Stevens Pass 2009
by Lindsay Korst
Saturday, June 20
Nothing gladdens the heart of a train-chaser like a green signal for the
direction he's going. Such was the case very early Saturday morning when I
crossed the BNSF tracks at Monroe. The main track displayed a pretty emerald
aspect beckoning something eastward.
Just enough time for a quick bite at Mickey D's, a tank of gas and a stop for
munchies at the local Safeway. I finished my errands just as the eastbound came
through town around 0630. It was an eastbound grain train with 3 Dash 9's on the
point, elephant style. Oddly, it was slowing down.
I passed it just on the outskirts of town as it slowed for some track work. BNSF
is replacing many ties, rails and ballast between Monroe and Sultan during
daylight hours, M-F.
A quick call to Amtrak revealed the Empire Builder was running pretty much on
time, so the only question was where the meet would take place. Signals at
Goldbar showed green and at Baring, the dispatch still had them set at red over
red. When I reached Sky, the westward signal was green, so the meet would be at
Baring. As I drove through Sky, the 1725.5 detector sounded off. Amtrak was
coming down the hill, so I headed to Foss River Road for a shot near the
Or so I thought. Not one, but TWO large trees had fallen and blocked the road! A
quick U-turn and I set up the first picture of the day near the east end of Sky
I followed #7 west and set up at the MP 1736 bridge near the ballast quarry.
The chase was on! The next stop would be the west portal of Cascade Tunnel.
Now it was a race to get over Stevens Pass to the east portal before the grainer
made it's 30 minute journey in darkness.
Using my tripod, I snapped off some very dark pictures of the power as it
chugged out of the 8 mile tunnel.
Where to shoot next? I set off down the hill. Sunshine appeared by Merritt and I
decided to get on the other side of Leavenworth and set up at the famous Monitor
curve spot. The light was perfect and I was not disappointed.
While waiting for the grain train to show up, I heard of another eastbound on
the radio. This turned out to be the Z-SSECHC (South Seattle to Chicago Cicero)
hot stacks and piggyback.
Now I wanted to try a new location. "Robert's Roost" soared high above Monitor
and was first suggested by Bob Kelly, the USFS Steward of the Wellington area on
After the from-on-high pictures, I headed into Wenatchee to take a look at
Appleyard. There were a couple grain trains in the yard as well as westbound
auto train and double stack. I chose to follow the Z train which was making a
zipper change at the yard office in downtown Wenatchee.
My first shot was the classic spot at Rock Island Dam with the lava cliffs in
the background along Highway 28.
Next I figured, "it's 10 miles, I can easily catch the Z at "the sand pit",
another spot suggested by Bob Kelly. I barely made it!
Back in pursuit, I shot the Z as it swept overhead on Highway 28
Now on past Quincy, WA, I attempted to duplicate the 1952 GN Annual Report --
well, sort of:
Where to go now? It was getting in toward late afternoon and there were no
trains heard on the scanner. I headed to that old standby, the Trinidad
horseshoe curve. About 90 minutes later, the EB grainer from this morning showed
Wow...nice Kodachrome sky, huh? Time to call it a night
Sunday, June 21
Up and at 'em early. Amtrak is almost 2 hours late, so I get to "sleep in". I
decide to shoot him with the fruit grower's warehouse and what's left of the GN
Actually, that's the former lunch room, now used by the communications
As I cross the tracks to get ahead of #7, I see the EB grain train parked shy of
the depot. I head out to Monitor curve for a "going away" shot of the Builder.
Meh... A bit too back-lit this early in the morning.
I head back into Wenatchee. As I near Appleyard, I hear the dispatcher talking
to today's Z train from Z-SSECHC in the siding at Winton.
He said, "I got nothing coming" after Amtrak, so I figure I
don't have a westbound to follow home. I set up for the Z at Dryden and get this
great shot as he crosses the Wenatchee River.
Time to head home! It's Father's Day, so I have to get home a little early as
we're taking Baolu's dad out for an early dinner.
That's it for 2009 Stevens Pass. I had a great time and got some decent pictures
in a couple new locations. Train Hype!