It's one of the roughest, toughest mountain passes, where heavy tonnage trains battle 2.2 percent grades and up to three sets of helpers are needed for the haul. It's a line of repeated horseshoe curves, with two long trestles, and a 3,896-foot long tunnel that crosses the Continental Divide. It's located in the Big Sky country of Montana, where endless vistas of mountains and cloud-filled skies create a scenic backdrop for trains of 100-plus cars. It's a place where two railroads juggle nonstop traffic over 29 miles of partially single-tracked mountain rails. Welcome to Mullan Pass!
Burlington Northern and Montana Rail Link shared the line when Video Rails captured the excitement on this legendary Pass in 1990. Starting at Helena Junction, we see BN and MRL trains depart for the steep climb to the summit. Every westbound train needs helpers and MRL's heaviest power is assigned to its helper pool. SD40-2s and SD45s make up the bulk of the power seen here. 15,000-ton coal trains with 45,000 HP grind their way up the 2.2 percent grade, past Iron Ridge, Greenhorn Trestle, and Skyline Trestle to Mullan Tunnel, Blossburg Siding, and Elliston. Huge clouds of diesel exhaust billow out of the tunnel, making it easy to see why it's called the "Black Fog of Blossburg."
A special treat is a cab ride across the Pass in the lead helper engine of BN Train 195, a daily mixed freight. Whether you're viewing the line from the crews' perspective, from trackside, or through vast panorama views, railroading on Mullan Pass is an awesome experience you'll want to enjoy again and again!
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1 Hour In Color with Stereo Sound and Narration Full-screen (4x3) Format No region code; can be played in any NTSC DVD player worldwide Packaged in Sturdy Vinyl Clamshell Case ISBN: 1-56342-226-3 UPC: 7-48268-00509-1 Produced by Video Rails 1998. Released on DVD by Pentrex 2007
rrvideoman (Delisle Saskatchewan) on 2020-03-30 15:47:26.
People who found this review helpful: 2
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5 of 5
Mountain railroading... steep grades, long heavy trains, with a lot of power assisting on the headend and helper units part way back. A bonus is a cab ride in a helper unit. Lots of MRL & Bn traffic on the line makes for a great show.
Additional remarks by rrvideoman: Narration:Just enough. Would kids enjoy this?Maybe. Image quality:Excellent! DVD Value:Excellent Value! Recommend to others?Definitely.
Nikhil Murthy (Washington) on 2016-01-30 09:25:24.
People who found this review helpful: 1
5 of 5
This program features Montana Rail Link's operation over Mullan Pass from Helena to Elliston. After that, there is a cab ride over this same stretch of trackage. The highlight of the program is at Mullan Tunnel where so much diesel exhaust is blown out of the tunnel. That's why the tunnel is called "The Black Fog of Blossburg." One of the more interesting helper operations that I believe only Montana Rail Link does is that they put 2 sets of mid-train helpers in 2 locations in the middle of the train instead of one location and possibly rear helpers. As a result, there are some trains that comprise at least 10 locomotives. I don't know if MRL continues this policy today, especially since they have new motive power compared to what was shot in this program since this was filmed in the 1990s.
Additional remarks by Nikhil Murthy: Narration:Just enough. Would kids enjoy this?Yes. Image quality:Excellent! DVD Value:Excellent Value! Recommend to others?Definitely.
Probably Video Rails second best production. Montana is naturally a highly scenic area and with freight passing through it's even better. This DVD has ground shots followed by a cab ride over the same territory. Slightly dated with older power in the lead. Nice chapter on cut-ins of helper units on a long coal drag. Mullan Pass is a short section of mountain railroading thus this DVD is under an hour.
Additional remarks by Trackside: Narration:Just enough. Would kids enjoy this?Yes. Image quality:Excellent! DVD Value:Good Value Recommend to others?Definitely.
This video of Mullan Pass definitely exceeded my expectations. Superb writing, excellent narration, and great camera angles combine to make this video one of the best that I think that Video Rails produced. Highlights include Greenhorn Trestle, Skyline Trestle, and Blossburg Tunnel, home of the "Black Fog of Blossburg." Also included is the superb intro characteristic of Video Rails and informative graphics. An added bonus is a cab ride of a Burlington Northern train over the pass. I have enjoyed this DVD many times. I think that you will enjoy it too.
Additional remarks by VideoRailsFan: Narration:Just enough. Would kids enjoy this?Yes. Image quality:Good. DVD Value:Good Value Recommend to others?Definitely.
This video was a great tour of Mullan Pass. Until I saw this program I was not familiar with Mullan Pass at all. Based on what I saw in the DVD I can understand why railfans are drawn to the area. Mullan Pass has everything you could ask for in mountain railroading: steep grades, long freights, helper engines and great scenery. Plus the length of the DVD, 60 minutes, is ideal for busy people. It is not the longest train video, but you won't feel cheated by this show!
In this recently turned 30 year old program from 1990, it starts with a map which the graphics were also used on the blue mountains 3 volume set. The pass is located in the northwest portion of Montana with Helena in the east, & Elliston in the west which is nearly 30 miles apart from each other. According to the climb at 1602 feet, the westbound trains are always climbing at 11 miles on the 2.2% while the eastbound trains can climb up to 8.4 miles on the 1.4% grade.
The coverage begins at Helena station which is the crew change point for Montana rail link. Here we see MRL 101 running light as it switches cars on a local. As the clock stroke 8:35, MRL 305, BN 6493, seaboard 308, MRL 212, MRL 217, BN 6445, & MRL 214 arrives after pushing a westbound freight. Afterwards, a 7 unit mixed freight with BN 8015, 7024, & Booster slug 4062 plus seaboard 302 is entering main track 2 on its way to the summit.
Leaving Helena, it's double track until it reaches Tobin. From tobin, it'll be single track only as it passes by the small towns of bird's eye, 7 mile creek, greenhorn creek, & east Austin which is at 13 miles. Carroll college is in the background as a 7 unit helper set arrives at the junction wye which we saw arriving earlier in this program. At Helena junction wye, there is a leg that connects to the BN great falls line which operates the garrison local. A coal train arrives with BN 5113 in charge. With only 40 cars off, the 7 unit helper set will be in the middle of the coal train for pusher service. 212, 308,6493, & 217 are the helpers for the middle while the others would be placed on the rear of the 35 hoppers while pulling the rear ones. At a dirt road, SD40-2 number 7888 is having trouble with its horn while carrying booster slug units 4119, & 4002 on a mixed freight as it rolls through track 2. Meanwhile, a westbound is shown with LMX B40-8s & BN slug unit 4045 in the middle. Between the diesels & The mixed freight is a flatbed of military tanks. The helpers in the middle are all SD40-2 units. Which consists of MRL 250, BN 8385, & MRL 204. At Tobin siding, an MRL freight must wait for a mixed freight that had a southern pacific unit in the middle of the lash up. From a gravel road, BN 6493 leads 5 MRL units on a 15,000 ton coal train. There are 4 helpers in the middle: BN 6557, 2 from MRL, & 1 from seaboard. For helpers on the rear, there are 3 from MRL, & a blank gray painted SD45. Afterwards, a 5 unit piggyback with 2 from LMX, 2 from MRL, & BN SD40-2 number 6335 gains altitude at a higher speed limit. This is from the same location as it's following the coal train behind. Next, we see the same freight with 2 tanks on a single flatbed between birds eye & east Austin as it rolls through 7 mile creek. Moments later, the same 5 unit piggyback approaches east Austin. Following behind is a 3 unit mixed freight with BN 3139, 3125, & 5057.
Leaving east Austin behind, the route enters the twin horseshoe curves for iron ridge & weed which is at a short distance of 3 miles. At the siding, an All MRL westbound priority train arrives as it'll have to wait for an eastbound with 7 units: 5 from MRL, & 2 from BN. With dynamic brakes activated, BN SD40-2 number 8335 arrives with GP30 number 1927 on the rear. 4 helpers are on the rear of the mixed freight: 2 from MRL, 1 from BN, & 1 from seaboard. As the signal switched to green, MRL 301 gets underway with 219, 213, Santa Fe 8124, & santa Fe 8136. Meanwhile, 6493 enters the lower horseshoe curve. As the camera zooms out, a lone boxcar is Since been derailed. There are over 100 loaded hoppers on this coal train. Afterwards, BN SD40-2 number 7842 with slug unit 4049 leads a mixed freight through Austin as it negotiates the horseshoe curves. Moments later, the same freight that we saw leaving Helena station are climbing westbound for the pass as it heads for iron ridge & weed.
From the upper horseshoe curve at weed, the route crosses over one of the 2 bridges on the line known as bridge 17 which is measured at 580 feet long and crosses over the green horn creek. At sunset, 6493 crosses the curved trestle. At the cut before the bridge, a mixed freight is shown with BN 6445 leading. Note the slug on the rear.
Leaving bridge 17 behind, the next location on the Helena to Elliston line is skyline siding which is next to bridge 18 that crosses over Austin creek & measures at 494 feet. Heading for skyline trestle, the same freight from Helena statIon is battling the 2.2% grade.
Next up on the list is blossburg tunnel which is measured at 3896 feet long, reaches the summit of 5548 feet above the sea, and crosses the continental divide while passing by a siding. Away from the summit of the continental divide, it'll be a 1.4% drop to Elliston. At the tunnel, a quartet of BN SD40-2S numbers 8062, 6843, 7802, & 8001 are leaving the east portal on a mixed freight. When The tunnel was built in the decades of steam, there are never used squirrel cage blowers. Leaving the West portal at blossburg siding, a coal train with BN 6493 arrives at the summit of mullan pass. Look at all of the smoke coming out of the generators of the locomotives. A pair of LMX units are waiting for not only The coal train to pass, but also the heavy smoke & fog from the narrow tunnel. The speed limit for eastbound trains heading for the West portal is only 25 miles per hour. With the smoke cleared, The eastbound LMX mixed freight with BN slug unit 4060 is now getting the clear signal. At the West end of blossburg siding, an eastbound with MRL 200, 201, 215, & high hood unit 109 would soon be entering the tunnel on the 1.4% grade. Meanwhile, a set of helpers are heading for Helena. They are consist of 217, BN 6445, 306, & 305. Afterwards, the same MRL train that we saw in blossburg siding, is shown east of Elliston. The canyon in the background serves as the western entrance to mullan pass, as a 5 unit mixed freight with 3 from BN & 2 from EMD. At sunset, the helpers are cut off at Elliston siding after helping a coal train.
With a look at the route from trackside finished, a cab ride from Helena to Elliston is shown as we're at the throttle of BN train 195. As we leave the station, we pass by Northern Pacific 4-6-0 number 1382 on display. 1382's since been scrapped sister engine 1372 can be found in NP farewell to steam by Greg Scholl in 1998. Listen to the horn on lead unit 212 as we go West. At Tobin, an eastbound, freight arrives with BN 3722, slug unit 4015, 3078, & 6807. With the mixed train cleared, the signal switched to green as we are ready for the climb while the driver gives it a full throttle. From tobin to blossburg tunnel, it's all clear. Along the way, there are a handful of unprotected crossing signs, as well as the lone boxcar that's on display while a pair of maintenance of way equipment are waiting for their next assignment. This train has 7 units up front. Leaving the tunnel, train 195 passes by the continental divide, & all too soon, the cab ride & this program ends at blossburg siding where the helpers are cut off.
Overall, Jim Knight did an outstanding job narrating this program.
Additional remarks by Steamboy: Narration:Just enough. Would kids enjoy this?Definitely! Image quality:Excellent! DVD Value:Good Value Recommend to others?Definitely.