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Friday, July 9, 2004

Pre-GNRHS Convention trip with Webmaster
Ben Ringnalda of
www.greatnorthernempire.net

Today's mission is to photograph as many
Seattle-area GN relics as possible, then
enjoy a visit to the NMRA Model Train
Show in Seattle.

Ben stayed at our house for a couple days
on his busy trip around the west searching
out GN cabooses, depots, etc.

We are up early (there's nothing like morning
light) and head to my favorite breakfast place;
Mikie's Brooklyn Bagels in Redmond. Appetites
satisfied, we head over to Bellevue for some
photographs of Ron Bartl's X-522 caboose. There
is a vacant lot below and we shoot up through
the brush at the caboose. Ben suggests if we have
time before the train show to come back here and
visit Ron and ask about his caboose.

Off to Issaquah on I-90, we visit the X200 caboose 
(which now has an unsightly tarp over the cupola) and
is being used as a photographer's studio. On the
other side of town at the NP depot museum is a GN
flatcar which is recorded for posterity.

Scooting down I-405 to Renton in the carpool lane,
we soon reach the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train
depot. The depot has been modified extensively for
their needs, but it still has the old GN-style
oRENTONo sign. This was the Pacific Coast Railroad
which GN bought in the early 1950's over which the
Milwaukee Road had trackage rights into Seattle. The
depot was built in the mid-1950's, so its style is
similar to the Edmonds, WA depot.

From Renton, we take I-5 north to downtown Seattle
and King St. Station. We park in the upper BNSF lot 
with yours truly staying with the truck in case I 
have to move it. Ben hikes over and takes pictures of 
the South Portal of the Seattle tunnel and King Street
Station. As I'm sitting there, Bill Sornsin
walks by! He has just finished giving a tour
to 150 NMRA convention attendees of the depot!
We later spot him in line at 10 a.m. as the Model
Train Show opens at the nearby Exhibition Hall.

The next project is to get pictures of the North Portal
of Seattle tunnel. First we try taking pictures from
one of the above overpasses, but the sight lines are no
good. Ben notices access from a parking lot nearby. We
walk down there and sure enough there it is!

Drive over to Louis Dreyfus (Seattle Grain Terminal)
but no ex-GN chopnose switcher can be seen. The geep
is named "Judy Garland" per Ben.

To Balmer Yard for active SD9-3 on hump and parked
units in front of yard office. Over to north lead
of Interbay, to bunches of stored SD9's. Ben
climbs into the bed of my truck and shoots over the
fence.

On to photos at Bridge 4. It is getting towards midday
so the light is kind of bad (black bridge, white sky).
Back around and across the Ballard Bridge and we
shoot a train crossing Bridge 4. Then around the corner
to photograph the ex-GN Ballard depot which has been moved
back from the tracks and used as a residence. At this depot
is an old NP caboose in the side yard. Since it is getting
towards lunch time, we stop at the north Ballard "Dick's",
Seattle's favorite burger joint, for a couple Deluxe. Mmmmm...

We take side streets to Richmond Beach. As we walk onto the
footbridge we just see a northbound go by, but not soon enough
for pictures. We've noticed that all trains along the 
Coast Line seem to be doing stop-and-proceed in both 
directions. We walk down the beach to get "seawall pictures". 
No train. Time is running short after 15 minutes so we slowly 
walk back to the footbridge. Halfway back we hear a HORN! 
Sweet! It is a Northbound, so we walk back and get shots 
at the seawall after all.

We drive a residential back road to reach Edmonds for depot 
pictures. Note: Get your pictures of this GN 1957 depot
soon as Sound Transit plans to modify it heavily in the
near future. The line here will be double tracked which will
necessitate shaving the bay window off to make room.

We begin to circle back now towards the Eastside. We drive 
to Bothell (Country Village) for X549 caboose pictures. Also
at that location is an ex-GN coach. Ben looks, but can't 
identify the number, although it is probably in the 1111 series).
Postscript: At the convention, Ben later tells me he THINKS 
this might be the 1113 from someone else he talked to.

Kirkland is our next stop for the two pristine GN boxcars.
These Big Sky Blue-painted beauties still have their original
GN numbers white-lined, but are both off their trucks and
used as storage sheds.

It is getting towards afternoon, so we drive back to 
Bellevue and knock on the door of Mr. Ron Bartl, the owner
of X522. A very nice fellow! Ron takes us around back and
talks to us for an hour about his caboose. Inside he
is remodeling it as an office/guest house wired with
electricity and network drops! (side note if he's reading:
THANK YOU Mr. Bartl for showing us around your caboose!)

We drive back into Seattle for the NMRA Train Show and look around for
a few hours. At the show we run into Carl Swanson and I introduce him
to Ben. At the show, I purchase a very nice orange/green GN electrics
print signed by Jim Jordan.

We call it quits about 1900, head back to the Eastside and have dinner 
at the Red Robin in Redmond. Another busy day tomorrow as we start
heading for the GNRHS convention in Spokane.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

An early detour this morning as Ben's rental Taurus has a 
slow-leak flat. A shot of air at the gas station and a can of tire
fix-it at Schucks and we're ready to go. We leave Redmond about 0805.

We get to Monroe at 0830. We are traveling together in separate
cars so we stop here for gas, McDonald's, and trip munchies. 
We head east at 0900 and miss the Empire Builder which is on
time today.

The first shot of the day is at "spindly bridge" (GN 1960's line 
change over US 2 east of Gold Bar near Zeke's Drive In). The next
bridge shot is at Sunset Falls. Our luck is with us as the gate
is open and the gatekeeper is not around! We park on a switchback
and hike through the woods to the falls. Great shots. There are
homes nearby, so we try to stay out of their sight. Next we drive
a little further up so Ben can shoot another bridge.

We head into Index for Ben to get better morning photos of 
the GN bridge. Next stop is Skykomish for X-228 caboose photos 
(and X-228 license plate photos!). Ben shoots the newly-painted 
depot and an ex-GN snow dozer parked nearby.

A quick stop at the Sky Ranger Station for two day passes ($5) as
we will be heading to Wellington trailhead soon. 

Clearances are tight at the Foss River bridge where Ben grabs
some pictures. On up to the top of Stevens Pass, turn around at
the summit parking lot and then back to Wellington on the old
(and very bumpy) Stevens Pass highway. As we pull into the Iron
Goat Trail parking lot, there's a huge tour bus sitting there!

It turns out this is an official NMRA Show tour led by none
other than USFS Wellington-area Steward, Bob Kelly! We walk
down the beautifully-maintained trail to the concrete snowsheds
and Bob is in the midst of giving his interpretation of the area.

One guy we talk to says they have to get him back to King Street 
THAT AFTERNOON to catch the Builder! I hope he made it. The
tour bus left about 1:15pm.  Update:  Ben talked to this same fellow 
at the convention and he did make it back on time!

We next stop at the East Portal of Cascade Tunnel. Ben comments
that he's never seen a train there. As if on cue, the tunnel
door slides shut sideways and does a short (15 minute) flush. 
The scanner reveals BNSF 5258 at East Berne, approach signal 22 mph. 
The red signal comes on. The door opens, the fans go off, and
the signal changes to green. In about 10 minutes, the westbound 
comes by. Neat shots "going away" with tunnel and green signal. 
Train hype! Ben and I do a high five.

On towards Leavenworth, we pause at the Tumwater Dam for photos
and pictures of the GN Electrics/Electrification sign as well.

Just west of Leavenworth, we stop at the Penstock bridge. This
originally carried water from the Tumwater Dam downstream for
irrigation. Ben and I hike the penstock trail one mile up to 
what I call "Father Dale's penstock tunnel". It is a warm day,
but the entire way is fairly level and in the shade. There is
a crudely lettered warning sign (fire in tunnel, Danger...) as
we reach the entrance. I smell coal smoke? No, it turns out to 
be a burning wood smell --- looks like wood staves inside the
tunnel have been burned and it is still smoldering.

Last time he was here, Ben saw a rattlesnake, but luckily Mister
Snake does not bar the way this time.

It is turning towards afternoon so we both get Leavenworth 
depot pictures. This is now the "Chumstick Grange" right
in town and it is an afternoon shot.

Our last stop together is the Cashmere depot for pictures.
We part ways. Ben goes north for more depot and caboose
photos. I head east towards Spokane and the GNRHS convention.
At 1630, I pass through Wenatchee over to Quincy, down to I-90 
and on to Spokane. I arrive at 1930, check in, and am typing
up my notes at 2000. Ben arrived that night at 2300.

THE END

CLICK HERE for the Spokane 2004 GNRHS Convention report.