Slowly reentering civilization, the Logan Local claws up the 2.2% grade as it crosses over the first of two ancient wooden trestles on the last part of the trip to Harrison. Note the "repairs" down below! There has been a lot of conjecture about why this line remains in service, but it does have a fascinating history which few know:
On September 23rd, 1889, the Northern Pacific and Montana Railroad Company began construction on a new line from Sappington, MT to Norris, MT. Following its completion on July 5th, 1890, the Red Bluff Branch would serve customers in rural Montana before the Northern Pacific filed for abandonment in 1969. Although approved by the ICC, this attempt was ultimately blocked by the Department of Public Service Regulation on July 5th, 1972, exactly 82 years after construction finished. 132 years later, this branch is still active to Harrison, MT. It is served once a week by the Montana Rail Link, and has every feel of a branch line survivor, with jointed rail, light bridges, cattle gates and steep mountain grades. Truly a step back in time.
A true survivor, which still has a valuable use as seen by the "large" 5 car train they have in tow. Although I would have preferred it facing the other way, the MRL #127 is a 1954 product of EMD delivered to the Great Northern as one of their two steam boiler equipped passenger GP9's. The best part is that it was setup to run long hood forward! I can take solace in the fact that technically its running forward the way EMD intended.