Stevens Pass 2019
"Train Hype with Scott & Lindsay along the old Great Northern"
written by Lindsay Korst
Saturday, June 29th
Scott Tanner and I set off at oh-dark-thirty for yet another fun-filled railfan
explore. The signals are dark at Gold Bar but our scanner crackles, "BNSF
Detector milepost 1740.5, no defects, total axles seven zero, detector out".
Huh? Just 70 axles?
Signals are still dark at Baring (where the detector had sounded off), but just
past the Money Creek tunnel, Scott spots a short train rolling eastbound through
With only seconds to spare, we pull into Skykomish for a grab shot at the
Hmmm...the lead unit BNSF 7705 is coated with graffiti on it's flanks. Not a
very photogenic beast, but it will have to do as it is headed our way.
Our next stop is the west portal of Cascade Tunnel. We snap a few shots of
the new GN-logo-enhanced Cascade Tunnel sign and look down the tracks.
Eventually 7705 shows up, but stops at the east switch of Scenic siding on the
At the same time, we are pondering on where to photograph a two-hour late
westbound Empire Builder. Scott had shown me a photo of Amtrak's Glacier View
(an ex-GN Great Dome) taken by a railfan in Wisconsin on this morning's #7. We
decide to press on for Gaynor Trestle to catch the Builder there.
As we trundle down the access road, we wave at a couple railfans camped a
ways up from the tracks. With a dome car on the Builder, a nice side-angle shot
of the trestle seems appropriate. We bait our hooks and wait. Along the old
right of way, there are still reminders of GN's electrification -- including
this metal catenary post bolted into the rock.
Much to our surprise, the first train through is the Ghetto GE leading its
short train downhill in dynamic braking.
Finally...FINALLY...Amtrak's #7 arrives on the scene with P42 #818 leading
the way. Alas, no dome car graces the rear of the Builder. It must have been cut
off somewhere along the way or maybe even sent down the Columbia on the Portland
section #27. Damn. Oh well, you can't beat Gaynor trestle for time spent
As we head back up to US2, we stop to chat up the two railfans, John and
I'm-sorry-I-don't-remember-your-brother's-name! Apologies. They tell us an
eastbound empty coal train had gone through previously.
The eastbound Q train we had been following is long gone so we head directly to
Wenatchee. Not much happening in Appleyard, so on our way back to the yard
office, we stop at Mission Street Park for a photo or two of the GN steam
locomotive on display.
In a nice touch to commemorate the upcoming July 4th celebration. Wenatchee
has placed a U.S. flag along the boiler of GN # 1147.
We had been hearing on the radio that our Q train was still in town and
getting a new lead locomotive (5151). Here we see the conductor walking the
train and releasing the hand brakes so they can depart. Scott and I decide to
head for Trinidad tunnel for our next shot of this eastbound.
Coming up on the old Rock Island steel mill, we see a headlight. At the
crossing, we jump out just in time to capture a westbound merchandise train.
On to Lynch Coulee. Up those dusty roads we climb in 4x4 to reach Tunnel 11.1
built during the 1940 line change.
Scott unloads the gear (beach chairs and munchies) and I indulge in a selfie
(warning -- may frighten small children).
At last, the 5151 arrives toting containers and trailers past our vantage
Things get quiet with nothing on the scanner east or west. After about 90
minutes, we pull up stakes and head downhill for a different perspective. Our
timing proves propitious as we spy a train stopped at Trinidad siding. This
turns out to be the eastbound empty coal train first heard of at Gaynor.
It can only mean one thing. The coal train is waiting for some sort of
Sure enough, as we set up shop at an overhead bridge, we can see a Z train
with 6 units slowly descending the hill. Moments later, BNSF # 8166 leads the
hot train downhill. As the units whine past, we give chase, stopping for a grab
shot of the coal train conductor giving the Z a roll by.
The Z is really moving and we barely catch him as it leaves Columbia River
siding. The engineer remembers us from the bridge and gives us a nice serenade
on his Nathans.
Back onto Highway 28, we once again catch the train just east of Rock Island.
Scott and I find ourselves following this aptly-named boat. Maybe he's a closet
We're able to reach the yard office where crews change. The friendly
conductor gives us a big wave from the steps of 8166. Nice fellow!
Scott and I set up for pictures of the Z as it leaves Wenatchee with the
Cascadian fruit storage warehouse in the foreground. The trailing unit is a very
nice Santa Fe war bonnet # 724 with BNSF on its' silver flanks.
There's plenty of good afternoon light so we get one more view of the
westbound Z at Dryden, Washington where it crosses the Wenatchee River.
It's been a long day, so we check into our respective rooms at the La Quinta Inn
and head for supper at the Coast Hotel.
As we sample some wonderful Manhattan's at the
Rivertop Bar & Grill, an
eastbound double stack rolls to a stop at the yard office below.
Mmmmm...that was a great prime rib. Time for one last evening shot of yet
another westbound double stack rolling past the fruit warehouse in the low
light. Someone scrubbed all the black lettering and stripes off the nose of the
Sunday, June 30th
Another beautiful day is dawning and I'm out the door to catch #7 down at the
Just as the sun peeks over the horizon (POW!), a tardy Empire Builder arrives
in Wenatchee. With a green signal beckoning westward, the replacement engineer
chats it up with the train staff.
Look! It's the Skookum
Indian! Still going strong after all these years atop the local Office
Depot. Those moving (and occasionally winking) eyes are just as creepy as ever!
I tried a new angle for my shot of the Empire Builder departing Wenatchee.
I'm standing on the "Riverwalk Crossing" pedestrian bridge just a block or two
south of the Coast Hotel. I texted #7's imminent arrival to Scott, who had
walked from the hotel to Olds Junction for a grab shot.
After a hearty breakfast and checking out, we kept hearing on the radio about
this 4452 which was to be "taken to Merritt". Other than 4452, all the trains
mentioned or seen today seemed to be headed eastbound.
Indeed, we see an eastbound oil train rumble through Olds Jct.
as we leave town. Since 4452 was headed our way home, Scott and I drove the
short distance out of Wenatch to the Sleepy Hollow road crossing to lie in wait.
We keep hearing more chatter about 4452. It needs to be set up for PTC, but does
it need to be reconfigured? Which is the point of origin -- doesn't matter if it
didn't originate here? Well, it's a moot point because the computer at the PTC
Desk crashed and was down for a good 20 minutes. Who knew BNSF has a PTC Desk
completely separate from the dispatcher? So we're sitting here at the crossing
twiddling out thumbs.
Time passes. We've been at this crossing for a good 45 minutes and nothing
further heard on the radio. The decision is made to start slowly heading home,
maybe picking up an imaginary eastbound to photograph. We clamber into my Tacoma
and cross the tracks. Headlight.
Jump out, race back to our previously-selected spots and.....it's just ONE
engine, BNSF # 4452.
This is as boring as a table train. With nothing better to do, we follow this
little fella west.
We head towards the classic Wenatchee River bridge location near Plain, WA. At
Leavenworth siding, there is a coal train in the pass -- BUT which way is he
going? It's a long drive around to get to the spot. We unload the chairs &
snacks and head for the river banks. As we do, the signal lights up to flashing
Wouldn't ya know, it's the nemesis 4452 again, scooting along on its way to
Merritt. Okay, I have enough pictures of this blasted engine -- any more is just
Not wanting to give up so easily, Scott and I decide to wait it out and see if
anything else comes along. This is such a nice spot, it's relaxing just to sit
here and enjoy the river burbling by. Well, lucky us, 45 minutes later, we hear
a rumble and a horn......
Yeeeeah! It's an eastbound coal train rolling merrily across the Wenatchee
River complete with EMD distributed power on the rear.
OK, time to head for Merritt and see what all the fuss is about. Just as we roll
up, another coal train (this is the third coaler we've seen this morning) comes
blasting through town. I head to Merritt's one road crossing just as the hoppers
are rolling by.
The DP on the rear is BNSF 8409, an EMD SD70ACe. Note how there is a double
stack train in the siding that has "cut the crossing". As 8409 pushes east for
our final train shot of the day, I take a picture of Scott and include the photo
Scott was taking.
From Merritt, we punched straight home, as we both had errands to do that
afternoon. Indeed, we saw no further trains all the way back, so no harm done.
Many thanks to Scott for generously sharing his photos (they are labeled as his)
to help interpret our trainspotting experience.
As usual -- a great time was had by all!
Driving to work Monday morning on I-5, Scott was passing the south end of Boeing
Field and what did he see parked with all the road power but........ #4452 !!
AUGH!!!, Do not torment me, wicked nemesis! It must have been added to that
stack train we saw at Merritt, even though we never did see 4452 there.