How is Marias Pass nowadays?

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A Railfan in Brazil
#1
I am planning my 2011 trip by Amtrak through US, so I am reading some old magazines to see which places I can visit on my way.
In the March 1997 issue of Railfan & Railroad magazine there is a good article of Bruce Kelly on Marias Pass.
In the article, the author says that is a good hot spot location for BNSF. At that time, it was common to see the tail helpers working on almost every train there. In fact, Bruce says Marias Pass can change a lot in the future, but the tail helper service can be there almost forever. At that time the brand new C44-9W were the sensation as new motive power and DPU trains are starting there. I am wondering how is Marias Pass nowadays:rolleyes:. Since I am going to visit a friend in Sandpoint ID, I would like to visit Marias Pass. Do you think I can have fun there? what about the pushers? Does BNSF still using them there?:rolleyes:
Another question is about the Grissly bears. In the article the autor says that site is full of bears sometimes. Do you think it is a safety place to watching trains? Of couse I do not intend to walk in the forest nor along the line. I intend to visit the common sites known around Esses depot.
:)
Thank for any help.:)
 
#2
I am planning my 2011 trip by Amtrak through US, so I am reading some old magazines to see which places I can visit on my way.
In the March 1997 issue of Railfan & Railroad magazine there is a good article of Bruce Kelly on Marias Pass.
In the article, the author says that is a good hot spot location for BNSF. At that time, it was common to see the tail helpers working on almost every train there. In fact, Bruce says Marias Pass can change a lot in the future, but the tail helper service can be there almost forever. At that time the brand new C44-9W were the sensation as new motive power and DPU trains are starting there. I am wondering how is Marias Pass nowadays:rolleyes:. Since I am going to visit a friend in Sandpoint ID, I would like to visit Marias Pass. Do you think I can have fun there? what about the pushers? Does BNSF still using them there?:rolleyes:
Another question is about the Grissly bears. In the article the autor says that site is full of bears sometimes. Do you think it is a safety place to watching trains? Of couse I do not intend to walk in the forest nor along the line. I intend to visit the common sites known around Esses depot.
:)
Thank for any help.:)
I'll address bears first: yes, the Glacier National Park area, including Marias Pass, is full of black bears & Grizzlies, but, no, you shouldn't be too concerned about them train-watching. Especially if you're going to be train-watching, you'll be close to the highway & won't be in the backcountry (bears would rather have peace & quiet away from humans, trains, & vehicles). Grain spills caused by train derailments on the pass are relatively common, & do attract bears, so if you see a grain spill, just try to stay away from it. Also, simply know the basics of being in bear country. First, bear cubs=danger. Even if the cubs appear to be abandoned, their mothers are usually not far away, & sows (female bears) are VERY protective of their cubs, so if you see a sow with her cubs, or if you see cubs by themselves, do NOT approach them, & instead calmly back off & leave the area. If possible, try to report the sighting to a park ranger or forest service ranger, so they can monitor bear activity, & make hiking trail or campground closures if neccessary. Also, don't approach a dead carcass of an animal, as bears could be feeding on it, & see you as a threat to their food. Same as with cubs, get out of the area, & report it to a ranger if possible. It might not be a bad idea to carry bear spray if you go walking too far from the road. In all, you really shouldn't have to worry about bears too much, or let the possibility of a bear encounter keep you from watching trains on Marias Pass. Just keep the basic bear safety rules in mind.

As for the trains, the last time I was up in the Glacier Park area was a couple years ago, & there were still plenty of trains with helper sets on them. Alot of trains are equipped with mid-train helpers, rear-end helpers, or both. BNSF uses alot of SD40-2's & such for helper service over Marias, so you're sure to see some of them. Depending on the time of year, you'll probably see plenty of intermodal trains & grain trains, as well as a few coal trains & a few mixed freights. BNSF uses all sorts of power on their trains up there, & you're likely to see various AC units on the coal trains, along with various modern DC units (from GE usually) on the unit grain trains & intermodal (usually a few more EMD's on them than the grains for some reason), & who knows what on the manifest/mixed freights (Dash 9's, SD40-2's, ES44DC's, GP60M's, Dash 8's, leased units, the list goes on...) :D

And yes, you should have fun there. There's plenty of trains to see, along with plenty of high, snow-capped mountains just to the north in Glacier National Park (if you have extra time in the area, take a day or two off from train watching & visit Glacier National Park. It is the mountain kingdom of North America, & is reminicent of the Swiss Alps. It's called the "Crown of the Continent" for a reason!).

Also, beware that Marias Pass is a good 3-4 hours drive from Sandpoint, Id. :)
 





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