Featured Photos

Wisconsin to Montana Freight Hop, Hi-Line Subdivision

I never forgot my childhood in Louisiana, growing up hopping freight trains a handful of times, and have always wanted to do it again. I recently reached out to @Gulysses3 , expressing an interest in tagging along on a trip. At times, the nature of my work involves reaching out to strangers, oftentimes not receiving a reply, so I was mildly surprised when @Gulysses3 agreed to let me come along. This is no easy decision, considering all that's involved with this type of travel, and for that I'm truly grateful to have been able to participate. I met him in La Crosse Wisconsin, and we walked over to a Kwik Trip to pick up some last minute supplies, before heading to the catch out spot.

1.jpg

We arrived at the catch out spot around sunset... Beautiful evening.


2.jpg

Within a couple of minutes, a Z train arrived (Z-CHCSSE). "Z" : BNSF train symbol for high priority Intermodal freight train. "CHCSSE" : CHiCago to South SEattle.


IMG_4507.JPG

Heading to our train... We walked down to the tracks and found a pig with wings. When I climbed up under the trailer rig on our freight car, I thought to myself "This might be the stupidest thing I've ever done" but all it took was riding along the Mississippi River a short time later, watching the moon reflect off of the water, and I quickly forgot any possibility of danger. I was hooked, and knew I'd be pursuing this from here on out.


3.jpg

Under the cover of darkness, we rolled in to the Minneapolis Northtown Yard with workers all around us, and sat for a bit. I looked out from our pig and could see a worker not more than 20' away, building a train on the track next to us.


4.jpg

The next morning we sided out somewhere in North Dakota and moved further back down the train. It was a pretty brisk morning, but not too bad...


7.jpg

Somewhere in North Dakota... The car we moved to had a shallow well, and the next bunch of hours were spent ducking crossings and various locomotives. It was uncomfortable at times, but I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. The cheese grater showed no mercy on me...


5.jpg

Crossing the epic Gassman Coulee Trestle in Minot North Dakota.


8.jpg

Traveling through the flatlands of North Dakota... I learned some lessons about photographing a moving landscape while on a moving object.


9.jpg

Getting close to the Montana border, the day warmed up nicely.


IMG_2955.jpeg

Jumped off in Glasgow Montana to 90 degree heat. Climbed some hills and took a break...


23.jpg

Town sign at the train depot


17.jpg

Glasgow was founded in 1887 as a railroad town by James Hill, who was responsible for creating many communities along the Hi-Line. He and a local railroader named the town when they spun a globe and their finger landed on Glasgow, Scotland.


19.jpg

CHS Farmers grain elevator, Glasgow Montana. I love old American railroad towns... Brings me back to my childhood growing up in a tiny oil refinery / railroad town in Louisiana.


18.jpg

Always remember...


22.jpg

Looking northwest from Glasgow train station


21.jpg

Crew change at Glasgow Station


11.jpg

The next day, it was time to head Westbound through Havre on to Whitefish... We headed back to the spot we jumped off the day before, and waited for a train.


26.jpg

Hobo relics at the catchout...


25.jpg

Looking for a good ride with @Gulysses3


15.jpg

We found the most comfortable ride of the trip, a quiet pig with wings that seemed to have brand new wheels (no flat spots) and bearings, a sharp contrast from the first pig with wings ( a big flat spot on a wheel) and our 2nd car with the shallow well that left us pretty exposed.


16.jpg

Headed west to the 1000 mile inspection at Havre... I really enjoyed the simple landscapes.


27.jpg

We were blessed with beautiful weather across Montana. None of the trains we rode stopped for more than 5 minutes, at any given time. When they did stop, they used dynamic brakes, rather than air brakes, so the train didn't "air up" before taking off.


28.jpg

Westbound toward Malta, and a couple other Montana towns...


32.jpg

70mph through the landscape... Hay bales in the distance with a beautiful, stormy purple sky...


34.jpg

Slowing down my shutter speed to get more of an impressionist type of picture of vintage burnt out cars in the central Montana landscape.... We would eventually roll through the Havre yard in the middle of the night. The bull had his truck lights set to bright and pointed directly at the train, but we had moved all of our stuff and ourselves behind the tires of our pig with wings... Made it through Havre!


30.jpg

Last pic of the day, as the light was getting too low to keep shooting. Somewhere around 2 or 3 a.m., a strong scent of pine filled the air, and I started to see evergreen covered mountains - We were heading into Glacier. I jumped off the train at 5 a.m. in Whitefish Montana, as I had to get back home for a job. @Gulysses3 and I said our goodbyes, as he stayed on the train and headed toward Seattle. I walked a mile or so down 2nd Street to Whitefish Depot, got a coffee then proceeded to head home. I learned a ton from @Gulysses3 , and 1400 miles of experience cannot be bought or learned on a computer. Thanks to StP for making the connection possible. Already planning my next trip...
 
Last edited:
We sell all kinds of other stuff in our Etsy store!
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Thank you for sharing!!!! Gulysses3 & Party Time you were in La Crosse when I was there!

We'll have to meet up someday and catch out from MKE sometime! Maybe hit LSE and ride south along the Mississippi River!

And btw, very nice pictures!!! As I always say, why pay Amtrash? Hop a freight for free!!! lol
 
OP
Party Time

Party Time

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Joined
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Thank you for sharing!!!! Gulysses3 & Party Time you were in La Crosse when I was there!

We'll have to meet up someday and catch out from MKE sometime! Maybe hit LSE and ride south along the Mississippi River!

And btw, very nice pictures!!! As I always say, why pay Amtrash? Hop a freight for free!!! lol
Thanks, musta just missed ya 🙏 🙏
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
25
Hometown
Canada
I never forgot my childhood in Louisiana, growing up hopping freight trains a handful of times, and have always wanted to do it again. I recently reached out to @Gulysses3 , expressing an interest in tagging along on a trip. At times, the nature of my work involves reaching out to strangers, oftentimes not receiving a reply, so I was mildly surprised when @Gulysses3 agreed to let me come along. This is no easy decision, considering all that's involved with this type of travel, and for that I'm truly grateful to have been able to participate. I met him in La Crosse Wisconsin, and we walked over to a Kwik Trip to pick up some last minute supplies, before heading to the catch out spot.

View attachment 52526
We arrived at the catch out spot around sunset... Beautiful evening.


View attachment 52527
Within a couple of minutes, a Z train arrived (Z-CHCSSE). "Z" : BNSF train symbol for high priority Intermodal freight train. "CHCSSE" : CHiCago to South SEattle.


View attachment 52528
Heading to our train... We walked down to the tracks and found a pig with wings. When I climbed up under the trailer rig on our freight car, I thought to myself "This might be the stupidest thing I've ever done" but all it took was riding along the Mississippi River a short time later, watching the moon reflect off of the water, and I quickly forgot any possibility of danger. I was hooked, and knew I'd be pursuing this from here on out.


View attachment 52529
Under the cover of darkness, we rolled in to the Minneapolis Northtown Yard with workers all around us, and sat for a bit. I looked out from our pig and could see a worker not more than 20' away, building a train on the track next to us.


View attachment 52530
The next morning we sided out somewhere in North Dakota and moved further back down the train. It was a pretty brisk morning, but not too bad...


View attachment 52531
Somewhere in North Dakota... The car we moved to had a shallow well, and the next bunch of hours were spent ducking crossings and various locomotives. It was uncomfortable at times, but I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. The cheese grater showed no mercy on me...


View attachment 52532
Crossing the epic Gassman Coulee Trestle in Minot North Dakota.


View attachment 52533
Traveling through the flatlands of North Dakota... I learned some lessons about photographing a moving landscape while on a moving object.


View attachment 52534
Getting close to the Montana border, the day warmed up nicely.


View attachment 52535
Jumped off in Glasgow Montana to 90 degree heat. Climbed some hills and took a break...


View attachment 52538
Town sign at the train depot


View attachment 52536
Glasgow was founded in 1887 as a railroad town by James Hill, who was responsible for creating many communities along the Hi-Line. He and a local railroader named the town when they spun a globe and their finger landed on Glasgow, Scotland.


View attachment 52539
CHS Farmers grain elevator, Glasgow Montana. I love old American railroad towns... Brings me back to my childhood growing up in a tiny oil refinery / railroad town in Louisiana.


View attachment 52542
Always remember...


View attachment 52543
Looking northwest from Glasgow train station


View attachment 52549
Crew change at Glasgow Station


View attachment 52544
The next day, it was time to head Westbound through Havre on to Whitefish... We headed back to the spot we jumped off the day before, and waited for a train.


View attachment 52545
Hobo relics at the catchout...


View attachment 52546
Looking for a good ride with @Gulysses3


View attachment 52547
We found the most comfortable ride of the trip, a quiet pig with wings that seemed to have brand new wheels (no flat spots) and bearings, a sharp contrast from the first pig with wings ( a big flat spot on a wheel) and our 2nd car with the shallow well that left us pretty exposed.


View attachment 52548
Headed west to the 1000 mile inspection at Havre... I really enjoyed the simple landscapes.


View attachment 52550
We were blessed with beautiful weather across Montana. None of the trains we rode stopped for more than 5 minutes, at any given time. When they did stop, they used dynamic brakes, rather than air brakes, so the train didn't "air up" before taking off.


View attachment 52551
Westbound toward Malta, and a couple other Montana towns...


View attachment 52552
70mph through the landscape... Hay bales in the distance with a beautiful, stormy purple sky...


View attachment 52553
Slowing down my shutter speed to get more of an impressionist type of picture of vintage burnt out cars in the central Montana landscape.... We would eventually roll through the Havre yard in the middle of the night. The bull had his truck lights set to bright and pointed directly at the train, but we had moved all of our stuff and ourselves behind the tires of our pig with wings... Made it through Havre!


View attachment 52554
Last pic of the day, as the light was getting too low to keep shooting. Somewhere around 2 or 3 a.m., a strong scent of pine filled the air, and I started to see evergreen covered mountains - We were heading into Glacier. I jumped off the train at 5 a.m. in Whitefish Montana, as I had to get back home for a job. @Gulysses3 and I said our goodbyes, as he stayed on the train and headed toward Seattle. I walked a mile or so down 2nd Street to Whitefish Depot, got a coffee then proceeded to head home. I learned a ton from @Gulysses3 , and 1400 miles of experience cannot be bought or learned on a computer. Thanks to StP for making the connection possible. Already planning my next trip...
awesome duder
 

Gulysses3

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Messages
85
Hometown
Wisconsin
Website
www.jumpingoffthecliff.com
The scenery ranks right up at the top of the list if you ask me. Whether it's the beauty of the mountains and rivers of the hi-line or just watching the backyards and farm fields slide by on the plains.
 

Short

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Joined
Sep 1, 2018
Messages
50
Hometown
Philadelphia
I’m riding out of Minnie early Sept to stl. Did the bull walk the train during the inspection? This is the only part of the ride I’m worried about. I’d really prefer to not have to get off.
 
Last edited:
OP
Party Time

Party Time

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Joined
Aug 14, 2019
Messages
15
Hometown
California
I’m riding out of Minnie early Sept to stl. Did the bull walk the train during the inspection? This is the only part of the ride I’m worried about. I’d really prefer to not have to get off.
I made a joke about how I kinda wish they'd actually inspect the train, because no one did for the entirety of the trip. The only bull we saw was the one in Havre, as we rolled by behind the tires of our pig with wings.
 

Gulysses3

Burrito fund contributor
StP Supporter
Joined
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Messages
85
Hometown
Wisconsin
Website
www.jumpingoffthecliff.com
If you’re riding out of Pig’s Eye on CP, they inspect the trains as they get ready for departure, but it’s just regular workers doing it as far as I know. There was no inspection on BNSF heading West at Midway or Northtown but it was about 2:00AM. Have fun.
 

Shane1031

Lurker
Joined
Apr 7, 2018
Messages
7
Hometown
Prague
Some great pictures. Someday you will be the train expert and I may be asking you for advice. Keep up the photography, you have a good eye.
 

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