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2008 GNRHS Convention Wenatchee
by Lindsay Korst

Friday, July 18, 2008

It started off kind of leisurely for my trip to Wenatchee. Amtrak's "Julie" said

#7 was 90 minutes late. I left home about 8 am and had breakfast at Sultan
Bakery. Chicken fried steak and eggs. Drool Drool... Saw two westbounds
between Sultan and Monroe... a stack train RIGHT on the heels of a short junk
train powered up with 7 units. Almost looked like a transfer run from WEN to EVR.

Weather - cool and low, moist marine air. I missed Amtrak about at the milepost

1751 bridge, but it would have been a marginal shot at best. On to Skykomish.

What a mess at Sky. They are deeply into the spill-oil-abatement project. Buildings

have been moved here and there and they are busily scraping out the dirt to be
hauled away. The original crossing has been closed with a new one in place further
west. You can read more about it here:

I heard someone at Baring get track and time until 1pm, so decided to head for

sunnier skies. This proved to be just about Merritt where the 2.2% grade ends
and the fast track begins. There was no radio chatter indicating trains nearby.

On a whim at Winton, I pulled into the east switch and saw a nice Z train parked

on the main track with headlights on. I head down to westward signal -- it is DARK!
not green? Weird. Took a picture of signal and headed off. Just as I was turning
onto US 2, I heard a BONK! BONK! from an air horn. It was the Z blasting off and
my feeble attempt to frantically get back to the spot were not in time. He was
blasting by already.

I know, I'll catch him at Monitor curve. Sure... Unfortunately, I got stuck going

through Leavenworth behind some joker in a red Miata doing 20 mph (10 under
the posted speed). Consequently, we got stopped at every light.

It was about here I realized my dark sunglass clip-ons were missing. Dang! I

began searching through pockets whilst driving along, producing nothing but
the odd Kleenex.

The valley was starting to heat up as I headed on into Wenatchee to check in

at 12 noon. To my delight, they had my room ready. Ran into John Tracy at
the front door. "Here comes trouble", he said.

I unloaded the truck with one of those hotel-cart things, but still no sunglasses.

I'm gonna need them tomorrow (the Mansfield tour). Where could they be?
Only place I wore them was Winton. Uh-oh. Did they drop out of the truck
when I was scrambling to get a shot of that Z?

No sense in getting all upset. I settled in and watched a Mister Bean movie,

then took a nice nap!

At 2pm, feeling refreshed, I decided to gas up the truck and head out for some

railfanning. The first stop was Monitor curve and lo and behold, there was Bob
Kelly and Father Dale! They started giving me a bad time about hey, locals only
can park here, etc. I talked to them for a while. It was pretty hot, so I gave them
some bottled water (I brought 3 flats of the stuff this trip.)

Bob Kelly said Tuesday's tour would park alongside US 2 and we'd walk into Sky

as the temporary road was too difficult for a bus to traverse.

Bob also said the private car, "Gritty Palace" had come through on #8 Eastbound

on Wednesday night. It had been rumored to travel behind #8 tonight, and I was
going to head out and follow it across the pass to Wenatchee.

They said the only thing that had gone by lately was westbound. I told them if I

came across any eastbounds, I would let them know. I programmed Bob's cell
phone number into my phone and then headed West.

I retraced my steps to East Winton. I parked my truck out by the road and walked

into where I was previously. THERE are my sunglasses on the ground unharmed!
Sweet. My luck is returning. As if to verify the returning luck, chime horns (and a
BNSF Detector sounding off) announced the arrival of an eastbound. I get into
position and bang off a few shots.

I get a nice little "hello" from the engineer on his Nathans. I call Bob and tell him

that he and Father Dale can expect an Eastbound grain train in a half hour or so.
Over the pass I go. I hear lots of track work winding down, but no trains.

Finally at Sky, I catch up with the Z train that Bob and Father Dale saw. She's

(female engineer) reading back the "past the red flag" and "lots of bells and
whistles" for the track workers, so I decide to head for Sunset Falls.

Normally, you can't make it ahead of a fast Z, except for today's track work and

a meet with a covered gondola train at Baring. I make the long dusty drive down
there to Sunset Falls. I park at the horseshoe in the road and hike through the
woods to the spot. I'm huffing and puffing, and scraped up my left leg, but

In 5 short minutes, looking just like the 1970 GN calendar, the Z slowly tiptoes

across the bridge. I bang off my shots. Meh, a little fuzzy, but I'm tickled pink.
This is one of those hard-to-get-shots (on private property, must be far enough
ahead of a train, etc.)

Now, it's about time for Amtrak. I head over to Index. Dark and gloomy today

so not really any good spots here. I head to West Baring. The sun is going down.
FINALLY, here it comes. No Gritty Palace on the rear! I call Bob and let him know.
I head on to Scenic.

The covered gondola train is holding the main, but waiting for #8. The poor guy.

Looks like he could have easily made it through ahead of #8. I listen as each detector
up the hill sounds off. When I hear 1721 (just west of Scenic), I get out of the truck
and shoot. Engineer serenades me on his horns. LOTS of people waving and smiling
-- I see some GN logo hats. Later, Greer Nielsen said he saw me. The light is going,
so I punch for Wenatch.

Gassing up the Tacoma, I get a call from Scott Tanner. We meet up in the hotel's

lounge for a couple beers. I buy a 2009 reproduction Reiss Calendar off of him
for $20.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

I was up bright and early at 5am. I still had to finish my notes from Friday and

download my pictures (the latter helps with the former).

I tooled into the coffee shop and had the breakfast buffet, charging it to my room
like a big shot, then went back to the room to prepare for the day's tour.

Today, I would be taking the Bob Kelly Mansfield Branch Tour with Scott Tanner as

my congenial seat-mate. When we boarded the buses (two - 24 passenger mini-bus
jobs), Bob handed us each a blue folder with handy information about the tour, maps
and a CD containing all the pictures he has collected on this line. There was even
a cooler on board with cold water to keep us all hydrated -- an important detail in
this country. It was a very impressive and professional tour from start to finish...
considering there really wasn't anything left of the railroad to see.

We set off for our first stop, Columbia Siding Road just east of Wenatchee on

Highway 28. From the bluff overlooking the Columbia River, we had a great view
of the west switch of Columbia Siding and could clearly see where the Mansfield line
of the GN took off and began climbing out of the valley. At this stop, as at every stop
this day, Bob brought out a large illustration board with pictures and maps showing
how the line looked in GN days.

Next we took the Palisades Road turnoff from SR 28 and began following the GN

route up the valley. The second stop was at the former town site of Palisades where
the old GN/BN station sign is posted on the hillside. We all took turns posing next to it.

We also visited with a nice lady who graciously let us visit on her property. She showed

us a chunk of rail from the line. We also walked down the "track" (nothing left but a few
cinders -- the line was pulled out in the mid-1980's -- to view an old building foundation.
Scott Tanner found an old GN pick ax blade and was allowed to keep it with the owner's
permission....which he then sold at Sunday's Railfair swap meet!

Past Palisades, the railroad grade began climbing and eventually turned away from the

road to enter a deep canyon. This was our third stop and there was some debate about
continuing up the road to see the line's only tunnel! Cooler heads prevailed and we set
off on a long, gravel road detour to get us around to the hamlet of Withrow. The poles
for the station sign remain along with a really cool "haunted house" off in the distance.
Bob said the last time he visited, there were 20 ravens perched on the house.

At Withrow, someone found an old tie plate with no markings, but obviously meant for

very light rail. We were told by John Langlot (who worked on this line) that tie plates
were far and few between on this branch.

Our fifth stop was the lone grain elevator at Touhey. Yours truly was too lazy to get

off the bus and take a picture!

Sixth stop was beautiful, downtown Mansfield, the end of the GN branch line. We

were actually ahead of schedule and the local folks began preparing us a delicious
BBQ chicken lunch with all the fixings. After about an hour of wandering around the
town (local museum, city park, old right of way, a brewski with Scott Tanner in the
local watering hole even), they invited us inside for lunch. It was delicious.

After the chewings, we all gathered around and sang the GN Fight Song.... er no.
Actually, we all lined up in front of the Mansfield City Shop and posed for a group
portrait!  I'll insert the picture here eventually...

Back on the bus and heading for Douglas. It was starting to get pretty hot in the

afternoon so many of us hung back in the shade. There really wasn't much to see
there except the right of way and a real live wooden outhouse!

On to the final stop at Waterville (not actually on the GN line, the citizens of

Waterville built there OWN 4 mile railroad when they realized the GN would not
be passing through. Waterville is now the Douglas County seat and has a wonderful
museum we spent some time viewing.

By now, everyone was getting a little tired as we got back on the bus to head home,

but Bob still had one more surprise for us. As we climbed aboard at the museum,
each of us received a real collector's item -- a button reading, "I survived the Mansfield
Branch, GNRHS 2008." I will wear mine with pride.

Back to the hotel for a quick nap. We have to head right out again to the Applewood

Grill for the Saturday evening function. Scott and I drove over and in the parking lot,
we were accosted by a huckster selling these old boards with G.N.R.Y. stenciled on them.
It was blazing hot in the parking lot, but the guy wouldn't stop talking. Finally, Scott
bought one, put it in my truck and we headed inside to cooler spaces.

They put us in the basement! What, no view of the tracks just outside? Well, at least

it was cool down there. Dinner was OK for mass food and I sat with Harry Getz and
his lady, Jeff Richardson (Monitor website), Scott Tanner and Bill Sornsin who arrived
later having just flown in from Los Angeles and the NMRA convention!