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Sunday Sidetrack

R.T. Challenger's picture

Another photo from Chuck Schwesinger. This one brings back a personal memory.

Photo by Chuck Schwesinger from

I was doing student engineer trips on the WC during the winter of January 1996. Per an agreement with the WC, the Missabe agreed to supply 4 SD38s per Minorca to Escanaba ore train. The management felt 8000 hp was the minimum allowable to pull 90 loaded cars up the hill out of Superior. (It was a couple more years before we ran the E-Rails with 100 cars.)

Well with the extreme cold we experience that plan couldn't always be adhered to. The SD38s were failing, not often but when they did it wasn't a quick fix. The rebuilt SD-M weren't supposed to be assigned to theses trains due to horsepower, but what else could the Missabe supply? They still had trains to run too. The WC was power short already running 5 other all rail trains that winter (we were using CSX and Conrail units for power, the SP AC4400s that were running on the Geneva's. Then we needed to supply power for normal operations. Amazingly we did!)

Inevitably the SD-Ms showed up. Even with the lower horsepower, the 300's still got down and pulled like their newer brothers. This photo of the 308 leading an empty knocked the cobwebs loose in my head. Though I am not 100% sure if this was the same train, I remember running the 308 on a empty Escanaba train between Prentice and Superior. The empty trains with the CNW cars were allowed 40 mph. I had the 308's throttle in notch 8, going downhill from Stone Lake WI and we couldn't even make the 40 mph limit! But who cared.

One other occasion that winter I had a WC 4000 series deturbocharged GP35m on the point of an Escanaba empty. No dynamics and forget power braking as that 4000 was slippery as hell when under a heavy load. So I cycled braked the train down
the hill from Hawthorne to Superior (set the brakes, slowed down, released, allowed the speed to climb while the brake system recharged sufficiently then set the brakes again repeating the process, of course you could only do this process a few times. You needed to be concerned of running short on air). Still a cool memory. Oh I wished I took more pictures from that winter.

Kent Rengo
Duluth, MN