2008 Stevens Pass
FAQ B&W Photos Color Photos Stories & Reports Stories & Reports 2 Stories & Reports 3 Modeling Timetables Magazine Ads Recipes Employes Report Official Guide GN Goat Winold Reiss Empire Builder Brochures Route Guides What's New



Stevens Pass 2008
by Lindsay Korst

Saturday, June 21, 2008

This year's sojourn on Stevens occurred during BNSF's gigantic track work project in which no trains ran "between the Builders" (approximately 0900 to 1700)...except for Fridays and Saturdays. I saw evidence of this all along the way including new concrete ties, "snap track" panels, and work trains parked at Gold Bar and Cashmere. Read on as I spend 15 hours of daylight on Stevens Pass and beyond.

0619 - After a quick bite, a tank of gasoline and munchies, I set off from Monroe. A quick call to Amtrak's Julie found that this morning's Empire Builder would be 2 1/2 hours late leaving Wenatchee. This would open up photos not normally possible if #7 was on time.

0636 - At Gold Bar, I see a welded rail train parked on the far siding in the little yard there in charge of two old warhorses - BN 7062 & 6703 Cascade Green SD40-2s.

As I set off, I notice the west signal is displaying green. At the same time, a nearby detector sounds off meaning I have only a couple minutes to set up a picture.

0642 - BNSF 4155 leads two mates westbound at Gold Bar with a "bare table train" (a string of double stack container wells/flatcars...without the containers).

0655 - Dark signals at Baring siding

0715 - Skykomish. It looks like a tornado has struck. The depot is up on blocks and there is construction equipment everywhere. I snap a few pictures and walk back to my truck. As I come alongside the library, a car pulls up. It is Bob Kelly! He said he would be spending the day at Sky and watching them move the depot. I defer to Bob's excellent Flickr collection of Sky photos, including the depot move:


Bob also told me about the concrete footings of the roundhouse water tower that BNSF uncovered. Here's what it looks like (they are over near Fred Black's X-228 caboose).

0745 - West Portal of Cascade Tunnel. Green signal! That means there's a westbound in the tunnel. I set up at the "new" location -- BNSF paved a road alongside their slide detector fence and cleared away the brush.

0805 - A westbound Z pops out of Tunnel #15 with a colorful BNSF/CSX/NS/BNSF lashup. It looks like they've definitely done some work here. It appears the curve into the tunnel has been eased or straightened out a bit.

0816 - As I crest Stevens Pass, I call Julie again. #7 left Wenatchee at 0806, so I trundle down the hill to the White Pine Road shot.

0900 - If the sun was out, this would be back-lit in the morning. It's a little dark, but still a decent shot of Amtrak's Empire Builder crossing Nason Creek west of Merritt.

0932 - I pass through Leavenworth -- They're having an accordion festival! (Ted Stryker's 1,001 Polka Favorites).

1003 - At Cashmere, BNSF 7826 and Oakway 9022 are on a ballast train out in front of the depot.

1030 - At Monitor Curve (east of town) along Sleepy Hollow Road from Lower Sunnyslope Road off of US Highway 2. This is a good spot for morning eastbounds, but nothing today. I'm just scoping out spots for the Wenatchee convention tours.


Update 7-16-2008:  Courtesy of Mr. Jeff Richardson is added this wonderful website about the history of the "Monitor Curve" (click link above).


1045 - Wenatchee. Again checking out sites for the convention. From the Red Lion heading south (railroad east) is the Office Depot with the Skookum Indian billboard from the old Chieftain hotel.


Applewood Grill is along the ex-GN tracks for our Saturday night social dinner.

1113 - Spent some time in the park taking pictures of the newly-painted GN 1147. No bums today! In fact, a gent wanders over and asks me how I like the shade of green boiler they picked? (Looks great, IMHO) He said that $1,200 of paint was donated and they also attached replica Rogers (Alco) builder's plates to the smokebox. A very nice job!

1120 - Appleyard. I do a double take and stop to photograph a PINK snow dozer! BN must have been trying to attract female model railroaders.

Also at the east end of the yard are a nice set of original GN block signals on the mainline track which runs around Appleyard.

1135 - I head east out of Wenatchee on Highway 28.

1145 - The turnoff at Natures Shores Road (Hwy milepost 7.2) has a nice view of the Rock Island bridge (GN's famous bridge-within-a-bridge

1152 - At Hwy milepost 12, the shoulder is wide enough to pull over for a great shot of a westbound coming out of Columbia River siding.

At Hwy milepost 15.8, State Route 28 crosses the old GN Mansfield line -- one of Saturday's convention tours.

1206 - At the Gravel Pit (Hwy milepost 21) is a very nice morning shot for eastbounds -- although none are nearby.

1213 - At the east end of Trinidad siding, some new hooded signals are about to replace the old GN signals.  I also photograph my truck under Trinidad horseshoe.

1237 - Detector 1638.1 sounds off, tipping me off about the approach of an eastbound. I am up high inside the Trinidad Horseshoe having my lunch. It is 83 degrees and overcast.

1255 - I snag a nice series of an Eastbound stack train climbing Lynch Coulee and rounding the loop. If the train is long enough, you can get the front and the rear in the same frame.

1311 - I'm now at the tunnel. It is up to 92 degrees with partial sun.

1338 - It's now 102 degrees but still cloudy.

1520 - Finally after a nice nap, an eastbound blasts through the tunnel and up the coulee towards Quincy.

1530 - I hear the dispatcher call this train and tell him he'll be meeting a westbound Z train at Naylor siding.

1535 - A Westbound doublestack comes bombing down the hill. He is really moving with the Z train right on his heels. It's a race to Appleyard.

1555 - I barely catch the doublestack at Columbia River siding.

I give chase along Highway 28

1636 - I am at the "roundhouse" at Wenatchee. The doublestack west picks up two units with 4331 in the lead after some switching movies in Appleyard. On the other main, the Z train crawls up alongside and adds one unit for the climb up Stevens.

A quick call to Julie reveals the eastbound Builder is about 15 minutes late out of Everett. This is a good time of year to catch #8 at East Portal of Cascade Tunnel -- always a classic shot.

1730 - Both trains are still parked on the main tracks. Finally, BNSF 4331 gets permission to head west "on signal indication" ahead of the Z.

1800 - I leave Wenatchee -- BNSF 4331 doesn't seem to have left town yet.

1815 - I am at Dryden hoping for a quick shot of the westbound. I hear him set off the 1654 detector just outside Wenatchee, then....NOTHING....

1845 - Afraid I'll miss the shot at Tunnel 15, I finally leave Dryden. What happened to the 4331?

1930 - I come roaring down the Forest Service road at the tunnel. There are a whole bunch of "snap track" panels on either side of the access road. As I get around near the crossing, the tunnel door is open and I can see a headlight inside. With about 3 minutes to spare, I park the truck and walk up to the bridge. BINGO!

Yeah, it's a little fuzzy, but F4 at 1/125th will do that.

AHHH...to quote Carl Swanson...we've got it KNOCKED.  Back to Redmond I go, reaching the homestead at 9pm. I had a blast today! Yeah, the sun never really came out, but that has its rewards of taking normally back-lit shots. See y'all in Wenatchee this July!