Santa Claus Visits ex-GN Edmonds Depot
Saturday, December 4, 2004
Greetings Great Northern Fans. Scott Tanner and I spent
the day at the former Great Northern Edmonds, Washington
depot during Amtrak's open house. We distributed GNRHS
literature, displayed GN and Empire Builder memorabilia,
chatted with folks and enjoyed a steady parade of BNSF
and Amtrak trains mere feet from our table.
Saturday broke cold and wet. I arrived Edmonds at 0704
during a steady drizzle and 45 degree temperatures. It
was still dark. The day's first picture was the
newly-repainted depot (white with green trim) resplendent
in Christmas lights. Rumors that part of the depot may
be removed to make way for double track have not come to
pass. In fact, the scuttlebutt I heard today indicated
the Edmonds ferry dock might move well SOUTH of the existing
location with a new Sounder depot constructed, leaving
the ex-GN depot intact for other use. For now, the
1956-era GN building is intact and used in its original
Upon my arrival, the northward (eastbound) signal was
green over red. Shortly thereafter at 0715, BNSF 4328
flew by at the 50 mph track speed with Evergreen double
stacks in tow. His locomotive consist included CN and
At 0720, the NB signal changed to red over green. Just
10 minutes later, BN 7158 led a collection of six older
GP and SD locomotives with more eastbound double stacks.
At 0800, Scott Tanner arrived and we proceeded to set
up our displays for the open house. There was a substantial
crowd on hand for the Alki Tours Seattle to Leavenworth
Shortly thereafter at 0815, the morning NB Amtrak Cascades
to Vancouver, BC, CANADA, pulled in. Both inside the
station and platform were filled with Snow Train passengers.
When Santa Claus appeared in the train doorway, the crowd
gave a tremendous roar of greeting. Mr. Claus alighted
along with Mrs. Claus and his trusty, 6' 10" elf "Tiny"
and proceeded to pass out candy canes to all the kids,
young and old, on hand.
After documenting this historic moment, I made my way to
the south (west) end of the platform. Once again, the
NB signal was green over red and at 0835, the Leavenworth
Snow train arrived from Seattle with its consist of
Horizon coaches and the first class star-of-the-show,
NRPC #10031, a full-length Budd-built dome car,
formerly the GN 1391 "Ocean View" inaugurated on the
1955 edition of the Great Northern Empire Builder.
Quite a few passengers boarded, so I took the time to
walk around to the water side of the train for some
side views away from the cramped-photo-angle platform.
Still, a very classy piece of equipment...the only
full length dome left in Amtrak's fleet. The Snow Train
with its GE units on both ends working, hustled
eastward at 0845.
At 0940, the first southbound (westbound) train of the
day appeared. It was Amtrak's #7, the Empire Builder
from Chicago. Santa and his elf gave the Builder a
royal welcome and were serenaded by light touches on
the five chime horn.
Right behind #7 at 1004 was a SB container train led
by BNSF unit #6304 (in former ATSF blue/gold).
Next southbound at 1020 was a BNSF 1008 Heritage I
leading two Norfolk Southern black units on a very
fast moving trailer and doublestack train.
A northbound freight trundled by at 1033 led by two
BNSF units in Heritage I paint. This train had a
long string of covered gondolas (coil steel) followed
by numerous BCOL and CN cars heading back to Canada.
A short break in the morning parade of trains gave
Scott and myself time to chat. I brought along my
laptop and entertained the crowd with Microsoft
Train Simulator on Marias Pass (running a 1955 era
Empire Builder with A-B-B-A set of F units naturally).
The Amtrak-like horn even had the station agent
wondering if there was an unscheduled passenger
A southbound was next at 1120 with BNSF 4311/4831/4855
Heritage II units leading a solid wood train of
Canadian lumber. After it passed, the NB signal quickly
switched to red over green.
BNSF 4912 Heritage II led a merchandise train of boxcars
and hoppers northward through the depot at 1134. I snapped
a shot of Santa and his elf giving the head end crew in
4912 a big highball.
The Swamp Creek and Western model railroad club occupies
about half of the old depot. The layout is mostly complete
and even includes working catenary in some sections.
The Northwest style scenery is spectacular and includes
trestles and deep forested canyons. Here are some links
to photos and articles about the layout:
The SC&W bought everyone pizza for lunch. Thanks Guys!
Amtrak also provided refreshments including coffee, hot
cider, cookies and pop.
The next train by was the Bellingham to Seattle Amtrak
Cascades which rolled to a stop at 12:07.
As I finished my pizza, northbound BN 9287 (a former coal
train SD60M) led CN 2662 on a woodchip train at 1245.
Yet another northbound passed at 1310 with a BNSF/NS/BN
consist pulling Evergreen Stacks eastward.
Finally there was a lull, so Scott and I sat down to watch
"A Christmas Story" on the laptop, a holiday classic. At
one point I looked around and saw the movie had drawn in
a half dozen others to watch.
The Edmonds open house was a big success this year. There
was a steady parade of townspeople dropping by to visit,
donate food and toys. In fact, this year we more than
DOUBLED the number of toys collected by the two U.S. Marines
on hand for their "Toys For Tots" program. Every time I looked
up, the Marines were moving another huge sack of toys and food
to the baggage room. People brought their children and got
their pictures taken with both Santa and the Marines.
We packed up at 1500 and called it a day. As we were finishing
up, we had one more southbound at 1507 with four GE units
hustling more coil cars and BC wood products towards Seattle.
An incredible day of train watching. Fourteen trains in about
eight hours. I had a great time and I'm looking forward to
doing it again next year!