Plenty of Trains

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Tracks In The Snow 2013

Just before sunrise an eastbound Z train lights up the trees just east of the Foss River trestle. The slide fence at 1725.3 is still down so the train has an approach signal at 1728.2.

One of the big issues with railfanning Stevens Pass can be having a train at the right time.  Thanks to siding and tunnel contraints the pass can effectively only handle about 20-24 trains in 24 hours.  Add in the fact BNSF uses Stevens primarily for intermodal trains, leaving the empty grain and coal trains for Stampede Pass, there can be slow times on the hill.

Friday morning was NOT one of the slow times. At one point there were 5 trains between Berne (siding just east of the summit) and Baring (3 sidings west of the summit).   I was thrilled!  Non-stop trains and the weekend was just getting started!

Remember from the last post that a minor slide tripped the slide fence in the middle of the hill.  I figured at some point that would slow things down.  Sure enough the signal maintainer and track inspector both hi-railed down from Scenic following Amtrak 7.   Fortunately it didn’t take them long to fix the fence and get things moving. In fact I’m guessing they didn’t delay the eastbound at Skykomish any since it would have had to wait at Scenic for a tunnel flush from the train ahead anyway.

I watched three trains at the Money Creek grade crossing on the Old Cascade Highway while starting to communicate with the others visiting for the weekend.  The final train I saw pass was an empty oil train from Cherry Point.  It looked nice sporting new,clean tank cars. Geez, if only the environmentalists knew it was there!  With the fog hanging around the warming snow Money Creek ended up being a wonderful spot to capture a few trains.


 The detector at Grotto (1735) is just about to inspect an empty oil train. 

I moved over to Winton on the east side of the pass for what ended up being 3 trains.  It seemed they just kept coming!  Finally just after noon a MOW crew wanted to remove snow between Merritt and Berne slowing things down a bit.  I met Mike, Nick, and Joel at the 59er Diner for a leisurely lunch while MOW crew did their thing.  Sure enough we didn’t miss a darn thing!


The V-WENPTL with a smoky unit is about to head in at Winton to wait for the oil train and some MOW on the hill.

After lunch I beelined for Scenic to watch 3 trains meet and the sun set.  Then around 5pm I headed to the Cascadia to meet up with everyone and enjoy some desert (I got the last piece of mixed berry pie!).  After a lull I watched two more pass Foss River.  Doing a bit of counting I ended up seeing 12 trains between 5:30am and 9:30pm.  Not too bad of a day on Stevens Pass!


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