Flathead River Canyon [October 2001]

The Middle Fork (of the) Flathead River forms the western portion of Marias Pass. The former Great Northern mainline winds alongside US Highway 2, making it easy to chase trains and photograph them in multiple locations.

We begin our journey along the Flathead at Columbia Falls, where the original mainline though Kalispell (now a branch line) meets the newer line through Whitefish. Sadly, the depot at Columbia Falls was recently torn down. At dawn, a westbound merchant freight passes the site of the former depot.
A short time later, the Empire Builder passes through on its way to Essex, and points eastward.
The depot at Belton, also known as West Glacier, was designed to mimic the peaks of the surrounding mountains. The Belton design was later applied to several other Great Northern depots, including Grand Rapids, Minnesota, where I grew up.
A westbound merchant freight passes the Belton depot. West Glacier is very quiet this time of year, as Glacier National Park lies dormant.
A westbound grain extra approaches Red Eagle. On a clear day, the Cloudcroft Peaks are visible in the distance, but the low heavy clouds signal that winter is approaching.
The grain extra passes under Highway 2, alongside the changing colors of autumn. The absence of red leaves is a good indication of how dry the summer of 2001 was in Montana.
The following day dawned cold and overcast, and the rain finally began to fall, sometimes as snow. Not a place for weather wimps.

A westbound merchant freight passes alongside Highway 2 near Paola. Note the second unit in the consist, an SD-38 belonging to the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway, another element in my early railfanning days in northern Minnesota. Somehow, maroon and arrows just look better under overcast, snowy skies.

[October 2001][December 2001][May 2002][May 2003]