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Sucker Hole Saturday

dmir227's picture

Gus and I had a late start on Saturday after skating lessons but without a cloud in the sky we had to take advantage of the weather. Given we weren't hearing much action in the Twin Ports I thought a trip to Two Harbors was in order (I wanted to check on the progress of 229's restoration).

DM&IR 229 was fully shrouded in its plastic cocoon so we didn't see much but with clear skies I decided to head north towards NSM. As so often happens with weather patterns on the East Range, when we crested the hill on Highway 2 south of Snodiggers place we saw a thick and low fog/cloud line just north of Highland/Wales. Darn.

We had heard the detector at MP 47 go off and about 15 minutes later NSM 650 called SB and asked for permission to head back to the Bay from Babbitt. The DS said he could head for 36 on the "board" as he would be following the loads. Wow, when I heard MP 47 I thought it was the 05:00 train coming back empty but it was the "noon" loads leaving quite early and the tailings train headed back on his block (a long 10 mile block). So, despite the thick cloud cover plus with no action on the Missabe, we elected to continue north to at least check out the two NSM trains.

We arrived at Toimi (MP 28) with plenty of time to spare for the loads and waited under thick cloud cover. I hoped the clouds would break as you could occasionally catch a small glimpse of blue sky but it was a long shot.

As the train crested a small hill west of our location things looked grim. Dark skies and no hope of sun plus it looked like 657 was leading. Darn again. Then the RFGs, who must have been feeling incredibility charitable, tossed us a juicy bone. I couldn't believe my eyes, but a shaft of sunlight pierced the cloud bank and was actually illuminating the lead unit and it moving almost the same speed as the train! This was almost, but not quite, as good as Chris Muller's sucker hole shot of Cliffs Erie F9s at the west portal of Cramer Tunnel a few years ago.

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After that we tested our luck with the tailings train and it happened again! I couldn't believe it. This time there was more "cloudy bright" conditions but the chance of catching sun was slim at best. Wow.

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From there we headed west in fog/clouds to catch up with the northbound MRF, which was meeting a West Loader at Biwabik. As the pellet train arrived and slowed down for the meet I couldn't believe my eyes but yet another shaft of light was shining down on the train. I had to do a full 300mm through fog to get it, but I liked the result. That was our one shot there as the light disappeared as fast as it had appeared.

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After that we followed the MRF west and just past Biwabik we broke into blue skies with just a few normal fair weather clouds. Got a bunch of nice shots near Missabefan's stomping grounds before ending our day at Proctor with a few images (to be posted under separate cover this week).

Dave Schauer
Missabe Railroad Historical Society