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CP 8763 GE ES44AC leads westbound manifest through Fairmount North Dakota 5/10/16


My first train photo in the United States after 12 years after setting out 04:00 Sunday morning for fights Auckland-Brisbane, Brisbane-Los Angeles. Los Angeles-Minneapolis on family holiday for father in law's 90th with some railfanning in the Mid-West & Colorado.

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The Evolution Series is so prevalent, it's amazing! Nice


More of the same over the border in Minnesota, with regionals and short lines adding a bit of variety.



CP 9771 AC44CW heading Autoracks & Intermodal just east of Tenney MI 5/11/2016

The CP (SOO) line across western Minnesota & North Dakota is un-signalled (Dark Territory) controlled by Track Warrant Control (TWC) a updated version of the classical American Train Order system (verbal instruction by radio from dispatcher to locomotive engineer). The line is currently being converted to CTC.



Early European explorers and settlers considered the prairie as a treeless wilderness rather than the fertile land that supported the Souix and later the wheat lands of the United States and Canada



A few miles east near Campbell BNSF 7529 ES44DC awaits a clearance with an East Bound way freight

The train consist is mainly made up of grain cars and tank cars from the Red River Valley & Western (RRVW) a regional that operates over 500 miles of ex-Burlington Northern branch lines out of Beckenridge MI.



RRVWR CF7road slugs at Beckenridge. The CF7s were re-builds of streamlined F units into road switchers by the ATSF

The RRVWR road fleet was out for the day leaving the CF7s outside the Beckenridge.



Surprise UP 5452 AC45CCTE on the CP line leading an eastbound grain train across the BNSF diamond at Aberdeen Line Junction MI

I narrowly missed a jackpot with two trains approaching the diamond as an eastbound BNSF train just cleared the junction as I arrived. A CP MOW crew were carrying out maintenance work on the diamond between trains

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South of Aberdeen Line Junction the BNSF line a consist of locomotives await as a grain train is loaded



Straight out of the box BNSF 4248 introduced Feb 2016



NRX (ex BNSF) 7211 SD40-2 switches cars during loading at the elevator. The yellow structure is part of the fall restraint system for working on top of the hopper cars


Elevator storage tracks laden grain cars on left empties on right, loading shovel used to move cars between storage roads and elevator, while loco positions cars for loading at elevator


The train has to be divided into sections and switching is complicated by grade crossings at either end of the elevator and across the storage tracks.



A sign of changing times oil tank cars stored out of use on a short line

Storing out of use cars can be a useful source of income for shortlines and regionals

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I am surprised you were allowed to get so close to the action knowing how the US is with litigation but keep them coming and enjoy your trip. Where you are looks like Lincolnshire on a vast scale!


The absence of lineside fencing and grade crossings makes it fairly easy to get close to the action without actually trespassing. Railroad workers are reasonably tolerant towards rail fans, the concern is primarily security and delay to traffic as a trespasser would be on a hiding to nothing tying sue a railroad.



Canadian Pacific snow plow at Hankinson


Today I went in search of EMD SD45 diesel locomotives on the Dakota Missouri Valley & Western (DMVWR) a regional that operates over 360 miles of former SOO Line trackage and connects with the CP main line at Hankinson ND.


The DMVWR started out with a motley collection of leased EMD GP jeeps and more recently graduated to using 6 axle power including a trio of ex Winsconsin Central SD45s to handle heavy grain trains over an undulating road.



DMVWR 3132&3149ex CN SD40-3 & 7505&7510 SD45 at Oakes ND

No trains were scheduled out of Oakes today but the crew fired up 7505 & 7510 to switch cars from a soy bean plant to interchange with the RRVWR




Oakes is an important originating point for grain train operation for both the RRVWR & DMVWR and exchange point between the two railroads.



Switching complete back in the barn until Monday morning's trip to Hankinson (50 miles)



RRVWR Hankinson turn at Fairmount

The RRVWR operates on trackage rights westwards over the CP from Aberdeen Line Junction serving industries at Fairmount & Hankinson. The RRVWR switches the flour mill in the background which receives grain and dispatches flour. Tank cars likely to be from industries in Hankinson


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The DMVWR SD45s have their original 20 cylinder power units with their distinctive singing sound, the DMVWR locos were a must as I had missed seeing the MRL locos in 2004.


A bit more short line variety with the Otter Tail Railroad at Fergus Falls Minesota which serves a number of grain elevators and a coal fired power station using 4 axle EMD power.



OTVR 1483 ex NKP GP9 introduced 1959 at Fergus Falls


OTVR4016 ex NW GP40

The Otter Tail Valley is owned and operated by Gensesee and Wyoming that owns operates freight railways in Australia, North America and Europe including Freightliner in the UK.



OTVR Yard Fergus Falls

Fergus Falls would make an interesting switching layout with two small yards and a number of rail served industries including grain elevators and feed mills. Fergus Falls was once served by the Great Northern and Northern Pacific and although both lines were closed to through traffic, most of the rail infrastructure in the city is intact including two depots and yards and rail served industries including grain elevators and feed mills.


RRVWR 2194 GP38-2 tied up at Beckenridge MI

The RRVW has an interesting loco fleet including some Caterpillar powered GP20-C rebuilds of CBQRR GP20 locos that included parts from traded in FT units dating from the early 1940s.

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DMVWR 7505 & 7510 picked up 105 grain cars off the CP Hankinson interchange Mon morning. The CP had split the train into approximately 4 sections to avoid blocking grade crossings. The locos arrived light from Oakes, the crew re-combined the train completed the brake test and were away in about 15 minutes.


The ex-SOO line to Oakes and the ND State capital has more of a roller coaster gradient profile compared to the main line from ST Paul to the Canadian border at Portal the 7000hp of a pair of SD45s comes in useful.



7505 & 7507 West of Hankinson




Geneseo Junction

Geneseo is the Junction for a former BN branch to Aberdeen South Dakota that sees occasional use by DMVWR

Although the line to Oakes and Bismark is operated as a short line by the DMVWR Canadian Pacific retain ownership of the track and roadbed

The SOO Line & Great Northern once operated approx 40 miles of parallel trackage between Aberdeen Line MI & Geneseo ND. The RRVWR enjoys running rights over the Canadian Pacific as a result of a 1950s agreement allowing the GNR to abandon its line between the two places.



Look no FRED!

Just a red flag no flashing end of train telemetry device or FRED.


Rather than following the train to Oakes, I headed across the border into South Dakota to check out the Sunflour Railroad a shortline that operated a portion of a CP branch line the Fairmount & Veblen. I had stumbled across the Sunflouer in 2004 when the line appeared to have ceased regular operation, although there was a rumour that the owner would fly up specially from Texas to fire up and drive the lines SW1 to move traffic for a customer.



New Effington Oil tank cars at a grain elevator?


The Sunflours main business appears to be storing out of service oil tank cars as a result of the cut back in US oil production.


Victor SD 2016 good use for hopper cars that keep derailing

The elevators/storage hoppers have become more decrepit, the SW1 no longer stored in the open surrounded by sunflours. The railroad have constructed a workshop and added some spur tracks to for mow equipment clear of the running line and siding south of the elevator complex.



Do it yourself elevator


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Friday Way Freights very few through freights around today watched a CP & RRVWR way freights on the SOO Line.



East bound CP way freight on the Main Line awaiting departure from Hankinson

Through freights appear to set out and pick up at the small yard in Hankinson with a local serving local industries and yards.


Making up the train was time consuming as each move involved blocking a grade crossing.



Westbound RRVWR way freight between Oswald and Hankinson


Eastbound CP way freight takes the Rosholt line at Veblen Junction

This move caught me by surprise I had expected to see the two trains crossing at Oswald was delayed by roadworks and did not realise that an Eastbound could run direct to the Rosholt line without reversing. The Rosholt line serves a large elevator complex and an ethanol plant hence the mixture of hopper and tank cars.



The return trip from Rosholt approaching ND HW 11

These Eco series locos appear to have replaced ex Milwaukee bandit GP 38-2 & CP SD40-2 on the local trains.



RRVWR GP20-C 4400 preparing to switch Fairmount flour mill

The loco consist has uncoupled from their train in order to make a pick up of empty grain and laden flour cars from the mill while the switch crew confer. There is a change in plan a cut of open hopper cars from the Fairmount Elevator track is added to the train before switching the mill.






Edited by Mayner
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Final photos in ND on Friday before heading west to Colorado



CP 5038 on rail train Fairmount



Rail threading machine



Wide vision caboose on rail train



Late evening RRVWR local completing switching



RRVWR local leaving town

Local ha added a cut of open hopper cars from the elevator track to its train in addition to empty grain and loaded flour hoppers from the mill.

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