BN Logo            BNSF Logo            BNSF Logo           

FRIENDS OF THE
BURLINGTON NORTHERN RAILROAD


2016 Convention Report

by John Adams

Despite heat usually reserved for locations much more southerly, the Glendive Convention was a great experience for all who attended.

Some of us arrived from the East on Tuesday and were treated to an operating session on Michael Farley's HO scale BN/Soo layout. His layout was well designed for operation and the layout and trains ran to perfection. Thanks to his great organizational efforts, the session was a real success.

On Wednesday we headed on for Glendive and registration at the La Quinta Inn. This process went well and gave all of us a chance to get re-acquainted as well as to meet our new convention attendee from Oregon. After that we headed for a group dinner and a quick orientation and then it was off to bed for Thursday activities.

On Thursday we met at the Glendive Depot and took a tour of the Depot and Yards. The local trainmaster was able to give us an overview of the facility and the operations in the Glendive area. Although he started slowly, he seemed to quickly become more comfortable and was able to give us a good overview. The Montana Division headquarters are in the depot as well as crew lockers, a crew call room and a fully stocked gymnasium. The facility has been modernized on several occasions, but there were still areas where you could see the original architecture of the passenger era depot. The news about the Glendive area was not all cheerful, as he shared that of the approximately 500 coal sets in use several years ago, 310 are now in storage. This has meant furloughing employees and a marked decrease in traffic in the area. Fortunately, the rest of the railroad is doing better and most employees were offered transfers to other locations, but the effect on the railroad and the community are still easy to spot.

Next we were able to tour through the yards in a car caravan and were able to see the snow plow storage areas as well a number of locomotives in storage. He also showed us how the new electric switches operate in the yard and the basic layout of the 9 track yard and service facility (a great modeling prototype)

We next toured the Roundhouse, originally built in 1883. The Roundhouse Foreman, Parts Superintendent and Safety Manager were able to tell us much of the history of the facility particularly through the BN and BNSF eras. Since coal is king in Glendive, the service facility was initially assigned to service EMD locomotives and was home for many of the SD40-2's that powered the coal boom. In later years they have expanded to service GE's as well and now can do any locomotive servicing except being able to drop a 3-axle truck. Most recently the upgrades have included the ability to do total engine change outs. Unfortunately, due to the age of the facility there are some real challenges to servicing the large modern locomotives including a restriction on the number of locomotives that will fit in the roundhouse and the requirement that technicians working on the locomotive roofs sometimes have to crawl on their bellies to clear the room rafters. Despite this they do a large number of repairs and seem quite proud of their work. We were also able to see the turntable in action, which is still an integral part of the shop facility. It was obvious to our group that the 3 gentlemen who gave us the presentation had a real desire to do a good job and turn out a great product even in the tough times as they saw some of their younger workers having to transfer to other shops to keep their jobs.

After a trip through Subway (the ONLY fast food in Glendive!) we headed off to follow the main to the west. With the help of several very knowledgeable members, GPS maps and the scanner, as well as good old fashioned helping each other, we were able to catch a number of coal trains as well as several manifest freights. For those of you who like to model the BNSF we actually found the perfect prototype if you can't run a long train as a manifest headed west from Glendive behind 2 high-horsepower GE's and 5 cars.

On Thursday evening we all cooled down from a hot day in the sun (nearing 100 degrees) and had our membership meeting. We discussed a number of issues, including a possible merger with the ATSF society, the need for a new Secretary as Gary Seymour ends his 20+ year term, and future convention sites. As a Board we received excellent input from the membership, Kent Charles volunteered to serve as Secretary and the Colorado contingent came forward to offer a Denver convention in 2017. After the meeting we were able to watch a slide show of BN 40' boxcars, highlighting the many variations in type and doors, etc.

On Friday morning we headed north of Glendive to visit Sidney, MT where 2 locals are based. The Sidney line itself was quiet except for the locals but with 1 heading north and 1 south we were able to see some switching action. We then met at the craft and hobby shop in Sidney where the owner has operating HO and O scale layouts in the store. He was good enough to run these for us and the O scale layout in particular was quite eye catching. After a box lunch in the Sidney park most of us headed to Snowden on the Hi-Line. There we were quickly able to catch 3 Z trains, a manifest and an oil train. Watching the trains race along this stretch was an example of the desire of the BNSF to serve its customers in an efficient manner. Then all too soon it was time to race back to Glendive as a number of us had to be at the Board meeting. Unfortunately, several of us got "stopped" by the local switching across the highway in Fairview, MT, but still made it back.

At the Friday evening Board meeting we welcomed our new Board member, John Parker and elected officers for the coming year:

We then discussed the Expediter and thanked Dave and Marc Demaline for their efforts. The formatting changes were uniformly praised as well as the efforts to produce at least a 24 page issue each quarter. There will be a continued effort to produce high quality content, a 24-page issue and color for the coming year.

We also discussed an upgrade of our website and the ongoing need for members to help us with the website and in particular our social media footprint (see Help Wanted!)

John McKenzie discussed the ongoing operation of the Archives, in particular a push to get the large collection of slides digitized, an effort Kent Charles has been very helpful in accomplishing.

We reviewed the Glendive Convention, which seemed to be going very well. We were then fortunate to have a substantial group from the Denver area at the Convention and they offered to host the 2017 Convention in Denver. With a number of HO and N scale modelers in the area this convention may be particularly special if you are a BN or BNSF modeler, so stay tuned!

Once again this year we will be doing an all BN Calendar and hope to advertise this for the coming year.

A large discussion this year revolved around the information that the ATSF Historical Society will now be including a group following the BNSF. After substantial discussion about our options a consensus was reached that we will continue to follow our mission of studying the BN and continue our 1995 decision to also follow the BNSF. We hope to soon do some targeted advertising to highlight the efforts we have made in this for the last 21 years.

After the Board meeting we were shown a preview of Peter Ferch's efforts on producing a searchable file of BN equipment and locomotives for the website which should be a great addition for those who want to research the years of the BN. We also watched some photographs from Boras Rosser including pictures both of BNSF sites, the present convention and also some shots from his native Atlanta area.

Saturday found us back at trackside, this time heading east to Dickinson, ND on a cool and breezy morning. On a beautiful day for photography we were able to catch some coal loads and empties, as well as a manifest freight and an eastbound vehicle train. An overlook near a cemetery in Medora, ND provided particularly good views of a bridge in town. We also were able to see some activity at one of the oil loadouts and stopped for lunch at the Hardee's outside the Dickinson yard and watch activity there.

We then returned to Glendive, with one last stop at a museum at Wibaux, MT, where we also saw the storm chasers come through town on their way south, a harbinger of the evening to come when a tornado actually hit Baker, MT.

In Glendive we met for our annual banquet which included an excellent buffet in Glendive. We only lost power once during the storm, but they quickly came back on and we were able to proceed. Our Convention presentation had a different look this year as we usually have an official from the BNSF make the presentation. This year we had a retired conductor, Keith Clingingsmith, a retired engineer, Craig (CD) Smith and an active engineer, Barry Green, all from the Glendive area. Having initially assured us that they were not good speakers they all ended up being excellent speakers and were able to provide us with a look at what working on the railroad is really like. All of them were quite humorous, but also they were very serious in their concerns for their fellow railroaders and the community. They also were excellent spokesmen for the dedication to doing a good job for the railroad, even in the most challenging of times. All three felt that the railroad operated the most efficiently when the workers were seen as people instead of numbers and that their wish for the railroad was to care about making the work environment such that the workers could succeed in providing the best service for the railroad's customers. They also had a strong devotion to the community and felt the relationship between Glendive and the railroad was strong, even as it is tested by the downturn in business. When asked what they would do if they had unlimited resources for the railroad they all agreed, as is true in so many businesses, that they would improve communication between the railroad, particularly the dispatchers and the workers.

After that we had our annual auction of items donated by the members as well as items donated to the organization and this year we cleared $95. After that we went our separate ways, looking forward to meeting again next year in Denver.


Previous Page | Home | FAQ | Site Map | Membership