The End of 8th Street

Sunday was the last day Vancouver’s 8th St. railroad crossing was open for auto traffic.  BNSF and the City of Vancouver are closing the crossing as part of the larger rail project to improve freight transit through town.  For now 8th St. will close and traffic will detour over the adjacent Jefferson St. crossing.  With 8th St. closed BNSF can remove the shoofly used to route rail traffic around the 6th St. and Esther St. underpass construction sites.  With the shoofly gone contractors can resume work connecting up 6th St. with 7th St. using the underpass.  Once that connections opens Jefferson St. will close leaving only 11th St. with an at grade crossing.  From what I can read on the City’s website by the end of 2013 the underpass will be in use and Jefferson St. will close.

8th St. was always a unique spot.  In 1993 when I first moved to town it was the first crossing I crossed in search of trains.  Looking north/west I was impressed by all the signals and railroad infrastructure visible from that spot.  I still remember that as one of my first impressions of Vancouver railroading.  Who knew at that point I’d cross that same crossing hundreds of times and that it would eventually close?

Stop sign all lit up at Eigth St.8th St. Westbound.  Stop.

8th St. hosted one of the most interesting crossing signals around.  It looked like most normal crossing flashers but it had the “Stop” bar below the regular flashing lights.  While this wasn’t a wig-wag it still made this crossing very unique.  This arrangement lasted until the crossing was rebuilt in early 2011 with the shoofly installation.  At that time modern gates and flashers went into service.

To celebrate the last day of the crossing being open I shot a couple of trains including the M-SPOLVJ and the Empire Builder.  In the Empire Builder image it is clear materials and equipment are in place for tomorrow’s closing.  So long 8th St!


M-SPOLVJ crosses 8th St. Sunday Morning.  In less than 24 hours this view will not be possible.

Amtrak Empire Builder train 27.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder crosses 8th St.  Equipment and materials are staged for tomorrow’s closing.


All Quiet

Quiet zones are a great idea.  They help the railroad become a better neighbor while improving crossing safety.  The problem is they are kind of expensive so when homeowners want to implement one many municipalities require them to pay up.  For example the crossing 1/4 of a mile east of this location (Chelsea Ave.) Vancouver is requiring the neighbors to come up with they’re fair share for.  Organizing neighbors is of course no small task so the result is progress is slow.  In the mean time the neighbors around Winter Rd. crossing get to enjoy the quiet.

On the good news front my 7D is repaired and back home.  It felt good to pick it up have the great features at my fingertips.  I’m anxious to get out and use it again.

Home With A View

With the leaves off the trees for winter it is easier to find things lurking in the woods.  When I visited Felida on Sunday I noticed quite a nice home now sits on the hill above the Felida road crossing.  From what I can see they have a pretty good view of the tracks.  While I’d love to have a house with such a nice view I’m not sure I’d like to have a place along that bluff.  This hillside is always sliding so there will likely be a day when they’ll have a better view of the tracks and river below than they ever wanted.

A Fleeting View

Amtrak train 500

When I moved to Vancouver in 1993 I didn’t know where everything was railfan wise.  It took a bit of map reading and driving around to find all the interesting spots to see trains around town.  On one trip to Tacoma on Amtrak’s Mt. Rainier (predecessor to today’s Cascades) I noted in a small grade crossing north of Vancouver which looked like something to investigate.   Of course since the train was going 70+ mph the crossing was mostly a blur but that fleeting view was enough to get me over to Felida Rd. (NW 122 St.) for some railfanning.

The Long and Winding Road

The Long and Winding Road

Graham Rd. near the former site of the Trojan nuclear power plant probably can’t be considered long or winding.  The rail line it crosses could be however. Portland & Western’s Astoria District winds its way along the Willamette and Columbia rivers for 99 miles from Willbridge to Astoria.  There are certainly places where it is straight but most of the time is curving one way or another to follow the geography laid out by the rivers.

Most of the line was constructed between 1895 and 1898 and modified little since.  I imagine since this was always a branch line (except for its brief time as the Northern Pacific’s mainline between Portland and Seattle) there was little incentive to change anything significantly.  With the recent tie and rail improvements made by the P&W and the State of Oregon it looks like the ‘A-line’ will continue to be the long and winding road along the lower Columbia for some time.