SP 4449 / UP 844 doubleheaded on the Great Northern!
Saturday, May 19th, 2007
Puget Sound Steam Special
My wife Baolu's favorite steam locomotive is the SP 4449.
That's that. Case closed. Nothing else will do.
When my buddy Scott Tanner casually mentioned that 4449 would
be doubleheading on the Union Pacific's executive train with
UP 844, I knew Baolu would be interested. Once she found
out, Baolu immediately ordered me upstairs to get tickets online.
It was raining when we left the house early Saturday morning.
As we headed south to Tacoma, however, the rain stopped and the
clouds began to break up. We were early, so to surprise Baolu,
we stopped off at Fife, WA where the two locomotives were on
public display. Even at 8am, there was quite a crowd of people
on hand. Baolu just couldn't stop smiling and posed for
several pictures with 4449.
On hand to operate the big GS-4 locomotive was none other than
Mr. Doyle McCormick, the godfather of 4449.
The locomotives were coupled together. Doyle briefly uncoupled
the two engines so we were able to get pictures of 4449 by itself.
The 844's basic black just didn't hold a candle to that snazzy
red/orange/black "Daylight" scheme.
After a good 30 minute visit, we headed to the Sound Transit
parking garage and walked over to the Amtrak depot on Puyallup
Avenue. A crowd of train riders was quickly filling the small
brick depot. We picked up our tickets and exchanged them for
boarding passes. Fifteen minutes before the train's 10am
departure time, the platform was packed with humanity from
one end to the other.
Like any proper lady, the 4449 kept her suitors waiting. At
9:50, the spotless, yellow UP passenger train slowly backed
into the station track.
We found our car, "Challenger" which turned out to be the train's
first dome car, and followed it until the train halted. Within
seconds 30 people were crowded behind Baolu beneath our car
Shortly, Kent opened the trap door and steps and the masses
surged onboard, pushing and shoving (who would get those
forward dome seats????). Not us, actually, as coach seats
were all we paid for. In fact, Rita did a good job making
sure exuberant rail goobers like myself didn't sneak up
those stairs for a look. Well... maybe just a peek...
It's all about the vestibule doors, anyway. Baolu camped
out at a choice window seat for the entire trip. She said
these seats were MUCH more comfortable (soft foam in the
old style) than those on the Amtrak Cascades.
There aren't too many curves on the Tacoma - Seattle run on the
former NP, now BNSF tracks worthy of an outside shot except
perhaps the curve between Puyallup and Sumner. Mostly, it is
straight as an arrow from Sumner north and you can't really
see the head end.
Instead, Baolu and I toured the length of the train stopping
in the SP concession car to pick up some 4449 souvenirs for
I did manage a passable shot as we pulled into Seattle (near
the Costco store).
Rolling straight through King Street Station on the mainline,
we were now, officially on Great Northern rails. Time for
some pictures along Puget Sound.
That first picture was approaching Carkeek Park, my old stomping
grounds. The pedestrian overpass was standing room only
with photographers. As we approached Mukilteo, a ferry was
pulling away from the dock adding that Puget Sound touch.
My buddy Scott had said he and his son Christopher would be
taking our picture near Picnic Point, but there were so many
people on the beach (it was low tide), I was unable to spot them...
but Scott saw us.
As we neared the old GN Everett depot, it became apparent we
were on the low line through Bayside Yard. Rare mileage!
Formerly the route of the GN's International trains, it was
now freight only trackage and we rock-n-rolled along at an
easy 10 mph. It was here that the car attendants passed out
a very good sack lunch to all passengers. It turned out
we would have plenty time to eat it.
Reaching Ebey Slough, the rails turned east and we slowly
plodded into BNSF's Delta Yard where we ground to
a halt in the middle of the engine terminal. Here we stayed
for a good 90 minutes while they swapped positions so 4449
was now leading 844.
At 2pm, we received permission to depart and continued around
until we had joined up with the ex-GN east-west mainline past
the new Everett depot. We actually stopped briefly at the
station. A trap door opened, a step box was wedged into
the ballast, one person stepped off the train and shortly we
were on our way again.
Scott had told me they would be taking our picture as we popped
out of the tunnel underneath Everett near the wonderful
Bobby's Hawaiian Style restaurant:
Try it sometime if you're in town. The picture window in the
bar looks directly onto the GN east-west mainline as it pops
out of the tunnel and the food is yummy. They even have a
deck for sunny days -- a great trainspotting place!
Baolu and I were in a vestibule as we went through Everett
tunnel. We spotted Scott and Chris so I started yelling,
"Tanner! Tanner!". Chris spotted us first. He yelled at
his dad over the train rumble. Scott whirled around and I yelled,
"Shoot! Shoot!" (I wanted a picture of B and myself for posterity)
but I think I startled him. Nonetheless, Scott recovered,
raised his Digital Rebel and banged off a dandy shot of Baolu and
Lindsay in the car vestibule. WELL DONE TANNER!!!
Once we passed the old GN depot we were heading south again
and had completed our circle tour through Everett.
Scott also picked up a good shot of the train near the north
end of Boeing Field.
The rest of the trip back to Tacoma was uneventful although
we hit a driving rainstorm just as we pulled into the station.
I had hoped we would have been given a chance for at least one
photo runby, but it just wasn't in the cards today. We mostly
plodded along at 40 mph as they weaved us through the heavy
freight and passenger traffic on this busy BNSF route.
It was a fun trip! Baolu had a grand time and finally got to
see and ride behind her favorite locomotive...on the GN!