Stevens Pass 2014
"Railfanning with Scott"
written by Lindsay Korst
After an 8 year hiatus, my buddy Scott Tanner once again
joined me for a weekend exploring the BNSF across Stevens Pass and beyond.
Saturday, June 28th
Scott drops off his car at my place in Redmond and we set off for breakfast at
the Sultan Bakery,
just east of Monroe. After an enormous breakfast, we are soon following BNSF's
Scenic Sub to Skykomish.
It is raining cats and dogs at Sky. We spot an eastbound at the east switch, but
don't even bother taking a picture in the gloomy weather. Over the pass, we
finally meet some drier skies around Leavenworth.
Scott Tanner enjoys the view high above the
Our first stop today is "Robert's Roost" made famous by GNRHS member,
Bob Kelly during the
2008 GNRHS Wenatchee
convention. According to Scott's Garmin (GPS), we are a good 700 feet above
A very late westbound Empire Builder has a BNSF
freight engine on the point.
Detector chatter on the scanner materializes into an
eastbound empty coal train.
Leaving Robert's Roost, we head out SR 28 towards Trinidad. We 4 wheel up to an
old favorite spot -- the tunnel at MP 1621.4 (built 1940) on the ex-GN grade
Shortly after we arrive, we catch this WB auto train.
Scott has spotted the empty EB coal train we saw at Robert's Roost which is
waiting for the WB auto train at newly-lengthened Trinidad siding. Once the auto
train passes downhill, the coal train begins blasting it's way up Lynch Coulee.
In just a few minutes, BNSF 6300 pokes through the portal on its way east.
BNSF 6300 leads its train east for more coal. The DP
unit BNSF 6406 pushes on the rear end.
Mr. T. told me he had heard a rumor that the Quincy, WA ex-GN depot might be
"not long for this world", so we set off to investigate. As we arrive trackside,
the depot is still standing, so we take a few snapshots for posterity. The style
of the Quincy depot is very similar to the
1957 ex-GN depot at Edmonds,
In addition to the depot, there's a wonderful old GN
3-color signal lying nearby which has probably displayed its last indication.
As we hear (scanner) no nearby trains in the offing, we head back to Apple Yard
in Wenatchee for a look around. Practically new BNSF 8217 is being tied on to
the rear of an auto train to help push him west.
BNSF 8217, an ES44C4 from GE is being set up to
shove west. Of the 6 axles on this engine, only 4 are powered.
BN 972502, an ex-GN snow dozer in green, BN 972561
ex-GN 1510 rotary snowplow and its mate BN 972577 an ex-NP F9B unit.
Scott and I figured this auto train was heading west shortly, and headed out to
Dryden for a "bridge shot". Unfortunately, no train came from either direction,
so after a good 60 minutes, we bagged the shot and headed into town for dinner.
Ballast and Builder - Amtrak #8 slides past a
yard-full of Herzog hoppers.
Dinner was at the Coast Hotel's "Riverfront
Bar & Grill" with a wonderful view of the Columbia River and the BNSF
mainline. As we supped, the Empire Builder arrived in town, just barely visible
beside the Herzog ballast hoppers.
Sunday, June 29th
Amtrak P42DC #184 in the Phase IV, 40th anniversary
scheme at the east end of Apple Yard.
Our first stop today was "Switch One, Wenatchee", the east end of Wenatchee's
Apple Yard. We grab a lucky shot of one of Amtrak's retro scheme units on the
point of #7.
Empire Builder rolls west along the Wenatchee River.
We take a few "going away" shots at Monitor curve. So-So light on the consist as
this is more of an afternoon shot.
Our final spot today will be an old favorite: The Wenatchee River bridge near
This is the way to go railfanning. Scott brought
along a couple comfortable folding chairs and munchies. Even the armrests had
The bridge is a wonderful late morning, afternoon shot. To get here requires a
lot of "driving around" down dead-end roads, however, and you pretty much have
to wait and let the trains come to you. Lucky for us, we heard the dispatcher
talking to an eastbound at Winton (siding just west of here) AND a westbound at
A six-axle quartet of GE's (featuring a
flame-broiled Santa Fe 647) roll containers east under "Kodachrome skies".
Soon the eastbound double stack slides past. We have the bluest skies of the
entire trip here to enjoy. Train hype!
"1927" hearkens back to the Chumstick line change,
an upgrade to GN's mainline which avoided the tortuous grade, slides and curves
of Tumwater canyon.
Between trains, we both take a shot of the 1927 chiseled into the bridge
abutment. As the GN was building its 7.79 mile long Cascade Tunnel No. 15, they
also ran a new line down the Chumstick Valley. The new line had 4 tunnels, very
light grades (50 mph track most of the way) and eliminated much curvature.
BNSF 5504 leads a solid train of auto racks westward
Finally, the best and final pictures of the day as the auto train we heard about
at Leavenworth blasts past on its way west. Look at that sky! After this shot,
we packed it up and headed home. Just west of here, the rains returned, so it
was a damp drive back.
We had a great time! Let's do this again! See you next year.....LIN-Z