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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Up at 5 o'clock once more! But, I get to enjoy the ride today on the all-day Stevens

Pass bus tour to Skykomish. Skies are kinda cloudy as we leave Wenatchee and
would become darker as we roll along westbound.

It is, however, a sunny drive up Tumwater Canyon with a nice view of the Tumwater

Dam, complete with salmon jumping out of the water.

Our first stop is the highway rest area at Nason Creek, just east of the ex-GN siding

of Merritt.

From there, the buses would split up to various destinations. Once reaching the top

of Stevens Pass, we were literally in the clouds with poor visibility and a fogged up
windshield! Our bus captain Mike of Malaga, WA, scrambled with some paper towels
so the driver could see! At Scenic, one bus pulled into the rest area parking lot,
whilst another headed for the BNSF tracks.

We continued on down for our second stop at Skykomish. Because of the huge

soil-contamination project going on (http://www.skykomishcleanup.com), we
parked out at the highway and walked the short distance into town. Crossing the
Skykomish River, we are hit with a chilly blast of wind. Practically none of us had
bothered to bring coats on the trip as it was 95 plus in Wenatchee the previous day.

Scott Tanner and I led the others down to the Sky museum where Bob Kelly was

there to greet us with a smile and announced, "sweatshirts were available for sale
upstairs". We all bought them. In fact, they sold out of their pile just on our busload.
Bob told me later, they got more from their warehouse, then got some from the
Cascadian Inn to sell. It was COLD with that wind!

It was nice and warm in the museum although some folks walked around town,

dodging the raucous construction going on just feet away from us. Eventually, the
wind died down and Bruce Barsness and I walked over to see where they had moved
the Skykomish depot, temporarily.

We were way ahead of schedule, and would be all day. Our next stop was over at

Fred Black's X-228 caboose which he had generously opened up for inspection. Fred
had removed all the non-GN items inside and had also displayed some models on
the lawn outside.  That's Fred in the red jacket and GN cap looking proudly
at his caboose.

Next stop was "The Ballpark" at Skykomish where Cascadian Inn was catering a

BBQ lunch for us. Hamburgers, chicken and pork, plus beans, macaroni salad and
dessert. After chewings, I took a stroll down to the Sky River for a look.

After lunch, we were off for the X-294 caboose and Iron Goat Trail interpretive

Center at Scenic. We spent an hour here and a few of our members hiked quite a
ways along the lower level trail.

Last stop was the old Tumwater Dam built by GN to power their early electrification.

The salmon were really jumping, trying to get over the dam (and ignoring the fish
ladder just to their right). It was very hard to take a picture of them as they leaped
at random and by the time you got the shutter released, they'd be back in the water.
Some of them were HUGE.

Back into Wenatchee an hour early. Scott Tanner went off to dinner with his family

who had just arrived from Edmonds. I helped Greer with a CD problem, then borrowed
John Langlot's PowerPoint presentation with the Wenatchee Ice House pictures. At five,
Bruce Barsness and Bill Sornsin and I headed back to the Applewood Grill to try and get
a trackside seat for dinner. It turned out they were having a mild wind storm on the
porch and kept us inside (dust was blowing, too). We sat in the bar and still had a
glimpse outside. After a hearty chat about this and that, we headed back to the hotel
where I set to work on my notes for today.

Now it is 8:10pm and I can hear Baolu's train setting off detectors down the mountain

(it's about 30 minutes late). She text messaged me saying in coach there were NO diner
reservations until 9pm! (how primitive!). We'll be hitting Applebee's when she gets in.

Train arrived about 20 minutes down. Baolu was in the last car where they put all the

"local Washingtons". Attached to the rear of the train was a dome car in a maroon
scheme (didn't catch the name as it was getting dark). The train was held in Wenatchee
for TWO HOURS according to Bob Kelly because of a brush fire in the Trinidad area.
As of Wednesday morning, this train was an hour or so late into Whitefish.

Applebee's was good -- we were amazed at the CROWD at every table and the bar

for a Tuesday night. I had an iced tea and dessert, having already eaten my meal with
Bill and Bruce. Baolu had the trio of mini burgers, hot wings and hot popcorn shrimp.
Not bad! (Yours truly wound up eating some of it.)


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Only got about 5 hours sleep and gotta "lead" a bus tour today! I'm still so full from two

dinners last night that I skipped breakfast and had an apple instead. I talked to Bob Kelly
in the hallway who said that he didn't know if the trains were running because of last
night's brush fire. Then I foolishly interrupted John Tracy to mention this and was yelled
at.  On to the bus. They gave us this huge 48-person coach for our 24 people! This might
be a bit unwieldy. Our driver, George, was a pro, however, and he got us in and out of
where we needed to go.

We left at 7:30 and headed to "Brown's Flat" or "Monitor Curve", whichever you prefer.

The scanner chatter revealed quite a few movements EAST of Wenatchee, but none
where we were. I received a call from Bob Kelly who said he and Father Dale were
WAY up on a hillside and Bob said he would let us know if anything passed them towards

We waited. There was a bit of cloud cover, but this curve shot with the orchards below

and the Wenatchee River is about the best one on this side of Leavenworth.

Finally, the 1668.1 detector sounded off and I lifted my arms in triumph. It was an

interesting axle count - 107 - odd number of axles and a short train (25 cars or so).
What could it be?

It was a "Boeing train" heading east. Once I heard the whistle for Monitor Crossing,

I phoned Bob and Fr. Dale to let them know it was coming. It was a good shot and I
didn't realize it until Bruce pointed it out later, that the Lines East boys didn't see too
many Boeing trains, so it was fun for them.

On to the next stop at Cashmere. Our bus driver pulled right up in front of the Apples

& Cotlets place. This would be a good place to hang out with flush toilets inside for
comfort with many folks electing to take the tour of the factory to see how the candy
was made.

The rest of us railfans clustered around the scanners trying to make sense of the chatter.

It was obvious a lot was happening in and out of Wenatchee, but on the OTHER side of
town. Oh well...

After about an hour, one fellow with a scanner said he heard a train at mp 1695 which

is just coming into Merritt. Cool! But it might be a bit of a wait. We kept thinking the DS
would turn at least one train loose westbound through the work order at mp 1652.
Which would get to town first?

Soon it became evident it would be the eastbound, into the sun. Someone pointed out

the signal had turned green over red. The 1668 detector sounded off. Everyone got
into position. Finally the hot-footed Z train came rolling down the hill for a fine shot
with the Cashmere depot in the foreground. It was 1045.

I was all smiles as we walked back to the bus. Then I got onboard. One of our group

just ripped me a new one: "Why aren't we going to Leavenworth?" "I thought we'd be
visiting all the stations on this line!", etc. etc. I apologized that he hadn't been enjoying
himself, but it did no good. So sorry, whoever you were.

We took a show of hands of what to do next with our remaining 75 minutes: 1. Head

up to Dryden and HOPE for another train; 2. Head back to the hotel; 3. Head back
to the hotel, but stop at Monitor curve again and HOPE for a train. Majority hands
showed option 3.

Back to the curve. After 30 minutes as promised, we gave up as no train materialized.

I called Bob Kelly high in his aerie perch and told him we were heading back. Once we
reached near Olds Junction (west end of Wenatchee), there was a Rail America train
heading up the W-O line to Omak/Oroville. I called Bob and let him know the scoop.

Coming into town, I suddenly remembered to tip the driver and quickly passed the

hat among the folks (thanks guys and gals!). We were back at noon.
Just as we got off the bus, I got a call from Baolu who had wandered over to Old Navy

to do some shopping. I was tired and a little cranky and agreed to go pick her up and
have some lunch at Red Robin. It was delicious. Their Bleu Ribbon burger which is
blue cheese and BBQ burger, mmmmmm...... I needed that.

Afterwards, back to the hotel. I skipped the Business Meeting (I'll probably get yelled

at for that, too) but after a nap and taking down these notes wanted to head out to
see Father Dale's presentation on "O. Winston Link, Then and Now". It was a good show.

On the next show: Appleyard Explosion with Chuck Strawn, I was recruited to fire up

the CD (those pesky laptops). It turned out to be both a movie, then a PowerPoint
presentation. I got the movie going, then Bob Kelly said he would fire up the PowerPoint

Back to the room for a nice shower and to get dressed for the banquet. Stan Michaels,

one of our members from Hawaii presented me with a Hawaiian necklace/lei (imagine
a circular string of "Milk Duds") and I proudly wore it during the banquet.

We were a little early so, Baolu and I headed to the hotel bar for a few pre-banquet

glasses of Cabernet. We ran into Mike Sharpe and a couple others there, too. When
it was "Happy Hour" time, we took our drinks downstairs to the banquet hall. At the
entrance, I bought $50 worth of raffle tickets, then headed over to the drink line.

Bruce Barsness kindly bought me #3 glass of Cabernet, so I was feeling pretty good
again. (Thanks, Bruce!)

Our table consisted of: Scott, Jan and Christopher Tanner, Father Dale Peterka, Bob

Kelly, Bruce Barsness, Baolu and myself. They had really organized things this years
with the tables. Thus, I was surprised when they announced, "OK, time to go eat!"
CHARGE!!!!! Yep, 300 people got up at once and headed for the buffet tables. Baolu
and I held back to let the line quiet down (we were still burping lunches' tasty burgers).

When we did hit the buffet, it was pretty good. Chicken Piccata or beef, salad, and

lots of side dishes (yes, I did eat all my carrots!).
NOTE: I saw another group meeting downstairs (not GNRHS) holding a meeting about

"How to Deal With Difficult People". Hmmmm....maybe I should have gone to that one.

President Buck came over and said Hi to Baolu. Then we thanked all those who helped

with the convention, welcomed first-time convention attendees and GN Vets.

John Strauss gave his talk on Passenger Service in Wenatchee and I recognized a

lot of his stories from his various GN books (which I study).

Then the door prizes and the raffle. In the door prize, I won a porch swing wind chime

(but I don't have a porch!) and Baolu won a BNSF safety hat.

The raffle prizes were four brass GN gondolas and then the two professionally-framed

1931 Winold Reiss calendars I had donated. Can you guess which door prize I won?
That's right. My own calendar. I donated it back AGAIN and two other lucky folks
won them.

It is now actually Thursday morning and Baolu and I are getting ready to head home.

All-in-all, it was a fun convention and from a technical standpoint, it was a very well
run convention (Thank you, John and Bev Tracy!!!!).

See you next year in Duluth.