Soo Line GP38 795 is switching the car ferry S.S. Chief Wawatam at St. Ignace, Michigan, in August of 1979. The boat is getting ready to make a run across the Straits of Mackinac to Mackinaw City, Michigan, where the Detroit & Mackinac railroad will switch out the boat. The Chief first started running across the straits in 1911 and ended its career in 1984. The boat was the last hand-fired boat on the Great Lakes. On a side note, the 795 is one of 10 Soo GP38’s that had a red “SOO” instead of black on the car body.
A fond look back at the Soo Line
by Mike Raia/photos by the author
Welcome to Photo Line!One of photographer Mike Raia's favorite railroads has always been The Soo Line. In his own words: "My father worked for the railroad for 43 years and my Uncle also worked for the Soo for several years. The Soo Line always had a unique charm to it. The railroad operated a main line from Chicago to Portal, North Dakota but the heart and soul of the railroad was its people. The people were what kept the railroad running efficiently and profitable. While other railroads were filing for bankruptcy, the Soo just kept moving ahead. During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the Soo was an interesting railroad to photograph. The roster still contained first generation diesel engines that were slowly being replaced with new units. During this time my father, friend Lou Gerard and I spent most weekends trying to capture the Soo operations. It was a fun time to photograph the Soo as one never knew what power would show up on a train. These photographs reflect some of the time we spent chasing the Soo."
A Visit from Royalty
During the spring of 1978, British Columbia "Royal Hudson" 2860 made a tour through the United States to promote tourism in British Columbia. On April 1, 1978, the Hudson was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where it was meeting a Soo transfer led by Alco RS27 415. The Hudson spent several days on display in the Twin Cities before heading north up the Soo toward Portal.
North Dakota Local
A single F7 leads a branch line local near Hankinson, North Dakota. This scene is typical of the Soo Line operations in the state. The Soo main ran through the state to a connection with the parent railroad Canadian Pacific at Portal, North Dakota. But the Soo had several branch lines that served the agricultural base of the state. A single F on a local was not unusual even though the cab units were in the twilight of their service. This photo of the 2228B was taken in August of 1979
One of a Kind
Soo GP35 722 was a unique engine on the Soo roster. The 722 was the only GP35 to ride on Alco trucks. The trucks came from a trade in of Soo FA’s in the 1960’s. Shown, the 722 is just about to deliver its cars into the small yard at Neenah, Wisconsin in August of 1978.
"Baldy" was the nickname given to Soo F7 2228A after it was involved in a wreck that took out its top headlight in the early 1970’s. This train started out of Neenah, Wisconsin, and worked the industries along the branch toward Manitowoc, Wisconsin. At Manitowoc the Grand Trunk and C&O car ferries took the cars across Lake Michigan. Today, the railroad car ferries are gone and the only remaining ferry is the S.S. Badger which takes automobiles and people across the lake to Ludington, Michigan. The train shown is leaving Neenah, August, 1978.
Soo 416 passes through New Brighton, Minnesota, in August of 1979. The 416 and its sister 415 made up the famous “Dolly Sisters” on the Soo Line. The name was given to the pair by shop forces because of the amount of time the pair spent up on dollies being repaired. The pair was also the first new units to be delivered in Soo’s red and white paint scheme (Soo GP9 550 was the actual first unit to wear the new red and white scheme when it was repainted by Soo forces).
Under the Wire
In June of 1983 the Soo 785 made its way through Kensington Junction on the Illinois Central Gulf. Kensington is located at 115th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago and is the location where the South Shore interurban branches off onto its own track (technically the Kensington & Eastern Railroad which the South Shore leased at this time). The Soo train was a run-through train from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin to ICG’s Markham yard.
Out the Front Door
A pair of Soo GP30’s led by 715 make their way down Division Street in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The Soo main ran down Division Street for several blocks in Oshkosh. The proximity of the houses to the main would be great for a railfan but I am not sure the people living in the houses would agree.
The Soo Line had ten General Electric U30C’s locomotives on its roster. The U30C’s would be the only GE locomotives purchased by the Soo. Because the units were unique to the Soo roster, keeping them running became an issue. Toward the end of their careers, the U-boats ended up in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. At "Fondy," the maintenance crews kept the unique locomotives running for several years. Shown, the Soo 808 is leading the Milwaukee Turn toward Fond du Lac. The train is passing through Byron, Wisconsin, in June of 1979.