In a classic scene that can't be replicated today, the helper set out of Essex with F9A 810 (NP 7002D), F9B 809 (NP 7002C) and GP9 1765 (GN 692) has uncoupled from a heavy eastbound manifest they assisted up to the Summit and is now rolling slowly to the east. A common practice at the time was to cut the helpers in at Essex between the middle and rear of a train (and ahead of any long cars), so they were not pushing upon an occupied caboose or any long cars. Absent today, besides the first generation power, is the Summit station and train order signal, the wood ties and jointed rail and the pole line. The depot was moved nearby and converted into a restaurant, however, as of last summer it was closed and appeared abandoned.
Shortly after taking this photo, the engineer stuck his
head out of the cab window and asked if I had ever been in a locomotive? I lied and said "no" and was promptly invited up into the cab! Once the engineer learned I was a guest of the Izaak Walton Inn, he invited me to stay and ride the light helper set back to Essex! My traveling companion had little choice but to drive our rental car back the Inn, but as you can imagine, he was not happy that I got a cab ride and he didn't. I figured this might be the case, so during my trip down, I made arrangements for both of us to ride the next push up and light move down, which "calmed the waters" and made some wonderful memories for both of us! The engineer was a senior GN man who was just a few years away from retirement. He told some great stories of firing steam over the pass, battling fierce winters, derailments and other notable events that occurred during his long career with the Great Northern.