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Bob Lind, Published January 24 2011

Lind: Neighbors remind us it could be much colder

Sure, it’s been cold around here. But it’s nothing new. Take 1936, for example. That’s the year the temperature slid to 42 degrees below zero in Alice, N.D., where Ron Fredrickson, now of Roseville, Calif., lived.

But Mott, N.D., caught it worse. It was 48 degrees below zero there.

Bill Kuebler, 85, of Apple Valley, Minn., grew up in Mott and vividly remembers some cold, cold nights there.

The night the temperature bottomed out at 48 below was a “very still night,” he told his son Bill Kuebler Jr., also of Apple Valley.

His father could stand outside his home and “actually hear those Northern Pacific Z-5 Yellowstones struggling eastbound up the grade between Sims and New Salem, (and) as the crow flies that’s about 46-48 miles,” the younger Bill tells Neighbors.

The Z-5 Yellowstone, railroad buff Bill Jr. explains, was the world’s largest steam locomotive for many years after it was introduced in 1928 by the NP.

It weighed more than 550 tons and could haul a 4,000-ton freight over difficult terrain between Mandan, N.D., and Glendive, Mont.

Anyhow, on that bitterly cold night, the elder Bill could distinctly hear them pounding away.

But invariably, those locomotives would “slip down,” struggling against the drag of the stiff freight cars in that bitter cold.

A little railroading education is needed here, and the younger Bill provides it:

“Slipping down” occurs when the engine’s drive wheels lose traction and suddenly spin wildly. The engineer must immediately close the throttle and regain control of the engine by regaining traction or else the train will stall.

“It was a real struggle, getting a train up the hill with a steam engine,” he says, “and the engineer and his fireman had their hands full.”

At any rate, on that miserably cold night in Mott, Bill Sr. could hear all this from 40-some miles away.

And as his son puts it, “What a symphony of railroading he heard. It would have been exciting to hear.”

For sure. Even if the temperature, like the locomotives, was slipping down.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com