Rails & Trails Pages

Saturday, August 8, 2009

St. Croix Speeder

I was invited to take a speeder run on the St. Croix Valley Railroad by employee Tavis Anderson.  He invited some Minnesota speeder friends and I took friend Mike Bearden with me for the August 8th run.  We set on at Rush City, Minnesota and waited out a thunderstorm before heading north to Pine City.  5 motorcars in today's run.  Pictures are greatly downsized for quicker loading.



Mike had never been on a speeder run and certainly never run one.  So here he is "engineering."  How fast will this thing go????



The storm was moving out and the sun came out and it became quite hot but a nice day for the ride. Here is Don Schoeb of Mankato and his Tomah cab Milwaukee Road car, impressively restored.



Jay has a nicely painted CNW unit:



He has an air tank for his 3-chime horn:



And, he has marker lights!!  First I've ever seen on a speeder!!



He built a shorty "dumpy cart" for hauling gear, of course painted in CNW/Omaha colors:



We hadn't gone very far before lead car with Tavis and his dad had a problem.  A bolt had broken off and the engine wouldn't run.  This car, Jay's car, and mine are all have the old Fairmont engines with cranks where we have to adjust timing, carburetion, and spark to get them to run properly.



So this car got a push to Pine City by Ladd and Sharon:



The line from North Branch to Hinckley is part of the famed Skally Line, the mainline of the Northern Pacific Railroad from the Twin Cities to the Twin Ports.  The scenery is excellent along here.  Here we cross Highway 30.





The year is 1965 and you are running NP train #103 with an almost brand new A-B-A set of F7s.  You throttle up to notch 6 as you pull your 94 car train north.  You are running on an Automatic Block System, probably the first in Minnesota and maybe the country.  Everything's great and you are getting paid for this job!!!





About to enter the S-curve just south of Pine City.  Rail Works has been working here replacing ties, some rail, and grinding rail.  We ride SMOOTHLY as some of our rail is welded rail but even the jointed sections are well-maintained.





Entering Pine City.





Even though the track continues to Hinckley, we must stop at Pine City as there is a severe bridge problem.  The railroad is presently embargoed but Tavis got us permission to ride as far north as Pine City.



Last May the train crew was bringing a unit train of wheat to the Rush City Mill when a man in Pine City flagged the train.  He asked the crew if they wanted to go swimming.  What did he mean???  He showed them--(picture from the Internet):



Ice had broken away the exterior masonry and revealed all the wood structure below as rotted out!!!  Here's a view from above through the ties:



No trains have run since May and the mill is shut down.  Plans are for this bridge to be "fixed" starting in late August, to be completed by the end of October.  To do that, the construction company will lift the steel bridge, build new piers 12 feet to the south of the existing ones, slide the bridge 12 feet down onto the new piers, and add to the trestle on the other end.  So, we turn the cars and head back to Rush City.



Other speeders besides mine are known as "Mosquito Killers!!"





At Rush City there are 13 cars that are "land-locked."  The engines are gone.  They will be getting the Geep back in a Northern Pacific inspired new paint scheme.





An empty yard.





Tavis offers to let us ride south to North Branch.  But no trains have run here for a long time so he will hi-rail ahead of us to make sure the track is clear.



Leaving Rush City:





Passing through Harris.





We arrive in North Branch.




We turn our cars in North Branch and hustle back to Rush City.  Storms are in the forecast again.  Time to load the speeders and head home.  But here is one of the many Griswold signals on the line.



Thanks to Tavis Anderson and the St. Croix Valley Railroad for a great day of "speedering!!"

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