Saturday, October 21.
It's time to revisit Naples, Idaho (and all points in-between) on BNSF's
Kootenai Sub. It's a beautiful morning with blue skies and a high of 70 degrees.
The grain harvest is definitely responsible for an increase in train starts.
Let's see what we can find.
I am up before the dawn and out the door by 7:15am. I chose a Saturday to
minimize track work projects (maintenance of way) and maximize train spotting.
Just a mile or so from my house, I cross the Union Pacific tracks and spy a red
signal. This line has approach-lit signals and means a train is somewhere
nearby. Sure enough, as I reach the Hayden Avenue crossing, there's a green
signal. Eastbound coming!
CP #8205 a GE AC4400CWM is leading and KCS #4881, an ES44AC is pushing.
After a quick breakfast at the Rathdrum Mickey D's, I spot a
parked grain train on Main 1 awaiting its turn through the fueling racks at
Hauser. BNSF #6555 ES44C4 & 8466 SD70ACe lead with no DPU visible.
Following the tracks on Diagonal Road, I miss a westbound unit oil train. At
Silver, the crossovers are set for a hot Q to cross over from Main 1 to Main 2.
Mostly, it's a J.B. Hunt special doing at least 60mph through the turnouts (do
they make switches that fast?).
BNSF #8008 ES44C4 & #8167 ES44C4, no DPU.
I stop at the Homestead Road "cut", but after 30 minutes with no trains, I press
on to the "BARN" near Cocolala Flats.
My relocation proves propitious as an eastbound empty oiler
flashes past the scenic structure. Always a cool morning shot.
BNSF #4210 ES44C4 & #1061 GE C44-9W ; then #6932 ES44C4 DPU.
I chase the oil train to Sagle at the Bottle Bay Road
crossing. Bonus! A westbound H train passes on Main 1 with a BNSF GE unit
(number unknown) leading and BNSF #4343 Dash 9-44CW pushing.
On a bluff off Bottle Bay Road, I watch a WB Z train cross Lake Pend Oreille on
Main 2 (the original bridge) with new re-enforced piers. Pushing on the rear are
two engines including a "Pony" (NS #4542 AC44C6M) as a motorboat captain enjoys
the show. In the background is the US95 highway bridge into Sandpoint.
I poke around Sandpoint a bit and notice there is a nice little turnoff on the
highway bridge perfect for evening shots of the railroad. Will revisit this spot
Heading north on US2/US95, I am now following the old Great Northern. I miss a
fast-moving Z train just before Colburn, but at Elmira I discover I have caught
up to that same oil train in the siding and lo and behold another WB is coming
down the main!
BNSF #988 C44-9W & #4185 C44-9W lead a loaded grain train towards the west coast
terminals. I was remiss in not catching the WB's DPU, because I was in a hurry
to get ahead of Mr. Oil Can for an overhead shot at Naples!
I get there with just minutes to spare. In the background is
Kaniksu National Forest, as BNSF #4210 and company slip under the old US95
bridge. BNSF's DPU #6932 is shoving for all it's worth, passing the former GN
What better place to wait for the next train than the Deep Creek tunnel (MP
1376.2)? Tunnel 10.2 is just 479 feet long, was built in 1912 (probably a line
change) and has notches to accommodate double stacks.
It's about a 90 minute wait for the next train. As I'm pottering around, these
two characters drive up and park. Their car has Washington plates with an
Olympia frame. Hmmm...they step out and wave. I say, "Hello". First one asks me,
"Is this your property?". I say, "No, it belongs to BNSF".
They then proceed to stand in the gauge (between the rails) and take pictures of
themselves, posing. One of them is wearing some sort of gawd-awful cologne. When
they start taking pictures over on the bridge, I can't stand it anymore and tell
them to "Be careful, as trains can appear very quickly and quietly". This slows
them down a bit and eventually, they leave. Weird customers, if you get my
drift. The cloying cologne lingers for at least 10 minutes after their
As foretold, an S train sneaks up on me running eastbound. I had approximately 5
seconds to raise my camera, focus, and bang away some shots. Power for the S is
BNSF #5489 GE Dash 9-44CW / UP #7319 C44ACM with BNSF #5320 C44-9W as DPU. I
always enjoy getting an overseas container train -- with all the different
colors on the boxes. So much more interesting than plain-vanilla J.B. Hunt
Next stop, Bonners Ferry along the Kootenai River. B.F. is kind of a tough shot
as the rails circle beneath a bluff keeping them out of the sun for most of the
day. Case in point is this grab shot of a westbound with BNSF #6198 ES44AC /
#6317 ES44AC and #5048 C44-9W DPU. The fall colors help a bit.
Whilst poking around Bonners Ferry, I came across this funky, little brick Union
Pacific depot. (GN's old station is long gone). It's right along their main
track, tucked behind things, so I had never noticed it before.
Well, I went up to the Union Pacific's bridge over the Kootenai River, but after
45 minutes, no trains. It would make a nice photo. Maybe someday. I had bigger
fish to fry and so headed back to Naples.
THIS was a long wait. At least 90 minutes. 75 minutes waiting for the #$%@#!!*$
signals to light up (indicating block occupancy). But, good things come to those
who wait. It was starting to get dark, but here comes a UNION PACIFIC eastbound
-- unfortunately through the trees you can't see much BUT, I spy a CP unit, UP
unit and KCS unit on that grain train.
Finally, the dispatching gods saw fit to release this eastbound BNSF 7083 ES44C4
leading a J.B. Hunt double stack with a MUCH better view of the mountains behind
it. Okay, it was half vehicle, half containers. Stacks and racks, but I'll take
it. Bringing up the rear was BNSF #609 C44-9W (ex-Santa Fe). Wow, that's a
low-numbered road unit.
Nothing on the scanner, it's coming up on 4:15pm and time for a burger and iced
tea at Der Burger King in Sandpoint.
Fortified, I head for my previously-mentioned spot on the US95 bridge. The two
railroad trestles look great in the low light. Judging from the sun's position,
I have about 45 minutes of daylight remaining. Hey, maybe I'll get lucky and
snag a nice, colorful S train! Yeah, right.
No such luck. An eastbound oiler happens by. It's BLACK. Que sera sera. I gamely
try a few shots.
Eh, OK I suppose, but I'm greedy. Maybe I can score a westbound to follow home.
SWEET FANCY MOSES! It is a 737 train from Kansas to
Renton, WA with 54 axles, 4 fuselages, 3 canopy cars (carrying 777 fuselages for
Everett per Andrew -- HEY, Andrew!!) and one crappily-painted
BNSF #5610 AC44CW. With trembling hands, I snap off shot after shot of the rare
train in the fading light.
You know what would really make this trip? A shot of this rolling circus
Yep, I punch south, screech to a halt at Cocolala Flats, and set up my shot.
WOW! Have you ever seen a 737 fly past a barn? Now you have.
I had a great time today and hope you enjoyed my write up. Highball! LIN-Z