Crawford Hill is well known as the toughest railroad grade in the state of Nebraska. Located on the Butte Subdivision, the route over Crawford Hill was once a quiet backwater of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy system. Today, it is a heavy duty piece of railroad. Beginning in the early 70s, the line became one of the primary routes for coal trains from newly opened mines in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. By the late 1980s, the line had been thoroughly rebuilt to handle the flood of unit coal trains traversing the line.
Part One of this two disc set looks at the line as it was between 1987 and 1989. We start at the division point of Alliance, Nebraska, and head north, stopping in Crawford before heading up the grade toward Belmont.
This disc features mainline power now gone from heavy duty service, including C30-7s, U30Cs and SD40-2s heading up most trains. Leased power-by-the-hour Oakway SD60s in their EMD demonstrator paint are also seen, as are the similarly leased LMX B39-8s as Burlington Northern experimented with using sets of four in helper service up the hill instead of three SD40-2s. Plenty of the Dash-2s are also seen in helper service, and both models were mated with tank cars converted to fuel tenders for Crawford Helper duty. In addition to BN power, locomotives from several other roads are seen including Kansas City Southern, M-K-T, Missouri Pacific, Santa Fe and Union Pacific. A set of BN’s business cars even makes a surprise appearance on the rear of an intermodal train.
Part Two visits Crawford Hill in 2012, giving us a look at the railroad a quarter-century after the footage in Part One. General Electric ES44ACs see much of the work on the hill, with plenty of EMD SD70ACEs and SD70MACs. Even with today’s Distributed Power Units, manned helpers are still stationed in Crawford. ES44s see most of the helper duty and only one SD70ACE was working as a helper during our visit. We caught a couple of notable items during our visit, including the “airplane train” hauling Boeing 737 fuselages to the Pacific Northwest and the very first BNSF unit, SD70MAC 9647 (a.k.a. the “Vomit Bonnet”) as the D.P.U. on a coal train climbing the grade.
Both parts visit the better known locations on the hill, including the overpass on Crawford’s south side, Saw Log Road, Horseshoe Curve and Breezy Point, and Part Two also travels along Horseshoe Road for additional scenes and visit’s the Ponderosa Ranch, where guest cabins cater to the railfan.
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2 Hours, 54 Mins ($0.10/min)
Diverging Clear Productions
0 Worldwide NTSC
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