Stevens Pass 2008
by Lindsay Korst
Saturday, June 21, 2008
This year's sojourn on Stevens occurred during BNSF's gigantic track work
project in which no trains ran "between the Builders" (approximately 0900 to
1700)...except for Fridays and Saturdays. I saw evidence of this all along the
way including new concrete ties, "snap track" panels, and work trains parked at
Gold Bar and Cashmere. Read on as I spend 15 hours of daylight on Stevens Pass
0619 - After a quick bite, a tank of gasoline and munchies, I set off from
Monroe. A quick call to Amtrak's Julie found that this morning's Empire Builder
would be 2 1/2 hours late leaving Wenatchee. This would open up photos not
normally possible if #7 was on time.
0636 - At Gold Bar, I see a welded rail train parked on the far siding in the
little yard there in charge of two old warhorses - BN 7062 & 6703 Cascade Green
As I set off, I notice the west signal is displaying green. At the same time, a
nearby detector sounds off meaning I have only a couple minutes to set up a
0642 - BNSF 4155 leads two mates westbound at Gold Bar with a "bare table train"
(a string of double stack container wells/flatcars...without the containers).
0655 - Dark signals at Baring siding
0715 - Skykomish. It looks like a tornado has struck. The depot is up on blocks
and there is construction equipment everywhere. I snap a few pictures and walk
back to my truck. As I come alongside the library, a car pulls up. It is Bob
Kelly! He said he would be spending the day at Sky and watching them move the
depot. I defer to Bob's excellent Flickr collection of Sky photos, including the
Bob also told me about the concrete footings of the roundhouse
water tower that BNSF uncovered. Here's what it looks like (they are over near
Fred Black's X-228 caboose).
0745 - West Portal of Cascade Tunnel. Green signal! That means there's a
westbound in the tunnel. I set up at the "new" location -- BNSF paved a road
alongside their slide detector fence and cleared away the brush.
0805 - A westbound Z pops out of Tunnel #15 with a colorful BNSF/CSX/NS/BNSF
lashup. It looks like they've definitely done some work here. It appears the
curve into the tunnel has been eased or straightened out a bit.
0816 - As I crest Stevens Pass, I call Julie again. #7 left Wenatchee at 0806,
so I trundle down the hill to the White Pine Road shot.
0900 - If the sun was out, this would be back-lit in the morning. It's a little
dark, but still a decent shot of Amtrak's Empire Builder crossing Nason Creek
west of Merritt.
0932 - I pass through Leavenworth -- They're having an accordion festival! (Ted
Stryker's 1,001 Polka Favorites).
1003 - At Cashmere, BNSF 7826 and Oakway 9022 are on a ballast train out in
front of the depot.
1030 - At Monitor Curve (east of town) along Sleepy Hollow Road from Lower
Sunnyslope Road off of US Highway 2. This is a good spot for morning eastbounds,
but nothing today. I'm just scoping out spots for the Wenatchee convention
Update 7-16-2008: Courtesy
of Mr. Jeff Richardson is added this wonderful website about the history of the
"Monitor Curve" (click link above).
1045 - Wenatchee. Again checking out sites for the convention.
From the Red Lion heading south (railroad east) is the Office Depot with the
Skookum Indian billboard from the old Chieftain hotel.
Applewood Grill is along the ex-GN tracks for our Saturday
night social dinner.
1113 - Spent some time in the park taking pictures of the newly-painted GN 1147.
No bums today! In fact, a gent wanders over and asks me how I like the shade of
green boiler they picked? (Looks great, IMHO) He said that $1,200 of paint was
donated and they also attached replica Rogers (Alco) builder's plates to the
smokebox. A very nice job!
1120 - Appleyard. I do a double take and stop to photograph a PINK snow dozer!
BN must have been trying to attract female model railroaders.
Also at the east end of the yard are a nice set of original GN block signals on
the mainline track which runs around Appleyard.
1135 - I head east out of Wenatchee on Highway 28.
1145 - The turnoff at Natures Shores Road (Hwy milepost 7.2) has a nice view of
the Rock Island bridge (GN's famous bridge-within-a-bridge
1152 - At Hwy milepost 12, the shoulder is wide enough to pull over for a great
shot of a westbound coming out of Columbia River siding.
At Hwy milepost 15.8, State Route 28 crosses the old GN Mansfield line -- one of
Saturday's convention tours.
1206 - At the Gravel Pit (Hwy milepost 21) is a very nice morning shot for
eastbounds -- although none are nearby.
1213 - At the east end of Trinidad siding, some new hooded signals are about to
replace the old GN signals. I also photograph my truck under Trinidad
1237 - Detector 1638.1 sounds off, tipping me off about the approach of an
eastbound. I am up high inside the Trinidad Horseshoe having my lunch. It is 83
degrees and overcast.
1255 - I snag a nice series of an Eastbound stack train climbing Lynch Coulee
and rounding the loop. If the train is long enough, you can get the front and
the rear in the same frame.
1311 - I'm now at the tunnel. It is up to 92 degrees with partial sun.
1338 - It's now 102 degrees but still cloudy.
1520 - Finally after a nice nap, an eastbound blasts through the tunnel and up
the coulee towards Quincy.
1530 - I hear the dispatcher call this train and tell him he'll be meeting a
westbound Z train at Naylor siding.
1535 - A Westbound doublestack comes bombing down the hill. He is really moving
with the Z train right on his heels. It's a race to Appleyard.
1555 - I barely catch the doublestack at Columbia River siding.
I give chase along Highway 28
1636 - I am at the "roundhouse" at Wenatchee. The doublestack west picks up two
units with 4331 in the lead after some switching movies in Appleyard. On the
other main, the Z train crawls up alongside and adds one unit for the climb up
A quick call to Julie reveals the eastbound Builder is about 15 minutes late out
of Everett. This is a good time of year to catch #8 at East Portal of Cascade
Tunnel -- always a classic shot.
1730 - Both trains are still parked on the main tracks. Finally, BNSF 4331 gets
permission to head west "on signal indication" ahead of the Z.
1800 - I leave Wenatchee -- BNSF 4331 doesn't seem to have left town yet.
1815 - I am at Dryden hoping for a quick shot of the westbound. I hear him set
off the 1654 detector just outside Wenatchee, then....NOTHING....
1845 - Afraid I'll miss the shot at Tunnel 15, I finally leave Dryden. What
happened to the 4331?
1930 - I come roaring down the Forest Service road at the tunnel. There are a
whole bunch of "snap track" panels on either side of the access road. As I get
around near the crossing, the tunnel door is open and I can see a headlight
inside. With about 3 minutes to spare, I park the truck and walk up to the
Yeah, it's a little fuzzy, but F4 at 1/125th will do that.
AHHH...to quote Carl Swanson...we've got it KNOCKED. Back to Redmond I go,
reaching the homestead at 9pm. I had a blast today! Yeah, the sun never really
came out, but that has its rewards of taking normally back-lit shots. See y'all
in Wenatchee this July!