One fine April day in 2007 I was tooling along the Luce Line Trail extension through Plymouth, Minnesota. I suddenly discovered after crossing West Medicine Lake Road that a barricade had been set up on the next-door Union Pacific industrial lead. From its appearance, I garnered it was the result of rowdy local youths. A telephone call to the UP took care of the matter.
Recently, Railfan & Railroad reported a more brazen incident: the city of Kingston, New York, recently put a dump truck on the tracks of the Catskill Mountain railroad thanks to a court injunction that bars movement on the line. Kingston does not want the CMRR to store their excursion passenger equipment in town; Railfan & Railroad notes that: “The sudden dispute with the city is an outgrowth of Ulster County’s campaign to have the majority of the railroad removed and a recreational trail built in its place. CMRR leases the railroad from the county, which is up for renewal in 2016.” Even Washington County did not lower the boom so hard on the Minnesota Transportation Museum’s Stillwater & St. Paul demonstration railroad back in the late 1980s! Thankfully, Kingston recently relented and removed the stupid thing.
You can’t block railroad tracks, people! I don’t care if you are some rowdy, rowdy punks; or stuffy, stuffy, city politicians: Blocking railroad tracks is against the law. No ifs, ands, or buts about it, man; it is not allowed under federal rail regulations. ‘Nuff said.
The Union Pacific’s purchase of the Chicago and North Western in 1995 saddened me deeply, but I knew that cloud had a silver lining: the UP’s steam program! Surely they would send either their 4-8-4 Northern number 844 or their 4-6-6-4 Challenger 3985 up to Minneapolis/St. Paul? For years I waited with nothing happening on that front. Then in 2002 the 3985 arrived in South Saint Paul … but I couldn’t make it. Fast forward to 2008: on the memorable date of September 26th, a remarkably sunny, warm (and breezy) Friday in the early fall, I caught Union Pacific’s 4-6-6-4 Challenger-class steam engine number 3985 as it passed through Rosemount, MN on its way to Saint Paul, MN.
At last I had caught a UP steam train running on track not only once run by the CNW, but the Rock Island/Milwaukee Road before that (this stretch of “Spine Line” was joint track for the RI/MILW from Rosemount to the junction at Comus, MN).
I’ve always wondered why the 3985 was emitting such a clean exhaust that day. Had somebody mixed in a little diesel fuel oil with the steam fuel oil? (Hey, a guy who worked for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy once told me they did just that for some of their steam fan trips …)