) though today this one is the last of her breed in service on the property.

Countless articles have been written about the MRL over the past 35 years of its existence and if you care to learn more download this great set courtesy of Trains Magazine:

Unincorporated Montana City
Jefferson County, Montana
Monday September 5, 2022

Posted by Dave Blaze Rail Photography on 2022-10-17 10:48:50







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