Apr 27, 2020
I can see the original depot portion. Sure has that GN roof pitch.
Searched around Coulee yesterday to no avail for their depot. Did a bit of sleuthing on http://www.greatnorthernempire.net/GNEDepotsNorthDakota1.htm and found Coulee's was moved to Stanley, and Aurelia's to Donnybrook. It is now a gas station, and the structure vaguely looked like a depot, minus bay window, and it's right on US-52. I figured it might be ex-Soo, but it's ex-GN. Passed it yesterday and didn't know it was GN! Next trip out there, I'll try to bag a shot.
I have been itching to get south of Niobe some more and get more shots of that more remote section, and I did!
Welcome to Hartland, ND. The elevator is derelict and no longer rail served (or functioning for that matter):
Sad to watch the prairie skyscrapers disappear. Every year, fewer and fewer remaining. They are indicators of individual communities, being lost forever.
I then set off for Aurelia, and a shot I had only ever seen in poor light or blue hour.
"Brown Season at Aurelia"
The Northgate Local plies the rails of the Crosby and Niobe Subs on its trek to the international border at Northgate, its namesake. At Aurelia, ND, the branch soars over a coulee on a fill and wooden trestle over a creek.
I tried like heck to get ahead of the Local as it (seemingly) sprinted (at 25MPH) north, but failed to get to the underpass I had chosen next, as I had two crossings to traverse so I had to pass.
The tree and the trestle totally make this pic!
Niobe Grain is officially closed for good now (used for car storage), but on a better day, the Northgate Local drifts by to set out some cars.
Nice photo. There are the colorful engines and rolling stock against a gray sky, gray buildings and mostly gray ground.
That makes a great composition all by itself. No special effects needed!
I took a pile of photos at Niobe that day.
Check out the wheel loader in front of the elevator--it sports railcar moving couplers.
I can see the coupler is movable. Does it also have rail capability? Or just rubber tired?
I never took detailed photos of it, and even blowing up the original RAW files is inconclusive. I think it's just rubber tired.
More than likely it's just rubber-tired. With the size of those tires, climbing over a rail is even less than going over a speed bump.
And the movable coupler means it can run with one side between the tracks and the other on the outside. If it were a hi-railer type of vehicle it probably wouldn't need the movable coupler because it would always be centered.
But it would be cool to model!
"Clutch at Aurelia"
I always store my camera with a specific set of settings, regardless of how I last used it. 1/1000 sec shutter speed, shutter priority, ISO auto. It has saved my bacon a few times after learning how storing my camera with the last used settings is not always conducive to being ready for an impromptu shot.
I had just gotten home from work, and received a text from a friend about the Northgate Local having a GP60M in consist. It was heading south, the light west of the town was good, clouds not much of a problem, and golden hour was approaching. With not much time to think, I changed, grabbed my camera bag, told my wife where I was going, and headed west. The route was 41 miles, and 45 mins to reach my preferred spot. The train was about an hour or so from the end of the branch at that point, so I knew I had to boogie if I was going to make it. Most of the route is highway, once I got out of Minot. The highway is frequently patrolled, so putting the pedal to the metal was not necessarily wise. The route parallels the CP Portal Sub for most of the trip until the last 5-6 miles, and I passed on a couple of crummy CP trains with filthy GE power. I had a much more desirable shot in mind.
As I reached Carpio (roughly 13 mins out), I contacted my friend, asking how far out from Coulee it was, and the Local was just passing Coulee. 5 rail miles for the train at 25 MPH, I knew this one was going to be CLOSE. Like that scene from Hunt for Red October when the sonar operator takes his headset off as the Russian skipper makes a sketchy evasive maneuver to miss an armed torpedo. Close!
As I bailed off US Highway 52 north of Donnybrook, ND (of course, the country sheriff had a speed trap in 30 MPH Donnybrook), the county road was patchy snow and ice. Crap! As the road climbed out of the valley to the prairie, the road levels off, dead straight, paved for a bit and ends in a dirt road. I boogie down the paved road, a hard right turn onto a dirt road is dead ahead. In a move that a dirt track racer would appreciate, I swung my 3-ton railfan mobile onto the dirt road, and while snowy and patchy ice made traction a struggle, I looked northwest and saw the headlight bearing down on my chosen shot. Craaaap!!! I squeezed the skinny pedal to the carpet, made it over the crossing, eyed my side of the road parking spot, stood on the binders, put the truck in park and egressed the cab while the truck was still skidding to a halt. As I exited the truck, I grabbed the camera, and while running across the snow flicked off the lens cap, turned the power on, composed and waited the whole five seconds for the train to be in the optimum position. Five. Seconds. To. Spare. If that's not clutch, I donno what is. The sun was golden and low, and gave me a solid result for such a frenzied grab.
(photo integrity: I photoshopped out some distracting wires)
Aurelia's depot moved to Donnybrook, and became a gas station. Imagine that: gas depot!
A few takes on this same train just east of the trestle and between Aurelia and Hartland, ND.
Such a classy paint scheme on BNSF's secondary locomotives, should be the standard for the fleet. Not too fond of all the pinstriping on newer locos.
I like that scheme too. Simple, and colorful.
And where else can you see a GP30 and a GP60 in the same lashup!
Further north of Hartland at Coulee, ND is a familiar bridge, and in some of my shots one can see a little knoll to the east of the tracks. Here's the view from that little bit of elevation:
If you studied the history of the St Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba (The Manitoba; a predecessor of GN), you would note the Gassman Coulee Trestle we know today is the second that crossed the namesake coulee.
Gassman Coulee was so-named for Henry Gassman, who operated a coal mine in this valley before the railroad reached Minot. Not long after the track first reached Minot, the Manitoba launched a project to build a very large wooden trestle on the floor of Gassman Coulee, and it was completed on May 1, 1887. The trestle was impressive, consuming 1,303,998 board feet of timber, spanning 1,609 feet in length and was 102 feet tall. Not long after the trestle’s tenth year in service, a steel replacement was planned, and construction of the new bridge proceeded next to the wooden version. Severe weather on August 14, 1898 felled 750 feet of the wood trestle, hastening the steel bridge’s completion. After the trestle was damaged, a shoofly was hastily built around the site and back to the original mainline using steep grades requiring two helper engines to traverse. Part of this temporary alignment can be spied along the hillside on the northwest end of the bridge. The new steel trestle was completed by January 1899, revising its length to 1,792 feet and its height to 117 feet. With the advent of heavier steam locomotives, such as the mighty GN R-2 class 2-8-8-2s, Gassman Coulee Trestle was reinforced in 1923-24 with multiple repairs and enhancements added in the 1940s and 50s. It continues to support BNSF’s transcontinental traffic as part of the Glasgow Subdivision.
If you look at this photo, you can see the shoofly grade on the north side of the coulee.
From high on the hill, looking under and behind the trestle, you can see this grade as well:
The shoofly exited the mainline where the large tank farm is today, and rejoined the mainline where the development is on County Rd 12 West.
The Railroad Museum of Minot was a great help in locating the old shoofly grade, traced in this Google maps picture: