Stevens Pass 2005
written by Lindsay Korst
Scott and Lindsay's annual trainspotting trip
Thursday, June 16 arrived cool and cloudy. Scott Tanner
picked me up in his new Toyota Four Runner (with its powerful V-8
and the courtesy light group) and we set off for the former
Great Northern mainline.
At Monroe, we stocked up on munchies for the coolers and
had an early dinner at a Mexican place with a view of the
tracks. Unfortunately, the only train movement we would
see in town was a single unit hustling towards Everett.
Eastward we headed to set up for the first shot at Index.
We made a brief stop at the milepost 1751 bridge just
east of Zeke's Drive-In (Gold Bar). Hmm...a nice evening
shot for a westbound. In a moment of inspiration, Scott
called the station agent at Edmonds to see if there were
any private cars tacked onto #8 which would make a "going-away"
shot a possibility here. Not today. Eastward we went.
Once at Index, we set up for pictures of the eastbound
Empire Builder. Scott chose a head-on shot from the road
below whilst I stood on the highway bridge into town for a side
shot, wide-angle with Mount Index in the background.
Off in Scott's truck we roared in pursuit. The next shot
would be Skykomish where we arrived just minutes ahead of
the Builder. I opted for an artsy-fartsy side shot looking
down the street towards the crossing with a GN logo on the
Skykomish Hotel in the foreground:
Also, waiting for the Empire Builder was a westbound auto rack
train tucked in the siding next to the depot. What struck me
as odd was the Empire Builder applying its brakes as it came
alongside the Sky depot and X-294 caboose. Was the freight
too long for the siding?
Slowly the freight slid out of view until it disappeared around
the corner. The Builder was still stopped and the engineer was
climbing down the ladder from the cab. He then walked back to
the second unit and began to look at the rear truck.
Almost immediately, the dispatcher noticed #8 had not left Sky
and radioed the train. The response was the engineer had gotten
a report of a "locked center axle" on the second unit. Soon,
the conductor had walked up the head end to see what was up. They
were joined by what looked like a traveling mechanic who opened
a door on the side of the unit to look around inside. The engineer
got on his cell phone to (presumably) call the mechanical department
to see what could be done.
Scott and I used this opportunity to photograph the Empire Builder from
every conceivable angle with the depot and caboose alongside.
After about 30 minutes of this, it became apparent that the train
wouldn't be moving anytime soon. It was getting dark and so we
decided to head on into Wenatchee and perhaps pick up another train
to photograph. No other trains were spotted that evening, but we
did see lots of deer in the growing dusk along the road.
Friday, June 17 was, surprisingly, quite cloudy in Wenatchee. I went
online and discovered that #8 had finally left Skykomish later that
night and was now 1 hour and 40 minutes late into Whitefish.
Scott and I got an early start and headed down to the depot to hopefully
pick up a westbound. We could hear on the radio at least two trains
approaching Apple Yard from the east, so we decided to head west slowly.
We stopped briefly so I could get a picture of the former Skookum
Indian sign with the moving/winking eyes. It is now located on the
roof of a local Wenatchee Office Depot.
No trains today! We can hear on the radio much trackwork being done
east AND west of town and it's apparent everything is being parked at
Wenatchee until it's done. Finally, we head off SOUTH on US 97 for
today's real mission.
We are making a side trip to Cle Elum (over on the ex-NP Stampede Pass
line) so Scott can pick up some Winold Reiss/GN calendars he bought
on Ebay. A side benefit is the gentleman there was also liquidating
many GN-related items.
After stopping at the local Chamber of Commerce to get our bearings,
we locate this gentleman's house and introduce ourselves. Scott
picks up his calendars, as well as a couple more he buys on the spot.
I am fortunate enough to snag a few items which will be appearing
on the website as time goes by ("the fundamental things apply").
Mission accomplished, we head back for the Stevens Pass line. We
select a spot at Dryden, bait our hooks, and wait. As we have a
quick lunch, we hear of a westbound that is indeed headed this
way. When the nearby detector sounds off, we head to the west
Dryden bridge and bang off a few shots.
It is a fast-moving intermodal, so we head through Leavenworth for
"The Slot" at White Pines Road where we are rewarded with a decent
shot of the westbound.
It is getting late in the afternoon, so we head to the nearby
ex-GN signal bridge at West Merritt, hoping for another westbound.
We hear snippets of a train arriving in Wenatchee, but as it is
getting late and we're getting hungry, we decide to bag it for
today and head to beans.
Saturday, June 18 dawns clear and mostly sunny. This time we head
east as far as Quincy to catch a westbound we can hopefully follow
home. While waiting, we take pictures of the depot in the sun. We
also notice a GN-style signal head lying forlornly next to the station.
Soon, a headlight appears on the far horizon. The track is so straight,
it takes a while for the headlight to materialize into a train.
Finally, an intermodal comes blasting through town led by the BN 2925.
We give chase and take some side shots of him across the valley coming
down from the Trinidad horseshoe. Next, we head up to Trinidad
horseshoe itself and position ourselves for the next train.
We don't have to wait too long before a Z train is blasting up the hill
from the Columbia River. We both get very nice shots of the train
curving around the loop in the morning sun.
Next to come along is a westbound which we record for posterity. He
came up quickly after the Z went by, so must have been waiting at
the Quincy siding. We set off in pursuit. We are rewarded with an
excellent shot at the west switch of Columbia Siding with the river
in the background. We make a quick gasoline stop at Rock Island,
then I hear on the scanner that 1. An eastbound "Zipper" is coming
into Wenatchee and 2. A westbound stack train led by BNSF 4853 is
ready to head to Seattle.
We head through Wenatchee and can see our westbound stack slowly
picking his way through switches in the downtown. We make a quick
stop at Cashmere to take Scott's picture with the X494 caboose.
As we are taking pictures, we can hear the roar of the approaching
stack train. Train hype! Quickly, we get ahead of him and set up
for a picture at the east Dryden bridge.
We are cursed with a "photographer's cloud" (small cloud blotting
out an otherwise clear sky), but get the shot with rafters passing
in the river underneath. Oh well...
Westward Ho! Once again, we bypass Leavenworth for a shot at the
Merritt signal bridge. Success! BNSF 4853 comes cruising through
for a nicely-lit shot under the old GN structure. Something looks
decidedly odd, however. I check my digital image and discover two things
askew on the lead unit. 1. The top headlight of the two sealed
beams is burned out. 2. The engine door over the B in "BNSF" is
painted solid orange, making this the "Non-Sufficient Funds"
engine -- for all you accounting geeks out there.
Scott asks what the next shot is. It's early afternoon and I
feel lucky. "West Portal!", I shout! Tanner needs no further
urging and we head for Scenic with all possible dispatch.
As we roll up to the arched portal...there is a headlight inside!
And...the sun is out. What's rarer than a sunny picture of a
train at west portal, Cascade Tunnel, No. 15? (No, don't
Beauty, eh? The next stop is Skykomish. When we arrive, the
clouds have rolled in and it is starting to RAIN. Way up the
track (at the wye) we can see the frozen-axle-Amtrak-unit
set off to one side all by its lonesome.
Soon, the detectors announce the arrival of BNSF 4853. We
half-heartedly take the cloudy shot and head off in pursuit.
Next, we hear on the radio that our westbound will be meeting
an Employee's Special at Baring. The 4853 asks for and receives
permission to go in the hole at Baring, park at the crossing,
and run over to the store for some lunch.
As we stand at the Baring crossing, we can see the headlight
of the BNSF Employee Special down at the west switch. We expect
him to pull up to the crossing, but instead he just pulls past
the signal and reverses direction back to Everett. Scott and I
set off in pursuit.
But where to photograph? We are not far enough ahead to catch it
at Sunset Falls. I suggest Goldbar siding to photograph the
entire train, but Scott opts for the Sky River bridge just east of
Goldbar where we photograph the Special. It has a nice, clean
Heritage II on each end (pull-pull) with the ex-GN dome "Glacier
View" at one end, followed by some high-level cars and then
low-level business cars.
We heard that the BNSF 4853 is right behind so we quickly backtrack
(no pun intended) to the MP 1751 bridge for a quick shot of him
flying downhill. After that, we call it a day and head for home.
Thus concludes another fun trip over Stevens Pass. I hope you've
enjoyed it as much as we did! Sandpoint, Idaho in 2006???