2003 Everett Trip
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Commuting on the old GN

2003 Everett Trip 
by Lindsay Korst

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Come along for a day trip on the old Great Northern 
from Everett to Seattle and return on GN's "Coast Line" 
or the "head of the rake" as James J. Hill used to call it.

It is 5 am when my alarm goes off. I am out the door at 
5:30 and at Scott Tanner's house at 6:15. It is pitch 
black outside, but luckily not raining.

Today is the first official day of Sounder train service 
on the Everett to Seattle line of BNSF, ex-BN and
nee-Great Northern. There will be many festivities, 
speeches and most-importantly, FREE TICKETS to be handed
out to the first 500 people! Can't miss this...

As usual, Scott and I are way early, but this would pay 
off handsomely as the day wore on. We start with a
hefty breakfast in Everett (can't train geek on an empty 
stomach) and arrive around 7:45 at the new Everett 
Intermodal Station, using the FREE parking lot just across
the street.

It is a rather plain looking (IMHO) four-story brick 
building on the outside, but VERY nice on the inside.
Scott and I take the fifty cent tour, taking pictures 
here and there and manage to get ourselves trapped in
the fire escape! Only one way out...DOWN four flights 
of stairs to the main floor, oh well...

Visible from the third floor balcony is a model of 
the Everett, Snohomish River delta, built right into the 
floor. I snap a quick frame for posterity.

This "floor mural" is rapidly being covered by a hefty 
crowd here for the three Amtrak trains that will arrive
in the span of about 60 minutes.

It is now 8:30 am and Scott and I spot the "festivity 
tents" way east of the depot. We can see snacks and even
brats grilling, just like a real tailgate party! Too
bad we are still saddled with our heavy breakfasts...
We head over and notice that a substantial line has 
already formed! Apparently Sound Transit got the word
out, because the public has really turned out in force 
for an early Sunday morning.

Scott agrees to pick me up a ticket when they start
handing them out at 9:30 am (there's a limit of 4 
tickets per person), so I head back to the station 
to try out my new Canon Digital Rebel camera. 

The northbound Cascades #510 for Vancouver, BC arrives
and departs on time. Shortly after he heads north, 
the Empire Builder rolls into the station. #7 is right 
on time after its 2,206 mile journey and I notice
she is carrying two sleepers and no "freight" on the rear. 

Amtrak President, David L. Gunn (bless 'em) has turned NRPC
back into a PASSENGER railroad and opened up Beech Grove 
shops to start repairing and returning to service some of 
those idle, wreck-damaged Superliners.

About 9:00 am, the Alki Tours Leavenworth Snow Train 
arrives from Seattle and Edmonds. On the rear of the 
train is Amtrak 10031 the former GN 1391 "Ocean View", 
a full length Budd built lounge car...back on home rails
and still in first class service! 

The Snow train (10 Horizon coaches, dome car and Amtrak 
GE units on either end) departs at 9:15. I head back to 
the ticket line as they will start passing them out at 9:30.
(BTW, if you want to ride the Snow Train, the website is:
http://www.alkitours.com. Book several months early because
these trains always sell out.)

When I find Scott...he already has our tickets and they are 
SOLD OUT! Yep, we would depart for Seattle with a standing 
room only crowd of 700+ Seahawks fans.

The next step. Where to sit on the train? I steered Scott 
to the rear of the train as we would be "pulling" to Seattle 
and "pushing" back to Everett. This would be an excellent
chance to grab the "railfan seats" with a forward view 
(or in this case, a rear view).

As we stand on the platform in the wind, a KOMO 4 TV News 
crew stops by and interviews Scott who gives a few, very articulate
observations about today's trip. The link on their website is here:


Eventually, we have a long line of people behind us and at 
each door on the train. Soon, there is a hiss and all the 
doors open. We race to the rear of the train and...JACKPOT!
we grab the two, rear-facing seats. Just like on an 
observation car!

It's full goober action time. We pull out our cameras, 
scanners and timetables, bait our hooks and wait. At 11:00, 
our radios crackle as our engineer, Mr. John Cox, gets permission
from the BNSF dispatcher to occupy track and depart on time 
at 11:15. A switch is thrown to line us out and the dark 
signals in front of us light up.

These are great seats. If the train was "pushing", these
seats would normally be occupied by the train crew (with the
engineer in the control cab on the other side of the aisle).

On the stroke of 11:15, we gently start pulling out of Everett 
station. Remarkably, a spontaneous, raucous wave of applause 
erupts throughout the train! (and no, I didn't start it). 
Folks in Snohomish County have been wanting this train for 
a long time.

We slowly pull past the Everett platform with quite
a few people still recording our passage including
some BNSF personnel in orange hard hats. We curve past 
Milepost 1783 and enter the Everett tunnel under downtown. After
our one mile trip in darkness, we emerge from the tunnel, cross 
a plate girder bridge and pass the former Great Northern 
two-level passenger depot.

Once we meet up with the "low line" (Everett waterfront line to 
Delta Yard), Engineer John Cox accelerates quickly up to the 60 
mph maximum. At Howarth Park, we pass a double stack garbage 
train with about 8 units on the point which, I'm guessing, is power
for Monday's local and road jobs at Delta.

At Mukilteo, the sun comes out and there is quite a contingent of 
railfans on hand to capture our progress. We pass another northbound 
freight and it is becoming apparent that BNSF is doing a great 
job keeping opposing traffic out of our way. Except for our 
Edmonds stop, we will not pause until we reach our station track
in King Street. Methinks this is a "closely-watched train" in 
Fort Worth.

South of Mukilteo, we pass the cool old ship hulk beached alongside 
someone's house. Scott tells me this is the site where a fellow used 
to buy old boat hulks, tow them to here and salvage what he could, 
then burn them to the waterline.

At Picnic Point, then Norma Beach, there are fans who photograph and 
wave. Soon, the fancy waterside and trackside homes of Edmonds come 
into view. Scott and I speculate about owning such a railfan's paradise,
but suspect our wives may not be as enthusiastic!

At Edmonds, our engineer makes a very smooth, rulebook stop as a large 
crowd is waiting to board. I spot Bill Lee, the station agent and 
wave madly but he doesn't see me (he is busy helping customers). Looks
like Bill is filling in for Tim today. Scott heads down to photograph 
folks boarding. Seats were pretty scarce when we left Everett and I 
suspect quite a few of them stood to Seattle.

Leaving Edmonds, Scott and I swap seats with me standing in the doorway 
looking out the back, camera in hand. Scott now has the corner seat 
with the best view. South of Edmonds our scanners crackle the news that
all is well on the trackside detector. We pass under two boonie
wooden overhead bridges with the oil tank farm on the water side.

At Carkeek Park (my old stomping grounds), a dozen people are up on the 
footbridge to watch us pass. We swoop past Golden Gardens and then see 
the old GN depot still standing back from the tracks at Ballard.

Immediately after the Ballard sign, we clump onto the double track 
Bridge 4 bascule span over the ship locks and curve through a deep cut 
towards Interbay. Here is the major engine maintenance facility for 
the BNSF in Seattle. 

The ex-GN roundhouse and turntable are still in use and and newer fueling 
and sanding tracks south of there have diesel locomotives on the HOOF. 

Thoughtfully, someone has parked a red, white and black former WCRC switcher 
#202 with the SEAHAWK emblem on the side in plain sight of our train 
near the turntable (which I record for posterity).

We pass through Interbay yard and near the tower a switch crew gives us a 
friendly wave. We also pass about six jetliner fuselages on flatcars
deep in the yard. Behind me, I can hear all the Boeing geeks mumbling 
that "those are 757...NO WAIT, 737 assemblies!!!"

South of Galer Street, there is quite a lot of new waterside development 
where the old GN freight houses used to be. We pass Myrtle Edwards park and
the huge grain elevators and soon are running directly along Seattle's 
waterfront at Pier 70. I am on the alert to snap a shot of one of the
Waterfront Streetcars as we pass, but none are around.

I notice the famous Edgewater hotel has finally gotten a much-needed facelift 
and looks much more inviting. We curve behind the new Marriot Waterfront hotel 
(Competition!!!) and the hundreds of condos and shops then pop into the
tunnel under Seattle. After several minutes of darkness we emerge at 
King Street Station. Space is at a premium and we are squeezed between the
Empire Builder, a Cascades Talgo trainset and another Seahawks Sounder 
trainset from Tacoma.

A great ride down. Thank you BNSF and Sound Transit!

Scott and I don't have tickets (the Seahawks beat Arizona 28-10), but we 
passed the time by watching much of the game at F.X. McCrory's, a famous 
Seattle sports bar watering hole. Between beverages and lunch, we ride 
the waterfront streetcar out to Pier 70, then walk back to stretch our legs.

Soon it is getting dark and time to join the throngs getting back aboard 
our train to Everett. This time we rode "upstairs" in the double-decker 
coaches since it is pitch black outside and with the lights on you
really can't see a thing outside.

One criticism we both noticed: Both coming and going, they had the P.A. 
system on so LOW, that it was impossible to hear what they were saying. 
This was true no matter where you were in the train.

The trip back was uneventful and in the aforementioned darkness, not too 
scenic. Our big excitement on the way back was spotting Bill Lee at 
Edmonds as we pulled out. Scott and I waved like maniacs and this time 
he saw us and waved back.

Coming into Everett, our engineer spotted us perfectly. Our door in the 
first car lined up exactly on the "WELCOME" mat engraved into the platform! 
Very oochie...

Scott and I sprinted to my truck and got out of there before the multitudes 
could de-train. We both had a great time and can highly recommend
this ride to others. Keep in mind that you may want to wait until 
Spring to ride these trains for recreation when the light is better.

When the daylight returns, this has got to be one of the most scenic commuter 
runs to ride, bar none. And call me prejudiced, but you cannot beat that wavy 
blue Sounder paint scheme.

Schedule information for the train is here:

Again, a big, Rocky, WELL DONE! to BNSF and Sound Transit for putting 
on a class, on-time operation.