Monday, May 07, 2012

Remembering the Iron Range

We're bringing the blog back to life, and we'll start with a borderline golden oldie. We'll go back to last September to get things started.

North Shore Scenic; Knife River, Minn.; September 10, 2011
One of the great railroading regions in North America is the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. When I first visited the area in the early 1990s the big attraction were the EMD F-units operating on Erie Mining's railroad from the ore fields to Lake Superior at Taconite Harbor. Alas, my one trip to the railroad while it was running resulted in one day of photography with the railroad quiet on the rest of the days of the trip. Most time was spent on the "other" railroad, the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range. After Erie Mining stopped running its railroad in 2001, subsequent trips found more time spent on the DM&IR, which emerged as a pretty cool railroad in its own right after emerging from the shadow of Erie Mining.

North Shore Scenic; Palmers, Minn.; September 10, 2011
Time marches on, however, and the DM&IR was soon sold to Canadian National in 2004 and the slow process of assimilation started. The Missabe's attractive locomotives were retired or painted into CN colors, and by the latter part of the first decade of the 21st century there was very little of the Missabe identity still visible.

In September 2011 the Lake Superior Railroad Museum of Duluth operated a weekend that brought back the Iron Range of the 1990s. Over two days the museum would operate ore trains (using cars graciously loaned by Canadian National), one day using the museum's Erie Mining F-units on Saturday, September 10, and the museum's DM&IR SD18 No. 193 and SD-M No. 316 from the Missabe Railroad Historical Society on Sunday the 11th. The trip would operate on the North Shore Scenic, a former DM&IR line between Duluth and Two Harbors, Minn., operated by the museum.

North Shore Scenic; Knife River, Minn.; September 10, 2011

North Shore Scenic; Knife River, Minn.
The photo freight train had the aforementioned Erie Mining F-units on the north end of the train. On the south end was the museum's Soo Line F7 No. 2500. The result gave the appearance of two different ore trains from two different railroads, depending on which end you were shooting. Passengers were shuffled between photo locations in a passenger train led by Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic RS1 No. 101, owned by the DSS&A Division of the Soo Line Historical & Technical Society (and kept at the museum in Duluth). Photo stops were arranged by Steve Glischinski, who picked stops based on sun angles, utilizing many of the several bridges located on the scenic branch line. The bridge at Knife River provided bookends to a productive day, starting with the Erie Mining units posed on the bridge (top photo) and finishing with Soo Line No. 2500 posing with flowers (above). The grand finale was DSS&A No. 101 with a near-perfect reflection, put to an end when two kayakers paddled through the reflection as the photo stop was wrapping up (right). At least the kayakers had kayaks in DSS&A colors! All in all, it was a fine day.

The next day the Missabe had the spotlight as the 193 and 316 shared the spotlight on the ore train. The first photo stop of the day was in downtown Duluth at Fitger's, an old brewery along the waterfront.

North Shore Scenic; Duluth, Minn.; September 11, 2011
 On this day passengers rode in a caboose at the rear of the ore train. Plenty of opportunities were provided on the many curves on the branch line to get a brakeman's view ahead. 

North Shore Scenic; Lakeside, Minn.; September 11, 2011
The two Missabe veterans put on a spirited show, bringing back some great scenes of the way it was (even if the "good old days" in this instance were only about a decade ago). Soon the train returned to Duluth, putting an end to "old school Missabe."

North Shore Scenic; Palmers, Minn.; September 11, 2011

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