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The Crystal Ball  
by Jim Wrinn  
This year, it's easy to plan for steam adventures There's just not a whole lot going on. What is scheduled is pretty good, but at least this year you won't be agonize over choosing between SP&S 700 on Montana Rail Link and UP 3985 on the ex-Rock Island Spine Line.

So, if you've got 6 weeks of vacation, a pair of N80s with some great glass, a patient spouse and a few thou in the bank for beer money, let's get planning. There's still steam to be found in '03.  
First stop: Canada in June.

Canadian Pacific 4-6-4 2816 is set to make a local run out of Calgary in May. Then it will launch into an extensive tour of Manitoba and Ontario as part of the Canadian Living Foundation's Breakfast for Learning campaign. The tour starts in Calgary May 24 and ends there July 7. The route takes the engine as far east as Toronto.

See the schedule here

The tour is one of the most extensive since the good ole days of the NS excursions, Chessie Steam Special or American Freedom Train. There will be no passengers, so it's a photographer's feast. A schedule at CP's web site posted in late March was expected to be detailed and possibly fine tuned in early May. From the tentative schedule, it looks like the engine will be in and around Windsor and Toronto-both close to Detroit or Buffalo-in mid- and late-June. Then it's temptingly close to the U.S. in the area of Thunder Bay, which isn't too far from Duluth, Minn.

CP Corporate Historian Jonathan Hanna told SteamCentral that 2816 won't make any U.S. appearances this year because she's not yet been modified to meet Federal Railway Administration specs. But, he added, "We hope to do this later in 2003 so that the locomotive can run in the U.S. in 2004." Ah, a U.S. visit, now wouldn't that be nice? For that matter, wouldn't she look nice at Scranton doubleheaded with Steamtown's heavy Pacific? Or could a 2004 appearance at the NRHS meet in Minneapolis be in the works?

Cost:   Not that much... remember, the exchange rate is favorable to the dollar; a U.S. dollar equaled $1.47 Canadian last Friday.

Time:   If this was in the mountains, I'd spend all 6 weeks; since it's not, pick a week in June and go have fun. Some of the really remote stretches of track north of Lake Huron are bound to be beautiful.  
Next stop: Colorado in July.

You can never have enough Colorado. But this year, you'll need to travel there to enjoy the sight of UP 3985 to speed. Go early, drive up to Cheyenne, Wyo., and take in the Sherman Hill Model Railroad Club trip to Joyce, Neb., and back on July 12. Then, you've got a week to visit Georgetown Loop, Cripple Creek and, if you like to drive, swing south to the C&TS or D&S before you're due back in Denver. (If you don't like to drive, go visit the Big Horn rams in Rocky Mountain National Park, hike the grade of the Argentine Central, take in a Rockies baseball game, etc.--you're in Colorado!) On July 19, the Challenger pulls the annual Denver Post train to the Frontier Days Rodeo in Cheyenne. Don't miss the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club's one-way photo trip on July 20-they know how to run a good trip.

Cost:   Tickets are no longer cheap, but remember the Stan Brosky rule You're dead for a long time. Just put it on the plastic and enjoy the steam. A coach seat will run you $175 on the July 12 trip... if you order early. Order late and it will run you $225. Dome or first class, $500 a pop. Cost on the Denver Post and Rocky trips were TBA.

Time:   Three days of UP steam, plus some CO narrow gauge, time in Colorado, etc. - one week in heaven!  
Next stop: Michigan in August.

Pere Marquette 1225 has long been a mystery engine. This big ole 2-8-4, outside its early 1990s visit to West Virginia's New River Gorge, hasn't really stretched its legs much outside the Wolverine State. This year, she's running what's become a staple for the engine, an Owosso-Mount Pleasant round trip May 31 over the Tuscola & Saginaw Bay Railway in Michigan. There's also a side trip to Clare. But the real treat is an extended, two-day run to Cadillac Aug. 16-17. That's 120 miles each way. And there's a 23 mile side trip both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning to Yuma. So, lots of good opportunities to ride, chase and enjoy.

Cost:   May 31, coach, includes lunch, $90; first class, with dinner, $150. Clare side trip $25. Aug. 16 and 17 Train to Cadillac, bus return, $100 coach; $160 first class; or train both ways with lodging included $265 for coach with 2 lunches and $385 for first class with 4 meals. Yuma side trip at 4 p.m. Aug. 16 or 10 a.m. Aug. 17, $25. Details (810) 638-7248 www.lcrt.homestead.com/2003steam.html.

Time:   While in the neighborhood, check out the narrow gauge engines at Flint's Huckleberry Railroad or the standard gauge steam at Greenfield Village. Minimum 5 days. Buckley's steam tractor show, which includes a former Detroit Edison 0-4-0T is Aug. 16-17 so, it's possible to catch that little steamer as well!  
Next stop: Western N.C. in September.

I like homecomings. Most folks do. So, when Graham County Shay 1925, based at the N.C. Transportation Museum, visits the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Sept. 12-14, she'll be as close to home as she can get without relaying the line between Topton and Robbinsville. The engine will be cleaned, serviced and displayed in Bryson City on the 12th and then for the next two days make two runs out of Bryson City along the Tuckaseegee River. Look for this writer attached to a coal scoop or just standing, beaming with pride. And yes, it would be nice to get her out to Nantahala Gorge and even make a memorial run to Graham County Junction, site of the abandoned SR-GCRR interchange. But let me ask you Have you ever tried to deadhead a Shay 26 miles one way in a day? GSMR's 2-8-0 1702 is making a photographer's run on the 14th from Dillsboro to Andrews, so enjoy the Shay on Saturday and the Consol on Sunday.

Cost:   TBA.

Time:   One long weekend. I'd tell you it was close enough for a visit to Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum while you're in the area, but ...  
Next stop: East Tennessee in October.

Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga's 34th annual Autumn Leaf Specials are Oct. 4 11, 18, 19, 25, 26 and Nov. 1. Now that a turntable has been installed in Summerville, Ga., this is a 95-mile roundtrip behind steam in both directions. If SR 630 is completed in time, perhaps she could doublehead with ex-Army 610. Wouldn't that be a nice sight.

Cost:   $77 is a real bargain - that's 81 cents a mile or less than half of most steam operations these days! There's a dining car on the train and you can ride one day and chase the next.

Time:   Make a long weekend out of it.  
Next stop: Louisiana in November.

Save some time for this one, just in case. It's an ex-Southern Pacific 2-8-2, No. 745, under restoration for a Louisiana Purchase bicentennial display train this fall. Not much has been published or printed about it, but if it comes to pass, it could be quite a show.

Cost:   Your patience watching this pot boil.

Time:   Hard to say at this point, check back in July.  
Now, to tie up some loose ends:

Event of the year? Last year it was AT&SF 3751's trip to Grand Canyon with SP&S 700's trip on Montana Rail Link a close second and the reappearance of Moore-Kepple Climax No. 3 in West Virginia. This year there is no obvious choice in advance. Look for nominees trackside, and send them in.

Things to watch with anticipation this year:

* Ohio Central's schedule.

* Milwaukee Road 261's schedule.

* NKP 765's return.

* 2719's schedule.

* The Heisler at Tillamook.

* L&N 152's rare outings. This year Kentucky Railway Museum is in steam on Memorial Day weekend, Fathers' Day Weekend, 4th of July Weekend, the first three weekends in September and the first three weekends in October.

* The return of Middletown & Hummelstown 2-6-0 No. 91 "sometime this season." Details www.mhrailroad.com.

Things to note with sadness this year:

* Cancellation of the B&O Fair of the Iron Horse festival at the hands of a record blizzard with hopes for a full recovery in Baltimore. While many good pieces of railway history were damaged, it did this writer good to see the white face of Clinchfield 4-6-0 No. 1 peering from the wreckage, apparently unharmed.

* 4449's absence at the hands of the insurance industry.

* The slim schedule at the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic at the hands of a host of problems, both natural and manmade.

* Trips on the Blue Mountain and Reading will be diesel this year. According to the railroad's web site, 4-6-2 425 and 4-8-4 2102 are not due out this year.

Reasons to be optimistic about the future:

* 2004 NRHS convention in Minneapolis. This looks like a fine opportunity to buy enough insurance to cover several days of operations by Soo Line 2719 and 1003 and Milwaukee Road 261. If CPR 2816 was modified for U.S. service in 2004, the lake country of Minnesota would be a fine place for a debut.

* The 2005 NRHS convention in Portland, Ore., could be a doozie. Straighten out the insurance fiasco and you'd have SP 4449, SP&S 700. If the Oregon Railroad & Navigation 4-6-2 No. 197 is done (for its 100th birthday, no less), add that into the mix. In the region, there's Sumpter Valley's narrow gauge Heisler and 2-8-2, the Heisler at Tillamook, Ore., the 2-8-2Ts just across the Columbia River at Battle Ground Wash, not to mention the Chehalis Central's wonderful 2-8-2. Would eight engines under steam in one week be worth your while? And if UP 3985 was to drop in, well...

* The K4 is still under restoration. Keep a good thought on that one.  
Jim Wrinn is a writer and editor with The Charlotte Observer and a long-time volunteer at the N.C. Transportation Museum, where BC&G 2-8-0 No. 4 is awaiting a new smokebox and lots of firebox and boiler work and GCRR 1925 is getting a new, extra thick dome lid, nicknamed by Master Mechanic John Bechtel The Manhole Cover.

The next Crystal Ball update is July 1. Comments, suggestions, corrections and additions can go to crystalball@steamcentral.com. Page not found - SteamCentral

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