Here is a link to a video BNSF posted about trying to keep the rail lines open across South Dakota. BNSF now owns the Milwaukee road railbed which was built west of the Missouri River beginning in 1908 about this time of year. They built to the west coast but out here in open prairie country of South Dakota, North Dakota and eastern Montana there were many challenges to keeping the trains running including keeping water from freezing, the steam trains hot and the line open. Hundreds of miles would blow shut in a blizzard that had just been opened hours before. Even today with the huge equipment the railroad has, diesel power and communications -- it is a real challenge to keep the railroads running. For those of you that remember Herman and Freida; Torvald getting hurt and H & F needing to get back to Vindall in the blizzard here is a little sample of the aftermath of a little snow and wind in South Dakota.
Can you imagine trying to do this with men with snow shovels and steam powered snow plows??
You can see why H & F took the station agent's Model T to get home instead of the passenger train.
Hi Stan, Thanks for posting that - it's a good example of what snow can do across Minnesota, the
Dakotas and Montana.
I've seen big railroad snow blowers in museums and can only imagine how they are when working!
Stay warm, Keith
A sequel to H & F in the works?
I remember winter of 1975 in South Dakota. Was snowed in for three days, coudn't get out of the barracks at Elsworth AFB. A snow cat trying to get some food to us got lost in the white out. Afterwards there were drifts up to 10 ft over the cars in the parking lot in the wind shadow of the buildings. Lots of cattle were lost on the plains that week. And it was Easter weekend! Didn't take long to decide there were better places to choose to live later on.
Grandparents lived in Carpio ND (a wide spot a little west of Minot) back in the early 20's. They had been homesteading just north of Malta in eastern MT. 5 years in MT followed by 2 in ND and they headed to western WA. My Norwegian grandfather was raised in ND and didn't know any better, my grandmother came over from Norway when she was 18 and knew they didn't need to put up with dry crops and subzero temps. Seattle wasn't a monstrous mess back then.
There is a story of the famous Alpine Tunnel on the old Denver, South Park,
and Pacific line to Gunnison. The line was rarely kept open through a winter.
Snow could drift to 90' deep and was simply impossible to clear. Around 1900,
a westbound train went over the pass and got trapped by a snow storm on the
west side of the divide, pinning down a fair chunk of their heaviest motive power.
When the gravity of the situation really sunk in, the South Park crew went over
to the D&RG station to ask permission to take their train back over the divide by
way of the D&RG's Marshall Pass line. They were informed that the line was
snowed in and eleven trains were trapped on the mountain. The South Park
crews were known as excellent buckers, and offered to open the line for coal,
food, and water.
Now, for those who have never worked a steam engine, there is no taking a
break. Fires must be kept burning and steam up. While rotating shifts to not
stop moving, they cleared the line, freed up the stuck trains, and made it back
to home rails at Buena Vista and on home to Como ..... FORTY DAYS of non-
stop work from the day they left !
Any time I think I have a tough job or a long day, I think about what those old
hands had to work with. We have no idea what "tough" is.