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Cameraman 01-04-2016 03:33 PM

Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western
Looking at a trip to the Dakotas. I have May and Oct open. My number one target will be the Railroad: Dakota, Missouri Valley & Western. Looking at their map it looks like to separate lines.

What would be some good advice for a first time visitor on how to best visit the railroad?

Looking for days of operation?

Motive power paint situation? What is the percentage of power painted to units in any other paint?

Any thoughts on which month is better?

ShortlinesUSA 01-04-2016 09:22 PM

I would suggest May over October, because the weather can be very dicey in the fall that far north. Not unheard of to already have snow up there. You also don't have as high of a sun angle to be concerned with. A friend and I were there at the end of July and found we had little down time at midday, unlike what we get here in the Southeast.

I'll start with the bad news-- this operation is likely not going to be the sharp looking roster you likely want. DMVW has gotten a large batch of ex KCS and Alstom SD40-3s and hasn't painted a single one. I talked with a CMO while there, and he said while painting was priority a couple of years ago, it no longer seems to be. On the lines based from Bismarck, only 1 of 3 active SD50Fs was in service. Everything else based out of there was KCS or Alstom gray with DMVW lettering on the long hood. Out of Oakes, ND there were two painted SD45s and one in MRL colors. Everything else was ex KCS/Alstom.

Days of operation are mostly weekdays. We saw only one job on a Saturday morning, and it was spotting an elevator with what was truly a Friday night train. No other weekend movements were noted in either Oakes or Bismarck.

Fanning advice is listen on the scanner for track warrants and go to where the train is. The "Max Turn" is pretty much on a constant up and back run between Bismarck and Max on any given weekday. When we saw that train relieved along the line on a Wednesday afternoon, the crew remarked to us "We'll start right here at 9am tomorrow." So that suggests one day shift crew shuttling that train along the line.

Oakes seems to be run at the whim of where there are grain hoppers to be run. A "hot spot" of sorts on that end is Hankinson, ND. If DMVW runs something in from Oakes, you also get the RRVW Hank Turn from Breckenridge, MN on weekdays around late morning to early afternoon. Add in some CP traffic, and it can be a hopping place.

I do not know much about the northern lines, which are based out of Crosby. I believe a good portion of that traffic is oil driven, which is not a good omen if so. I am pretty certain they moved a significant number (maybe 5 or so) GP40-2Ls up there once the GP35s were retired, and all of those should be in DMVW paint. You might do better on matched power up there, but I would be hesitant to go that far north without finding out some more definitive info.

If you're looking at the Northern Plains at all, they do not have any painted locos. The east end uses the PRLX SD40-2Ts (45T carbodies). The west end out of Lansford uses a group of smaller GP7/9 types, so is better for some classic prairie railroading.

Good luck whatever you wind up doing. I'll just say this-- I was flat worn out on driving after 4 days in ND. We made a big circuit from Bismarck to Minot to Lansford to Breckenridge and return to Bismarck over that period. There are a LOT of miles between said named points.

Cameraman 01-04-2016 09:32 PM

Thanks Mike, I knew you would have the info.

In the past, and on RP now if you search the railroad, I there are photos of painted power. Did that power go away, or did it get so diluted with additional units as to make the line less interesting?

Its a interesting railraod to be sure, but way to far away if it has very little painted?

ShortlinesUSA 01-05-2016 01:15 AM

A little bit of both. Some of the painted power is stored (a few of the SD50Fs, or at least were this summer). Once they retired the painted GP35s off of the Crosby line, that scattered painted GP40-2Ls away from the Bismarck/Oakes operations.

It is certainly possible to get a pair of painted SD45s out of Oakes, and we nailed the Max Turn with the only SD50F out running at the time leading (the other two were in the shop for PTC installation). Of two days on the DMVW, we got painted leaders both days. I'll be honest, I have the same penchant you do for painted lashups, but the SD40-3s were fairly tolerable to me in the consist. Of course, that's easy for me to say because the leaders were painted on both occasions! Had the solid trio of unpainted SD40-3s we saw sitting at Oakes on a Saturday been the power, I might be singing a different tune.

The ex Alstom units look pretty good, IMO. Their paint is in much better shape than the ex KCS units, and the darker gray almost matches the DMVW paint scheme. If you got one of those paired with a DMVW-painted unit, someone not familiar with the line might think it was two variations of the company colors.

I'll offer up this. If you're willing to go out that far but want a really nicely painted roster, I'd start looking at the Dakota & Iowa (DAIR) in South Dakota. That one is high on my to-do list, but just doesn't seem to be in the cards when I consider it. We were actually going to try for an even bigger loop and include the DAIR in the North Dakota trip, but once the mileages started coming apparent, that was called off.

Cameraman 01-10-2016 05:57 PM

Do they run trains between the two operations or do they rely on BNSF to move any cars that might go between the operations?

ShortlinesUSA 01-11-2016 01:19 PM

DMVW has trackage rights on BNSF from McKenzie to Bismarck. This is why two of the SD50Fs were in the shop for PTC installation last summer. Traffic utilizing these rights are typically grain trains to and from Napoleon, ND.

Cameraman 08-13-2016 01:06 PM

Mike, I did not get a chance to go to the DMVN in May, so I am now looking at October. Any new info you can shed on this operation over the year?

ShortlinesUSA 08-13-2016 07:16 PM

Nary a word I've heard of anything different, DK. With the Bismarck and Oakes operations being primarily agricultural driven, October should find the grain harvest still being shipped out, so traffic should be decent.

Anything related to crude is virtually dead, so I would hesitant to go up to the Crosby operation unless you have the time and really want to.

ShortlinesUSA 09-08-2016 07:15 PM

Just as a heads up, the DMVW has repainted 4 units so far this year, so at least painting has resumed and might make a trip more desirable for you next year, DK.

Cameraman 09-17-2016 05:17 PM

Thanks for the update Mike. I am going in Oct of this year, so good to know they have painted a little bit. Any idea what was painted? And did you say the SD50s were in service or out?

This trip is to hit 4 states I have never visited so I am going into Neb. Kansas and the Dakotas.

It will be a mix of Cass 1 and shortlines.

Please offer any info on any of the following:

I see Iowa Interstate comes into to Council Bluff Iowa, that is close enough for a look but only the west end, what do you know of the west end operations?

The Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad. Big operation any good places to start? Is all the blue gone now?

Nebraska Central? Same question?

Red River Valley and Western?

The trip will also target Mount Rushmore and the Badlands if that gives you any other tips to offer.

ShortlinesUSA 09-24-2016 04:49 PM

I don't have the numbers handy, but the DMVW repaints are an SD45 (presumably the one that was in MRL colors), GP40-2L, and three of the SD40-3s.

1. Iowa Interstate - best daylight action is between Newton and Iowa City. The eastbound Council Bluffs - Blue Island (CBBI) and BICB road trains typically traverse this segment in daylight. There should be a local working in CB. You may also have a local working from CB to Atlantic and back, but I don't know of any schedule for that. The shop is easily viewable public property, but to get on the south side for good sunny shots of the power, you'll need to seek permission. I'm not sure how they are with that these days.

2. RCPE, you'll want to focus on the line west of Huron for RCPE power. Many of the Huron-Tracy runs are a mixed bag of run-through Class 1 power, because they are handed straight to CP. I don't know a firm schedule (or if there is one, really) between Huron and Rapid City, but it seems something is pretty much always between those two points, trundling along working elevators and getting recrewed once a crew runs out of time. There has been a lot of chat on this road on Trainorders. If you're still a member there, search "RCPE" on the Western board. If you're not, go to Google, and enter "RCPE trainorders.com" and you can find posts that way. The roster is roughly half and half on G&W orange and the old DME blue and yellow, so there is still plenty of older paint around.

3. You can go to Grand Island or Columbus for the Nebraska Central. I don't really know a whole lot about their operations, but the Grand Island - Ord line seems like a pretty safe bet to find something moving. I would suggest the same method Trainorders search above, using NCRC and Nebraska Central.

4. RRVW is a very large, sparse system. The best thing you can do is go to Breckenridge, MN (just barely into MN from ND) and find a local to follow. The most reliable train is the weekday Hankinson Turn from Breck to Hank. Usually leaves Breck around 0800. The train gets on the CP main at Aberdeen Jct for the run west to Hank and back. Conversely, if you don't want to go that far east, waiting at Hank while CP rolls a few by and possibly the DMVW coming to town is certainly a viable option.

Nothing to add based on the Badlands/Rushmore area. Others may be able to offer something there.

Have a great trip!

Cameraman 10-03-2016 02:42 AM

D&I and Monday ops?
I also plan to be near the D&I. In doing research I found a schedule on TO that is a few years old, saying no Monday trains. My tentative plan was to be on D&I on a Monday. What do you know of their operations and the esp. no road trains on a Monday?

ShortlinesUSA 10-12-2016 08:27 PM

Nada, unfortunately. We are on vacation and while I do know I have a Railroads Illustrated at home with a good DAIR article, I don't know if it is any more current than the info you see on Monday ops. If you haven't gone yet and info posted this weekend is helpful, let me know, and I'll check the article.

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