Bolting over Winston Hill Weather turned quite storming in parts of Montana on the afternoon of July 8, 2022. My brother Tom, his son Charlie and I were waiting on Montana Rail Link’s Helena local to descend Winston Hill and head to Townsend to switch the lime plant there. We relocated to a different spot as lightning, thunder, wind and rain made the rural crossing at Whitehorse Road seem too open for comfort. As the storm passed, we again decided to go back to Whitehorse Road since the dark clouds would be receding in the background making for a nicer sky than we had closer to Townsend. It ended up being a good decision.
A short time after we arrived there, the sun poked out of a tiny hole in the clouds to the west and illuminated the scene, just as the eastbound local’s headlight could be seen to the northwest! MRL’s Helena local, powered by a vintage EMD GP9 No. 109 and EMD SD45 No. 355, sprinted downhill past our location in bright sunlight. We all got some nice shots, and when I was reviewing my photos in the quiet time after the local’s passing, it revealed something that I have never been lucky enough to capture in my forty plus years of railroad photography. In one of the frames, a lightning strike in the Big Belt Mountains appears in the background above the SD45 on the short four car local! For the record, the train was moving at track speed, the photograph is 1/800 of a second, f8 and taken at 200 ISO—and was pure serendipity!