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Convention History

1993 in Galesburg

1995 in Chicago

1996 in Seattle

1997 in Galesburg

1998 in Essex

2002 in Fort Worth

The 1993 Galesburg Convention

by Dave Poplawski

If you weren't one of the 33 official attendees or one of the handful of drop-ins at the Friends of the Burlington Northern Railroad first annual meeting and convention in Galesburg, IL last June, you missed a really great time.

With a slick convention banner (done by Butch Eyler) welcoming the Friends, tours of the West Burlington and Galesburg shops, great model displays and model contest, a talk and slide show by a BN dispatcher, and a membership slide show, there was something for everyone and rarely a dull moment. And what little free time folks had was easily filled by the festivities of Galesburg Railroad Days, a major railroading event in itself. I think we all went home with film and video tape full of interesting and rarely seen BN operations and facilities, and memories that will last a lifetime.

For myself and many others, it was also nice to spend some time away from the normal pressures of life, with a group of really nice people sharing a common interest in railroading and the Burlington Northern.

Model Display

On continuous display in the motel meeting room were models of BN locomotives, rolling stock, and containers (both HO and N scale) that were brought by various Friends.

All were excellently done and neat to see.

Particularly impressive was Karl Burmeister's hand painted collection of 52 HO scale BN locomotives of every variety.

Keynote Speaker

Keven Schelen, a BN dispatcher out of Galesburg, gave the keynote address. He talked about the role of the Galesburg dispatching center, and about the plans to move all dispatching functions to Fort Worth a couple of months hence. Combined with a slide show of railroading in the Galesburg area, and a guide to good railfanning "hot spots", his address was entertaining and informative.

West Burlington Shop Tour

After a short chartered bus trip from Galesburg to West Burlington. BN employees Tom Lambrecht and Norm Harless divided the Friends into two groups for a guided tour of the West Burlington locomotive shops. Where the complete rebuilding of BN locomotives, as well as other roads' diesels (under contract), is performed.

For many this was the highlight of the convention, as we were allowed to inspect the entire shop complex, inside and out, which is something railfans normally don't have the opportunity to do given the level of railroad security these days.

Norm and Tom explained the role of the shops, their operation, and answered every question clearly and expertly.

The tour ended with the two groups combining at the back storage lot where we all had a chance to inspect BN- 3, the ex-METRA E9, in executive colors, which was awaiting an upgrade of its prime mover and electrical systems (see photo above).

Galesburg Shop Tour Later that day, BN employee Jim Stanley guided the group through the Galesburg shops, where repairs and rebuilding of locomotive trucks is performed.

He explained that West Burlington didn't have the space to do all the work necessary to rebuild an entire locomotive, so BN converted the Galesburg shops, which had performed running repairs, for this new role.

Of special interest was BN's lone cabless SW10B 442 which was parked in the building and closely inspected by all of us.

Slide Show

Once darkness made railfanning less interesting, the conventioneers met to watch slides brought by various attendees.

The slides and the presentations were varied and interesting, with a wide diversity of subject, time frame and geographic location.

Model Contest

Models were entered and judged in 8 categories as well as best in show, which was won by:

Richard Barnes' SW100 B-Unit 442.

The other winners were: Locomotive 1st: B32-8 5497, Steve Wilhelm
2nd: SD60M 9226, Don Haigler
3rd: SD40-2B 7501, Steve Wilhelm
Freight Car 1st: Husky Stack 64005, George Nelson
2nd: Log Car 626002, Dennis Pehoski
3rd: Cov'd Hopper 456090, Richard Barnes
Pass. Car 1st: Como, George Nelson
2nd: Stampede Pass, George Nelson
(two entries)
Caboose 1st: Freedom 12618, Steve Wilhelm
2nd: Bay Window 11702, Don Haigler
(two entries)
M-of-W 1st: Fire Prevention Car 250, George Nelson
(one entry)
Structure 1st: Prairie du Chien Depot, George Nelson
(one entry)
Vehicle 1st: Flatbed Semi, John Becker
2nd: Boom Truck, George Nelson
3rd: Little Giant Grade-All, Dennis Pehoski
Other BNH 14 Air Repeater Car, Steve Wilhelm
BNFT 25 Fuel Tender, John Adams
BNFT 43 Fuel Tender, Don Haigler

Ribbons for first were BN green and white, second were UP armor yellow and grey, and third were Santa Fe red and silver.

The '95 Chicago Convention

by Dave Poplawski

The 1995 annual meeting and convention of the Friends of the Burlington Northern Railroad, held at the Holiday Inn in Naperville, IL this June, was by all accounts a great success. Approximately 40 attendees, some from as far away as Florida and Louisiana, were treated to a tour of BN's 14th Street maintenance facility, modeling activities of various types at the Little Q Model Railroad Club, various presentations, a scrumptious banquet with a dynamite keynote speaker, and member slide shows. BN provided plenty of railfanning activity by simply running its normal crush of trains on the East end and the attendees themselves filled in any gaps with great comradery and discussions on the finer points of railfanning the BN. Opening presentation by Alex Engelke, convention chairman, Naperville resident and expert East end railfan began the convention with a presentation on local BN operations. Handouts included lists of trains through the corridor, including arrival or departure times, plus a slick map of the Eola Terminal, a favorite hangout. Alex answered questions and provided a good foundation for railfanning the area.

Modeling Activities

All modeling activities were held at the Little Q Model Railroad Club's facility in Aurora. In addition to running their own HO scale layout, FOBNR members John Adams, George Nelson, Dennis Pehoski, and Gary Seymour put together a small N-trak layout and ran several impressive BN coal, intermodal and merchandise trains. John Adams even answered a challenge by N scale critics by backing a fairly long train around the layout without derailing.

Model Contest

Models were entered and judged in 4 categories as well as best in show, which was won by Dennis Pehoski's switcher and electrical trailer. The other winners were:

Locomotive: 1st: Dennis Pehoski, SW12 #180 & ET-3
2nd: George Nelson, GP28M
3rd: Dennis Pehoski, SD-9 #6108
Freight: 1st: George Nelson, Coil car
(one entry)
MOW: 1st: Chad Hewitt, Hy-rail Chevy Blazer
2nd: George Nelson, Uni-van caboose
(two entries)
Passenger: 1st: George Nelson, Glacier View obs. car
(one entry)

Awards were prints of locomotive drawings of BN Executive F's, SD70MAC's, SD60MAC demonstrators and SD60M #1991 by Andy Fletcher. Best in show award was a framed and mounted SD60M #1991 and Freedom Caboose pair.
Although the number of models entered was not large, the quality was excellent. However next year we hope that you modelers out there will turn out in droves to make the selection of winners considerably more difficult.

Photo Contest

The photo contest had several excellent entries. The winners were:

1st: Dave Lehlbach, Intermodal at Marias Pass
2nd&3rd: Craig Webber, Coal trains in Clear Lake, MN

14th Street Tour

The gracious employees of BN's 14th Street Maintenance Facility in downtown Chicago gave the group a tour of the facility, a newly renovated bi-level commuter car and a very clean, shiny F40PH "Winnebago" locomotive. The locomotive seemed to get the most attention; with just about everyone walking back through the engine compartment and taking a couple of minutes in the engineer's seat. The rides downtown from Aurora and back on Metra commuter trains were pleasant and relaxing. They gave the group a chance to see the East end "from the property" and briefly railfan the Cicero yard at about 50 miles per hour. The conductors arranged for us to have our own "private" car at the front/back of the train, and locked the door between us and the rest of the train. I'm not sure if they wanted to keep the general public away from us or us away from the general public! The privacy became very interesting when a few of our group tried to get off at the Naperville station only to find that they couldn't get the doors open. Pushing an emergency button quickly brought the train to a stop and the conductor, with fire in her eyes and smoke coming out of her ears, came running to our car to "enlighten us" on why what we did wasn't such a great idea.

Operation Lifesaver

Gene Ebert gave a very nice presentation on the BN's Operation Lifesaver program. He was extremely informative, and provided a lot of interesting facts and statistics to those of us who are very familiar with railroading found surprising.

Banquet and Keynote Speaker:

After devouring a delicious (although a bit expensive) "chuck wagon" buffet dinner. DJ Mitchell, Executive Assistant to the Chairman and General Manager of Passenger Services for BN got up and simply wowed the crowd with a great informal talk. And, question and answer session on the general status of the Railroad and on its passenger operations and initiatives. He couldn't say a lot about the merger, but that was understood. For most of us this was the highlight of the convention, and several people suggested we have him speak every year.

Slide Shows:

On both evenings several members took the opportunity to show us some of their slide collections. This gave many of us a chance to see a location and/or a time on the BN that we were unfamiliar with.


Primary recognition goes to Alex Engelke, convention chairman, for doing all the legwork necessary to pull the convention off. A special thanks goes to DJ Mitchell for coming all the way up from Fort Worth to be with us.
Thanks also go to all BN employees for arranging and holding the tour and presentation.
The members of the Little Q Model Railroad Club were most gracious hosts. Final thanks go to all FOBNR members who attended and contributed in so many ways to making this convention a success.

The '96 Seattle Convention

by Dave Poplawski

The annual meeting and convention of the Friends of the Burlington Northern Railroad, held at the Executive Inn in Seattle, WA this June, was by all accounts a great success.
Thirty-seven attendees were treated to tours of BNSF's Interbay locomotive shops, Balmer yard and the Ballard Drawbridge. Enjoyed an interesting and informative banquet speech/Q&A session by Mr. Thomas K. Lee of BNSF, and took part in the fun and fellowship of model and photo contests, a swap meet, member slide shows, and general bull sessions on all sorts of BNSF related topics. Opening Presentation Dr. John Strauss welcomed the group Friday night in a meeting room decorated from wall to wall with BNSF railroadiana.
The evening continued with a well-supplied swap meet followed by member slide shows.


The highlight of any convention is a tour of a railroad facility, and this year's tour was no exception. First up was a trip through the Interbay Locomotive Facility, led by BNSF employees John Graham and Richard Ewing. It included visits to the roundhouse, maintenance areas and locomotive service racks. Although it was a Saturday, a railroad never sleeps, and we were treated to the actual operation of the facility, including locomotives arriving and departing the fuel racks, a switcher's wheels being trued, and several locomotives midway through minor wreck repairs. Because the facility was in regular operation and not shut down, all "tourists" were given head and eye protection to wear during the visit. A real surprise was that they let us keep them - a pretty cool freebie courtesy the BNSF and a nice remembrance of the convention (that's us "modeling" our equipment in the photo above). Next we boarded our yellow school bus for a trip over to the Ballard Drawbridge. John Strauss said that he had checked with the dispatcher only to discover that no trains were expected during the time we were there. A bit disappointed, we all hiked a hundred yards or so upstream to observe the salmon running through the fish ladder around the locks on the river. It was the peak of the season for the salmon, and the quantity of fish and their tenacity was most impressive. A little while later we all noticed the drawbridge coming down, so expecting a train many of us sprinted back to find decent photo locations to record the action. Then the bridge went back up, then down, then up, then down, and by this time we were pretty well convinced the bridge operator was having some fun with us. When we had all but given up, an intermodal snuck up on us and almost got across the bridge before we could get our cameras ready again. Last stop on the tour was a drive-by of the car shop and materials storage areas at Interbay. Most interesting were a freshly painted bright green caboose and crane D-258 with boom car.

Membership Meeting

The main topic of the membership meeting was the future direction of the FOBNR. At that time the Board's plan to have the membership vote was presented and discussed.
Also suggested were ways of increasing membership, getting more people involved, and building a database of "experts" and their expertise that could be drawn on for information.

Banquet and Keynote Speaker:

The keynote after-dinner speaker this year was Mr. Thomas K. Lee, BNSF Pacific Division Superintendent, who presented a gift to the person who came the farthest (Colin Lock, from Australia). Showed a video on the BNSF merger, read a motivational passage, and then talked about the merger, followed by a lively question and answer period.

Model Contest:

Models were entered and judged in 5 categories as well as best in show, which was won by Donald McKenzie's HO-scale BN-1/BN-2 and executive train. The other winners were:

Locomotive: 1st: Donald McKenzie, BN-1/BN-2
2nd: John McKenzie, BN SD40-2 7853
3rd: Micheal Farley, BN SW-7 141
Freight: 1st: Bruce Kane, N scale display
2nd: Bryan Smith, BN 747251 Ins. Boxcar
3rd: Bryan Smith, BN 747428 Ins. Boxcar
Passenger: 1st: Bruce Kane, N scale F-units and train
(one entry)
MOW: no entries
Structures: no entries

Model contest prizes were contributed by Express Station Hobbies of Tukwila, WA, to which the FOBNR is very grateful.

Photo Contest

Photos were judged in two categories: black and white, and color.
Best in show was Joseph Snider's ATSF SD75M 208 and train.
Other winners were:

B&W: 1st: Joseph Snider, BN-1/BN-2 and train.
(one entry)
Color: 1st: Kristopher Lundt, BN wb freight at Berne
2nd: Joseph Snider, ATSF 208 and train
3rd: Joseph Snider, BN SD40-2 7058 and train

Photo contest prizes were contributed by The Inside Gateway, Bellevue, WA, to which the FOBNR is very grateful.


Primary recognition goes to the convention committee - Bret Gray, Walt Grecula, Drew Miller, Gary Muehlius and John Strauss - for doing all the legwork necessary to pull the convention off.
A special thanks goes to Mr. Thomas Lee of BNSF for taking time to be with us. Thanks also go to all BNSF employees for arranging and conducting the tour of the local railroad facilities.
Final thanks go to all FOBNR members who attended and contributed in so many ways to making this convention a success.

The '97 Galesburg Convention

by John Adams

The Fourth Friends of the Burlington Northern Convention is now history, with the successful completion of an excellent weekend in Galesburg, Illinois. With 35 members in attendance, activities lasted from Friday afternoon until the closing banquet Saturday evening.

The convention opened with a Board of Director's meeting/open membership meeting Friday evening.
With a number of interested members present at the Board meeting, a useful interaction and sharing of ideas was possible, and resulted in a number of worthwhile plans being developed.
In the meeting, the officers were elected from the Board members, and will stay the same through the coming year, with George Nelson as President, John Adams as Vice-President, Jeff Hendricks as Treasurer and Gary Seymour as Secretary. Dave Poplawski will retain his position as editor of The BN Expediter. We also discussed the fact that the BNSF will not allow us to change the organization's name, but that this decision will not prevent us from continuing our mission of studying the BN and the ongoing BNSF.
The main item of discussion, however, was the need for the organization to grow, and a very worthwhile discussion ensued regarding different ways to encourage new members to join our organization.
There was also a discussion on the need for documenting the history of the BN, and the need for articles for the Expediter, as well as a number of strategies to accomplish these tasks.
The last major item of business was to choose potential sites for the convention for the next several years, and 3 excellent choices were made, with Essex, Montana and the Izaak Walton Inn for 1998, Kansas City for 1999 and St. Louis for 2000.
The need for members living in these areas to volunteer to help was discussed.

The evening followed with a slide show of member's favorite BN pictures. The quality of these pictures was outstanding; and for those of us living in the Midwest, it once again pointed out the need to "Go West" to take advantage of the fantastic scenery available on the western and northwestern BN lines.

Saturday dawned with bright sunshine and high humidity (welcome to summer in Central Illinois!) Unfortunately, the planned tour of the West Burlington Shops had been canceled by the BNSF, as their agreement with us promised a tour only if the shops were not having to work 6 day weeks, and a backlog of projects forced them to do just that.
The disappointment of the canceled West Burlington Shops tour was made less painful by the abundance of rail opportunities at Railroad Days in Galesburg. Whether you wanted to take off for train watching in the area, visit the displays at the Depot in Galesburg, tour the enlarging Galesburg Yards on a Metra commuter train, or visit an excellent model railroad show and swap meet at the nearby junior college. There truly was something for everyone! I didn't talk with anyone throughout the weekend that was ever at a loss for activities.

By Saturday afternoon, everyone was ready to get out of the sun and into the air conditioning to view the model and photograph contest, where many excellent BN and BNSF models were available for display, as well as a number of professional looking pictures.

We were then able to get together for dinner, followed by the awards ceremony for the modeling and photography contests.

Followed by our keynote speaker, Joe Conklin, superintendent of the Illinois Division. His remarks highlighted a major effort by BNSF to improve safety, as he began his talk, as the railroad begins all meetings now, by reviewing all appropriate meeting safety procedures before we began. He stressed that BNSF has a goal of zero accidents, and no longer wants to be a forgotten railroad at the time of the Harriman safety awards. He went on to highlight his career with BN and BNSF.
As was the case of our speaker last year in Seattle, it is truly amazing the number of moves the job imposes on these people and their families, and yet they seem to be the better for it.
He also was proud of his BN heritage (whereas his assistant for public relations refused to answer if he had been a BN or SF man - saying everyone was now a BNSF person) stressing that BN could move coal and grain. But, could learn from the Santa Fe's expertise in moving intermodal freight.
He had started his BN career in the coalfields and was very proud of how well BN can move this commodity.
He candidly admitted the winter had been a very difficult time for BNSF, but felt improvements were now in place to move freight much more efficiently. He explained the changes and integration of the former BN and SF yards and mains through Illinois, and how these would be used to best advantage. At that point he was able to answer several questions, but the fact he had been up since 4 AM to arrange for Railroad Days shortened our session in respect for the time he had given us.

This was certainly an outstanding convention, a great opportunity to renew old friendships and meet new people, and to see lots of BN action.
With the addition of the gorgeous scenery of Montana, and the railroad action of BN mountain railroading, everyone left eager to meet again next summer in Essex.

The '98 Essex, MT Convention

by George Nelson

This year's convention, held August 5-7 at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, Montana, included unseasonably warm weather, fun-filled events, and plenty of BNSF action.
Nineteen members made the trip to Essex, including several whom arrived on Amtrak's Empire Builder.
The Izaak Walton Inn, just a stone's throw from the tracks, is the perfect place to trainwatch, and the railroad decorations in the rooms added to the experience.
Despite some MOW work in the area, there were still plenty of trains. In fact, if you weren't a railfan, staying on the side of the inn facing the rails could prove quite noisy.
An employee of the inn told me this story: recently, he received an evaluation card from a guest who was probably not a railfan (after all, Glacier National Park is another nearby attraction).
The card said: "A friend suggested we stay here, and for the most part we enjoyed our visit.
One thing-- could you do something about the $%#$ trains!"

Highlights on Wednesday included talks by Robert Del Grosso (about Marias Pass) and Ed Vasecka (about Glacier Park). On Thursday, the Izaak Walton furnished a van for a trip to Eastern Marias Pass, with another van trip to Western Marias Pass on Friday. The Thursday evening general membership meeting was held on the front lawn, so that no one missed any action on the mainline. Friday evening included an excellent banquet, door prizes, and announcement of the model contest results. Contrary to popular belief, I did not plan the BNSF switching operation to coincide with the banquet.

There were twenty-nine entries in the model contest, and the winners were:

Locomotives: 1st Dean Daughenbaugh (also won Best of Show)
2nd Butch Eyler
3rd Butch Eyler
Freight Cars: 1st Wade Griffis
2nd Wade Griffis
3rd Wade Griffis
Passenger Cars: 1st George Nelson
2nd George Nelson
MOW: 1st George Nelson
Structures: no entries
Cabooses: no entries

There were also 22 entries in the photo contest, and the winners were:

Best of Show: Dean Daughenbaugh (NP Historical Society train)
Color Prints: 1st Dean Daughenbaugh
2nd (tie) George Read
Wade Griffis
3rd (tie) Joe Snider (2 entries)
George Read (3 entries)
Color Slides: 1st Butch Eyler
2nd Robert Del Grosso
3rd Joe Snider (2 entries)
B&W: no entries

It takes the effort of a lot of people to hold a successful convention.
I want to personally thank the following:

Robert Del Grosso - convention chairman and door prize
Butch Eyler - for the convention banner
Karl Burmeister - model contest
George Read - photo contest and door prize
Steven Palmieri - door prizes
Hobby Craft of Madison - door prizes
Izaak Walton Inn staff - for all their help

The '02 Ft. Worth, TX Convention

by John Adams

After dinner we were treated to an informal discussion of the life of an engineer from retired ATSF engineer Dan Owens. Dan's stories and exploits of his life on the railroad really added a lot of human interest to the weekend, and his presentation was entertaining for all. We followed this with our annual Board meeting. During the meeting we elected officers for the next year, including myself as president again this year, Dave Poplawski as vice-president, Gary Seymour as secretary and Jeff Hendricks as treasurer. We also welcomed Joe Snider as our new member of the Board. Due to time commitments of his new job, Chad Hewitt also asked to step down from the Board and John McKenzie has been appointed to fill the remainder of Chad's term. We want to thank both Chad and Michael Farley for their service to the Board, and hope both will decide to run again in the very near future. We also discussed plans for the convention next year, which will tentatively be located in Alliance, Nebraska, with a tour of the BNSF coal field facilities in that community.

On Saturday morning we all boarded a bus and headed for the BNSF headquarters and an excellent tour by Pat Hiatte, who has been a great contact at the railroad, and friend to the organization for a number of years. We were able to tour most of the headquarters complex, with the high point certainly being the ability to watch the Network Operating Center in operation. If you have not seen this facility, it is well worth the trip for a tour, as it is a quite interesting scene to watch. I was almost as impressed by the artwork throughout the headquarters facility, almost all of which is strictly scenes along the predecessor railroads, and the snack bar. No, unfortunately it was not open, but who wouldn't like a dome observation car for a snack bar!

We then headed back into town and were able to sample some Texas barbeque at The Stockyards, but missed the steam excursion train that is based there. Then it was back on the bus to go to Alliance Yard (no, not the one in Nebraska - that's 2003!), where we all got tours of the yard tower and got to watch a large general freight and intermodal yard in operation. And for all of this we had bright sunshine and temps only in the high 80's - the best weather they had had in some period of time.

After our return we were able to get together for the annual banquet and a chance to share good food and camaraderie. Pat Hiatte was a quick stand-in as speaker, and was able to tell us about the railroad's new plans for making the movement of carload freight as efficient as unit trains and intermodal freight now move across the system. His powerpoint presentation about the planning that goes into this new service initiative really gave an insight into the type of work it takes to make an incredibly complicated system actually work to its best potential.

Once again this year, we owe a big thanks to Dave Poplawski, who once again this year did the legwork to bring the convention off without a hitch, and to Pat Hiatte from the BNSF who was able to facilitate our tours and access to the railroad facilities. Now it is time to watch here for more definitive news on next year's convention, as I think it will really be one to look forward to, particularly if you are interested in the coal operations that have really been the backbone of the BN and BNSF! See you next June!

The 2005 Annual Convention in Duluth/Superior

by John Adams

Our Twelfth Annual FOBNR convention is now history! And once again it went off extremely well and seemed to be enjoyed be all those in attendance! We were incredibly fortunate to start with the weather. It had been unseasonably hot and humid in Duluth/Superior until the night we arrived to begin the convention. As we drove up from the Twin Cities we were within 25 miles of Duluth when we suddenly realized the car thermometer had dropped from 88 to 74, and the weather stayed absolutely gorgeous for the entire convention with highs around 80 each day and low humidity. I personally was very happy with this since I had been the one who decided to save money by renting a non air-conditioned bus for Friday morning. With the temps on the way up on Wednesday I was sweating even more the usual!

Thursday we began by car pooling to the Hibtac Taconite mine in Hibbing, MN. Here we were able to take a fascinating tour of an active taconite mine that ships out 23,000 tons of taconite pellets on the BNSF each 18 hours. The scale at which this mine operates is something that has to be seen to appreciate. First, the over burden is removed, then the ore vein is blasted to create boulder size chunks of ore which are loaded into 120 ton capacity 2,500 horsepower dump trucks and taken to crusher. This crusher converts them to fist sized chunks, which are then ground into a powder by 5 story high drums. These drums are so huge that if they have to be started from a stopped position it requires as much electricity as the entire town of Hibbing uses in a day. This partially explains why the plant's electricity bill is $1.2 million a month and all of the processes work 24/365 days a year. The powder is then made into slurry, separated by magnets and baked with bentonite clay into shipped out to the docks or mills by ore hopper trains. All of the equipment is huge noisy and dirty, but really gets the job done!

After a late lunch we were able to head back to Superior and chase several DM&IR/CN ore trains into town. We were a little disappointed to not find any BNSF trains, but still got some great shots. Interestingly, the two railroads really differ in their philosophy of trains, as CN still uses ancient (as old as me! - built in 1949) 28' quad ore cars, while BNSF uses higher capacity newer 35' cars.

Thursday evening we completed registration, got together to look at Peter Ferch's amazing collection of BN memorabilia, as well as a number of HO models of BN locomotives and rolling stock that several members displayed, had our membership meeting and watched slides of recent BNSF trains and passenger cars from the early days of the BN.

Friday we met again, on our comfortable non air-conditioned bus, to go on a tour the Allouez ore dock on the BNSF. This dock takes the taconite pellets unloaded from the trains from the mines and trans-loads them onto conveyor belts 60" wide to load on to 1000' long lake ore boats to head to different steel mills. Once again the scale of these operations are huge, particularly the machine which scoops pellets off the piles on the ground onto the first conveyor belt. To give you an idea of the size we are talking about, they had stop the loading process so pellets wouldn't fall off the belts onto our school bus as we drove under the conveyor! Next we headed for the Midwest energy facility where Powder River coal is trans-loaded from trains to ships to be sent to Detroit Edison power plants in Michigan as well as a number of other power generating stations. We were able to see an amazingly clean process of dumping the rotary dump gons, storing the coal for shipping and then sending it to the lake boats for shipment. We were able to go through the dumper, watch the process of dumping and even check out the "hobocam" that they use to check each incoming hopper car so they don't dump a sleeping rider from the cars.

Friday afternoon we had some free time for the local hobby shop, train watching and town tours, followed by our banquet on Friday evening. The food was great and our speaker, author Bill Brotherton, was very interesting, as he regaled us with stories of his time working on the BN. We added a new feature to the banquet, by auctioning off BN/BNSF stuff donated by several of our members.

Dennis Pehoski was very generous in donating N and HO locomotives and HO scale autoracks', Carr's Hobby in Duluth donated another HO locomotive and there were a number of BN ball caps, shirts, system maps, calendars and BN hardhat from the Seattle convention. In total these raised over $300 for the FOBNR! We were very appreciative of the donations and may try having this again nest year in Denver, so think of BN items you may wish to donate.

On Saturday we assembled at the Duluth depot to ride the North Shore Scenic Railroad to Two Harbors (about 35 miles). We had hoped to use an ex-GN NW5 pulling a BN car, but were pre-empted by a blown traction motor blower bearing on the engine and the railroad's need for the passenger car to carry children behind their special visitor of the weekend, Thomas Tank Engine! We were a little disappointed, but when you saw the looks of glee on those children getting to ride a train - you have to realize that is the future of our organization! Anyway, the Budd RDC car we were given was great! The crew was as friendly as can be, the scenery was fantastic, the sandwiches in Two Harbors were great, and the back-up movement to leave the depot in Two Harbors and return to the mainline was really special, since I got to sit on the unused engineer's seat in the rear of the car as we backed up the main! Everyone had a great time and it was a great end to another convention!

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