The Northwest is seeing its share of high water this month and fortunately the water is for the most part staying within river banks.  In fact most rivers are really only high with a few at or slightly above flood stage.  On Sunday I visited one my favorite spots in the north part of Clark County to see how the Lewis River was doing.  It was high alright, in fact higher than I’ve ever seen it.  According to the guages it is still 6′ below its flood stage so nothing to worry about there.

Here’s my photo from Sunday of Amtrak 501 crossing the river.  Take note of how high the river is on the center column of the swing span and then…

…look at the second photo below of a Union Pacific manifest crossing the bridge in March of 2008.   Quite the difference!

According to the flood outlook the Northwest should be OK floods wise for a bit.  Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota are currently in the worst shape for floods with lots of reds and oranges indicating active flooding or imminent flooding.   I’m headed to where the big red blob is in the middle of Montana in less than a month.  I hope the flooding has worked its way out by then.

Trouble on the Judith

I read yesterday about damage to Central Montana Railroad’s Judith River trestle.  Today the images came out.

Image 1
Image 2

Certainly this damage is repairable but this railroad doesn’t have the resources of a large class 1.  In fact with events over the past few years surrounding their traffic and payments from the BNSF CMR certainly doesn’t have the money for the repair.  The track is owned by the state of Montana so a I’m sure they will be involved.  I’m betting there will be federal money for the repair also.  Stay tuned to this one as the future of the CMR hinges on the repair.

Let’s hope scenes like this joyful day of riding the Charlie Russell Chew Choo will come again….

GorgeRail Weekend

May 21st was GorgeRail 2011.  That translated into a whole weekend of Gorge railfanning activities for me!  On Friday I headed out to enjoy fabulous sunny skies and lots of trains.   Saturday I had plans for an early sunrise photo before the show and afterwards I expected to spend time with friends so I didn’t have plans then.  Sunday I set aside as a make up day for the early sunrise photo followed by some time to get together and railfan with friends.

As you might expect with great plans something would go wrong.  Unfortunately the trains and light didn’t cooperate perfectly for the planned sunrise photo.  That’s life as a railfan I guess.

At this time of year the light should be rising over the ridge behind my right shoulder (in the image above) about 5:45am.  I arrived around 6am on Saturday but the sun never did shine thanks to an incoming rain storm.  To top it off I had to leave long before an eastbound train ever arrived.  Sunday on several occasions the sun did break through just perfectly but wouldn’t you know it the train wasn’t there.  I ended up with the image above which I like very much but would have been better with one of the sun breaks shining on the point where the train was.

I have something to work on for next time I guess.

Photography Day In The Gorge

Robert Scott invited me to join him and some friends in the Columbia River Gorge for some waterfall and railfan photography yesterday.  I enjoy both waterfalls and railfanning so I said yes.

The morning was quite dark and wet which was perfect for photographing waterfalls.  Even light is a great thing when working around waterfalls so the morning weather was perfect though a bit wet.  We visited numerous falls and then introduced Robert’s friends to railfan photography.  Two of the three guests jumped on the opportunity and started making some interesting photos.  The third was struggling to understand how to treat a train as a primary subject.  I think that is totally understandable if you don’t have a passion for trains and railroading.  He made the best of it though as we photographed other things like the church at Maryhill, Stonehenge Memorial, and a few other falls.

The rain and dark conditions continued into mid-afternoon when the skies broke up a bit.  Of course as the light became more interesting the trains stopped thanks to a bad frog at Home Valley on the BNSF.  Just before sunset the trains started to break loose and I found myself on a viewpoint above Cooks.  When I initially set up for the photograph shown below the light was more even and the snow capped mountains in the background stood out beautifully.  Not two minutes before the train showed up everything changed drastically.  The sun popped out from behind the dark clouds and all but obscured the mountains.  I almost gave up on the photo because the mountains I admired had mostly disappeared.  I shot the 6 image pano anyway and figured I might be able to make something of it.

The rest of the group was at the S curve east of Home Valley.   My light good fortune was their misfortune.  Not 2 minutes before the train arrived at their location the beautiful sun I saw went away and they were left with the flat light I was planning on.  Such is the luck of the draw when photographing in the Spring.

Farewell Stevens

The only thing I don’t like about the annual tracks in the snow weekend is that it has to end.  There’s something about chasing trains around the pass that is relaxing and rewarding all wrapped up in one.  Add in some awesome railfan friends (and their friends!) and leaving is no fun.  I hate to say farewell to my friends the pass but the realities of life are that I don’t make any money railfanning and photographing.  So with that thought I have to say goodbye to Stevens every January.

For the past few years the Tracks in the Snow crew stayed at the Cascadia Inn in Skykomish.   Henry and his crew do an exceptional job of taking care of us and catering to our needs.  The hotel is always very clean, the food very good (especially the prime rib special!), and the drinks plentiful.  On top of that the staff is very friendly and welcoming to our group.  On Friday night after a wonderful Salmon dinner with couscous, green beans, and garlic bread I stepped outside to capture the hotel while a rolling meet took place in the Skykomish siding.

Dark shadows are the only thing on the fruit trees west of Monitor, Wa.  In about 4 1/2 months the trees will be in a splendid bloom and by early September the harvest will take place.  The cold, snow, ice, and low winter sun will long be forgotten by then.  Soon after though the cycle of the seasons will kick in again and winter will be back.

The early bird gets the worm.  On Sunday after heavy rain and warm temperatures through the night rivers were swollen and lapping at their banks.  When I arrived at Money Creek just after 6am the Skykomish seemed to be much louder and urgent than the night before.  When I compare an image shot just 12 hours before to this one it was clear the river had risen around 2ft.  Gone were the ripples of underlying rocks and a couple of trees around the center abutment disappeared.  The snow melt was on and in a violent way. Trains continued to roll, that is until around noon when BNSF issued a flash flood warning to two trains slowing them from Gold Bar to the Cascade tunnel.   By Monday the pass was closed for a few hours in the middle of the day to let maintenance crews drop rip rap in a few locations.  Such is the difficulty of mountain railroading.

This brings to an end the presentation of the bulk of my Tracks in the Snow images.