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Old 01-04-2016, 10:22 PM   #2
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I would suggest May over October, because the weather can be very dicey in the fall that far north. Not unheard of to already have snow up there. You also don't have as high of a sun angle to be concerned with. A friend and I were there at the end of July and found we had little down time at midday, unlike what we get here in the Southeast.

I'll start with the bad news-- this operation is likely not going to be the sharp looking roster you likely want. DMVW has gotten a large batch of ex KCS and Alstom SD40-3s and hasn't painted a single one. I talked with a CMO while there, and he said while painting was priority a couple of years ago, it no longer seems to be. On the lines based from Bismarck, only 1 of 3 active SD50Fs was in service. Everything else based out of there was KCS or Alstom gray with DMVW lettering on the long hood. Out of Oakes, ND there were two painted SD45s and one in MRL colors. Everything else was ex KCS/Alstom.

Days of operation are mostly weekdays. We saw only one job on a Saturday morning, and it was spotting an elevator with what was truly a Friday night train. No other weekend movements were noted in either Oakes or Bismarck.

Fanning advice is listen on the scanner for track warrants and go to where the train is. The "Max Turn" is pretty much on a constant up and back run between Bismarck and Max on any given weekday. When we saw that train relieved along the line on a Wednesday afternoon, the crew remarked to us "We'll start right here at 9am tomorrow." So that suggests one day shift crew shuttling that train along the line.

Oakes seems to be run at the whim of where there are grain hoppers to be run. A "hot spot" of sorts on that end is Hankinson, ND. If DMVW runs something in from Oakes, you also get the RRVW Hank Turn from Breckenridge, MN on weekdays around late morning to early afternoon. Add in some CP traffic, and it can be a hopping place.

I do not know much about the northern lines, which are based out of Crosby. I believe a good portion of that traffic is oil driven, which is not a good omen if so. I am pretty certain they moved a significant number (maybe 5 or so) GP40-2Ls up there once the GP35s were retired, and all of those should be in DMVW paint. You might do better on matched power up there, but I would be hesitant to go that far north without finding out some more definitive info.

If you're looking at the Northern Plains at all, they do not have any painted locos. The east end uses the PRLX SD40-2Ts (45T carbodies). The west end out of Lansford uses a group of smaller GP7/9 types, so is better for some classic prairie railroading.

Good luck whatever you wind up doing. I'll just say this-- I was flat worn out on driving after 4 days in ND. We made a big circuit from Bismarck to Minot to Lansford to Breckenridge and return to Bismarck over that period. There are a LOT of miles between said named points.
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