Duluth & Two Harbors
September 9th: In case you didn't know: Duluth is a serious railroad town, having been a major centre for shipping iron ore to smelters back east, as well as being the last port on the Great Lakes. As with most such places, the rail business is not as lively as in days of yore, but there's an active volunteer corps preserving the history and equipment of that time. One such group is the North Shore Scenic Railroad, which operates an active excursion schedule over 26 miles of line from Duluth to Two Harbors, using equipment from the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.
Now, much as I hate to seem critical of good folks doing Good Works, I have to say that the trip itself isn't really all that "scenic". The first few miles along the Duluth outer waterfront are pretty, but after that the line runs through suburbs several blocks back from the shore. However, Two Harbors itself is worth seeing. (Suggestion for visitors: if you want to see the best part of the NSSRR line, take the shorter Lester River trip, then drive up to Two Harbors yourself).
Here's a shot of the whole train, posed in front of
the old Duluth & Iron Range depot at Two Harbors:
The Two Harbors excursion usually consists of just the RDC, running under its own power. However, on this day a private party had chartered the business car, so the NSSRR had combined the consists and hauled the whole train with this sparkling clean SOO GP30 (no objection from us -- when it comes to big things with flanged wheels, the more the better, right?)
The depot is now a museum of local history, and has additional historical equipment parked outside, such as this 2-6-0:
However, we were in for an extra treat! Unbeknownst to us, the Museum was running a special railfan weekend, and as we were poking around the edges of the CN property west of the depot, along came this novel consist intended to depict a typical Great Northern mixed train of some decades ago (though I tend to doubt that the original had railfans hanging out of every door and window of the combine!):
(You can't tell, but that train is actually backing up: the depot spur branches off at the north end of the CN yard, ie. trailing point with respect to trains outbound from Duluth).
Once the GN fan-trip had arrived at the depot, a brief episode of slapstick ensued. It seems some of the railfans were photography purists, and felt that the little yellow-flowered plant growing in the ballast spoiled the view of the engine! So off one of them went to deal with the offending vegetation:
Finally, we can all take our locomotive pictures, unmolested by daisies:
They make a pretty pair, n'est-ce pas?
After an hour or so, the GN fan-trip departs back to Duluth, and our engine makes its run-around on the now-vacant track:
The engine will back our train out to the mainline, then run back to Duluth with long nose forward.
But: while in Two Harbors I made a discovery -- which I'll get to in my next post.......