TS20: Hi-Line on the High Plains!
Written by: Gary Dolzall.
The eastern portion of BNSF’s famed Hi-Line Subdivision crosses the magnificent high plains of Montana – and the remarkable route is soon coming to Train Simulator!
Coming soon to Train Simulator, the Montana Hi-Line Route will take you to the boundless and magnificent high plains of “Big Sky Country” for some of the most dynamic and challenging railroading found anywhere in America!
From accomplished route developer VNH and the expert team of Michael Stephan and Rick Grout, the upcoming Montana Hi-Line Route for Train Simulator extends across the Montana high plains between Havre and Shelby, 108 route miles. The Hi-Line Subdivision (which west of Shelby climbs through famed Marias Pass) is part of the railroad’s Montana Division and is a key artery of BNSF's bustling northern transcontinental main line between Chicago and Seattle. It was built in the late 19th century by James J. Hill's Great Northern Railway and is the northernmost of the transcontinental railroads in the United States. The Hi-Line today is BNSF’s busy route for intermodal and container traffic moving between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest and the line also originates and carries huge amounts of grain tonnage.
Havre, located at the west end of BNSF’s Milk River Subdivision, is home to a large yard, diesel and car shops, lineside grain elevators, and an Amtrak station stop for the Empire Builder. Four miles west of Havre is Pacific Junction, where the Hi-Line Sub begins and links with BNSF’s Big Sandy Subdivision. In reaching across Montana, the Hi-Line passes through numerous small towns – places with names like Kremlin and Hingham, Inverness and Dunkirk -- all of which are host to tall grain elevators. At Chester, 58 miles west of Pacific Junction, two large rapid-loading grain facilities with loop tracks serve BNSF unit grain trains, most of which are bound for Pacific coast ports. On its west end at Shelby, just as at Havre, the upcoming Montana Hi-Line Route features a large and active rail yard. Shelby is also the junction point with BNSF’s Great Falls and Sweetgrass Subdivisions.
If the broad plains of Montana suggest to you easy railroading, think again. The constant flow of tonnage on the Hi-Line, high track speeds (79 mph for passenger and 60 mph for freight), a mix of single- and double-track, and most dauntingly, a sawtooth gradient profile with frequent climbs and drops of up to 1 percent, together make the Hi-Line a real challenge for the railroad’s dispatchers and train operating crews!
The upcoming Train Simulator Montana Hi-Line Route is a masterful and detailed re-creation of this famed line. Havre features the sprawling yard complex, locomotive and car shops with full interiors, terminal and main line refueling stations, Amtrak’s depot, and even Great Northern S-2 Class 4-8-4 2584, which stands proudly on display adjacent to the Havre station.
Across the length of the line, the Montana Hi-Line Route reveals the majesty of “Big Sky Country” and the fertile grain fields of the high plains, with each town and their distinctive grain elevators standing at trackside. There are, in fact, a dozen towns with grain elevators between Havre and Shelby, which will offer a variety of local freight and switching opportunities in addition to the constant flow of intermodal, manifest, and unit trains on the Hi-Line main!
To bring the Hi-Line to full life, the route will include three BNSF freight locomotives – the General Electric mainline workhorse ES44DC, Electro-Motive’s GP38-2 road-switcher, and EMD’s SW1500 switcher - and a selection of more than 20 appropriate and contemporary freight car types. And the route will also deliver nine realistic and diverse career scenarios.
Note: The Montana Hi-Line Route will be available worldwide. Due to licensing restrictions, BNSF markings will appear only on content distributed to U. S. customers.
Bustling, challenging, and scenic, the upcoming Train Simulator Montana Hi-Line Route promises you countless realistic and enjoyable railroading experiences amid America’s Big Sky Country, so stay tuned here at Dovetail Live for further information and announcements!
Coming soon to Train Simulator, the Montana Hi-Line Route will take you to the magnificent high plains of “Big Sky Country” for some of the most challenging railroading found anywhere in America. On the ever-busy Hi-Line Subdivision at Chester, east- and westbound BNSF trains meet under the gaze of towering grain elevators. Screenshots by Gary Dolzall.
The upcoming Montana Hi-Line Route, created for Train Simulator by accomplished route developer VNH and the expert team of Michael Stephan and Rick Grout, extends across the Montana high plains between Havre and Shelby, 108 route miles. BNSF General Electric ES44DC 7216 is on the point of a westbound stack train departing Havre and passing the town’s station and preserved Great Northern S-2 Class 4-8-4 2584. As part of BNSF’s Chicago-Seattle artery, the Hi-Line is an important conveyor of intermodal traffic. Note: Screenshots depict content in development.
Havre is home to a large yard, diesel and car shops, lineside grain elevators, and an Amtrak station stop for the Empire Builder. In a dawn view at the Havre locomotive shop, the three locomotive types included with the route – the GE ES44DC, Electro-Motive GP38-2, and EMD SW1500 – are readied for service (above). Havre’s locomotive shop is one of several structures on the upcoming route which feature beautifully rendered interiors (below).
As is true for virtually every city and town on the Hi-Line, Havre is home to grain elevators which provide BNSF with massive amounts of originating tonnage. BNSF EMD SW1500 3453 passes one such grain facility as it shuffles cars in the Havre yard.
Westbound from Havre, a unit grain train bound for Pacific coast ports climbs along the path of the Milk River and crosses Big Sandy Creek (above). A short time later, in a scene surely symbolic of the fertile high plains, the train passes a combine busy at work in the fields (below).
Between Havre and Shelby on the upcoming Montana Hi-Line Route, a dozen lineside towns are home to grain elevators. BNSF GE ES44DC 7818 and its kin are rolling grain tonnage west through Gildford. The state of Montana originates more than 200 million bushels of grain each year, the vast majority of which is transported by rail.
Chester is home to a pair of rapid-loading grain facilities located on loop tracks which can accommodate unit trains of more than 100 cars. On an early autumn morning, a BNSF GE ES44DC sweeps past on the Hi-Line main as a trio of veteran BNSF GP38-2s handle grain loading at one of Chester’s loop tracks.
On the west end of the upcoming Montana Hi-Line Route at Shelby, BNSF GP38-2 2268 has an eastbound local in tow (above), while at the Shelby yard complex, priority main line tonnage is on the move behind GE ES44DCs (below). In addition to three locomotive types, the route will include a selection of more than 20 types of freight car equipment.
As is Havre, Shelby is an important operating point on the Hi-Line. On a rainy day, BNSF SW1500 3244, still wearing a “patched” version of its Burlington Northern livery, eases out of the Shelby diesel house in anticipation of yard duty.
In a timeless view of railroading on the high plains of Montana, BNSF ES44DC 7204 leads eastbound transcontinental stacks near Dunkirk. Bustling, challenging, and scenic, the upcoming Montana Hi-Line Route promises you countless realistic and enjoyable railroading experiences amid America’s Big Sky Country – and it’s coming soon to Train Simulator!
Screenshots and images displayed in this article may depict content that is still in development. The licensed brands may not have been approved by their respective owner and some artwork may still be pending approval.
TS20: Hi-Line on the High Plains!