Day 41

Tuesday 29th March

We are still on the train! Today has been a big day for the journey as during the night our section of the train was joined by the section from Portland, Oregon. When we woke we were still crossing the snow covered Cascade Mountains and following the Columbia River. The smoothness of the snow broken only tracks of animals and mountains rising straight from the trackbed was amazing, especially when one can have breakfast at the same time as witnessing this. By late morning we were crossing the Plains of Montana which were littered with drumlins (glacial hills) and erratics (rocks foreign to an area carried here by glaciers).

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At 11:30 this morning we called at Shelby, Montana which according to a guide book is one of only three locations in the USA which have an antipode, or land opposite them on the other side of the planet, which is today a scientific base on the Kerguelen Islands.

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The sedimentary rocks which are underneath the glacial material contain lots of dinosaur bones and fossils and the small town of Glasgow calls itself ‘the capital of the past’ in this part of the Columbia Basin.


It took until late afternoon before the scenery changed and we were crossing the Badlands of North Dakota. These are an amazing mix of sedimentary rocks sometimes capped by volcanic material and often on top of all of that was yet more glacial deposition. In the cuttings one could see layers of clays, sandstones, coal, granite and rounded pebbles and all the time since leaving the mountains we are seeing white deposits on the surface and in the upper layers of material that are natural salts and minerals such as Rhyolite which in some places is beginning to be extracted. This is all evidence of seas, lakes and giant ice sheets of the past. Glaciation during the Ice Age was a much more complicated series of events here than in Europe and it is possible to identify these different periods in the present day landscape.

We have moved forward by 2 hours since Seattle and have just seen an amazing blood red sunset which appeared to stretch for many, many miles over this big sky landscape.
At about 10:45 tonight we will pass the small town of Rugby which is the geographical centre of the North American continent.

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