Our train was a special 2-car train pulled GP30 #700. GP30s are my favorite engine and this was is especially special as I got to run this unit a few years ago, before it got repainted.
There were actually 3 different trains running behind each other that day. First train out was the regular Lester River Tourist Train which runs a short distance north of Duluth to the Lester River and back. Second train was another tourist train pulled by Soo Line steam engine #2719, which I worked on when years ago doing such things as boiler washes (a very dirty job). Last out was our special train. Here is the 2719 train, picture taken by Fred Hoeser.
Gerry Welke is a retired Soo Line clerk and his good friend Stu Nelson is a retired Soo Line dispatcher. I didn't know he was going to be riding along but glad he was! Stu gave me LOTS of information and pictures for my Blueberry Line book. Stu on the left and Gerry on the right:
I rode most of the trip on the observation deck of the Northland car (more on that later). Going north we were coupled directly to the engine. At Two Harbors the engine switched to the other end and we had open viewing.
As we left Duluth we paralleled the walking/biking path which is very popular.
Lester River is a photogenic place to catch trains and this is the view from the train down to the river.
The Lester River train has taken the siding to let the other 2 trains pass by.
Crossing the "Unknown" River.
Reminiscent of by-gone days, the orders are handed up to the conductor. The orders detailed the operation when our two trains get to Two Harbors.
Late summer is very good for pretty flowers.
Crossing the French River.
I spent most of my time riding the back platform of the open-end Northland car. This car was built in 1916 and was the last Duluth, Minnesota and Northern business car. It hosted King Olaf of Norway and President Calvin Coolidge (and Arlyn Colby!!). It was used as James J. Hill's private car in the movie Iron Will. Picture by Fred Hoeser.
And how would you like this private compartment on your business trip???
The other car was Triple Combine W24, here crossing the Knife River. Picture by Fred Hoeser.
Here we cross the Knife River, train view.
The Knife River depot has fallen into disrepair!!
We had been running on track owned by St. Louis County. To enter Two Harbors, which is on Canadian National track, we need to get a Track Authority (Warrant). To save time getting two different authorities for the two trains, we couple together to make one track, necessitating only one authority.
We cross under a CN track to the yard.
The Two Harbors yard next to the ore dock.
We enter the Two Harbors yard. In this pic, note the old style ore cars, now carrying taconite.
And the new style taconite cars.
To get to the depot, we must make a back-up move. 2719 shoves our long train down towards the lake.
Entering the depot area. The DMIR engine will assist 2719 uphill out of the Two Harbors yard, then cut-off for the trip back to Duluth.
Here are the friends who invited me along on this trip. L to R: Dave Burke, Brad Sawyer, and Dave Stromeyer. Thanks a BILLION men!
Friend Fred Hoeser of Durand was in Duluth for 3 days riding this line, visiting the museum, and today taking pics of the trains.
And he chased us to get the great ground level pics I've included in this blog.
2719 has run-around the train and will now shove us back to the mainline, with an assist from the DMIR.
On the return trip, there is no engine on the back of our open-end obs. Enjoy a little northland scenery.
It is tradition that Gerry has the train stop at this Candy Store on the return trip for chocolate and ice cream. Here Fred Hoeser and Dave Burke cool off with ice cream.
As we get back to Duluth, we see the Lift Bridge sentinel, the symbol of Duluth.
King Olaf and President Calvin Coolidge had nothing on Stu Nelson and Arlyn Colby!
A great day, great friends, a great ride. What more could a guy ask for????