Headed Home

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

Morning Hotshot.  A westbound Z train heads for South Seattle and the crew for a Super Bowl Sunday off.

Sunday’s line up of trains looked spectacular Saturday night.  Like typical the “Super Bowl flu” struck and nothing on the line up seemed to be moving.  When I awoke ATCS showed nothing.  Not a single line up or occupancy anywhere west of the tunnel.  I hung around the hotel lobby area with Joel for a bit until a westbound appeared.  We joined up with Robert and headed to the Skykomish River bridge at Money Creek.

I have to admit I’ve photographed this place many times so despite how interesting it is I’m not always excited about returning.  My last visit to Stevens in 2011 I captured my all time favorite image of this location which makes me even less interested in it.  No matter, I like trains, so there has to be something to photograph there.

When I arrived I decided to do a pan.  The sun had not risen yet it was light enough to get a decent exposure.  A nice little cloud hung over the valley giving me a nice lid for the scene.

I think the pan turned out alright.  The train was moving much slower than I thought it would be so my shutter speed choice was faster than it should have been for a pan.  Still the result was ok and I’m happy with it.

That’s it for my 2013 Tracks in the Snow adventure.  It was another wonderful weekend of hanging out with friends and enjoying trains.

To The East

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Tracks In The Snow 2013

Saturday Robert and Joel hopped in with me for the day and we joined up Dale and his brother Reed.  These guys are great to hang out with since we all enjoy the best of planes and trains.  ATCS and FlightAware are the main apps on all of our phones! Our destination for the day was the Trinidad hill area.  Unfortunately traffic on Saturday didn’t start off as strong as it did on Friday so we sat at Winton for a while to wait for an eastbound to meet Amtrak 7 at Scenic.

First Train of the Day

Amtrak’s Empire Builder crosses the east switch at Merritt, Wa.
BNSF spent quite a bit of time removing all the snow from around their their facilities in town.

While at the school house crossing we had an interesting discussion with the landowner there.  I’ll save all of you the gory details and just say that he is less than friendly towards folks parking in his driveway (we confirmed on the Chelan County GIS site the road is HIS driveway not a public road despite the fact BNSF marks it as a public crossing). We hoped to chat with the sheriff he threatened to call but that didn’t happen.   It was a good lesson in remembering to treat others as you would want to be treated.


S SEACHC1 31 storms through Winton, Wa.  The bright sun made a cool morning feel nice and warm!

We caught an eastbound train at the Longfibre crossing in Winton then made way for the other side of Wenatchee.  From about Leavenworth almost to Quincy the fog had things socked in pretty good.  No sunny photos to be had in this area.  We stopped along highway 28 at West Quincy and waited.  In fact we waited a couple of hours for anything to happen.  In the mean time we enjoyed speculating why a Delta 757 diverted from Sea-Tac to land at Moses Lake.  After some phone calls we found out they had a generator fail which prevented them from landing at Sea-Tac under ILS.  They needed VFR where they didn’t have to rely on the generator to make power.

Finally the SPOEVE and the SEACHC showed up setting off a 4 train wave that lasted us until dark.  The Z SSECHC6, which was the third of this group, did a pick up of fruit at Quincy before heading for Spokane.  Our last train of the day ended up being a westbound S LPCTAC.  Unfortunately nothing else moved on the hill until Amtrak 8 passed through.  Now that I count we only caught 5 different trains throughout the day.  I guess that is more typical for Stevens.


The pole line is still in place east of Quincy, Wa..  With PTC on the horizon who knows how much longer it will be here to frame photographs.

Up next, the last day…

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!


Merry Christmas from dogcaught.com!

Merry Christmas to all the dogcaught readers!  I hope your holiday season is filled with all the things you enjoy.

Last January I was on Stevens Pass (Washington) enjoying my annual winter railfanning adventure.  Like normal I was up early and on the road looking for that first railroad photograph of the day.  My travelling companions, Robert Scott and Scott Lothes agreed we’d have a pretty good opportunity east of the pass to get a morning photo of Amtrak’s Empire Builder.  Off the highway and down a recently plowed forest service road we went to a gap in the mountains called “The Slot”.   Cautiously walking up the icy road to this location I set up for an 8 second exposure that would capture the lights from the passenger train streaking by in the very low pre-dawn light.  The result is one of my favorite images from 2011.

Night Passage

Last weekend I hung out with friends at a spot we’ve been calling “Camp Gaynor”.   For those not familiar with Stevens Pass Gaynor was the name of a station on the east side of the pass near the signal bridge at what is now East Berne.  About a mile below (east) of that spot is where the GN realigned the mainline in the late 40s by building a new tunnel and trestle to bypass a curve and a steep rock slope.  The trestle and tunnel took on the moniker of Gaynor.  Our campsite lies on the east side of the trestle in a wide area where the tracks were realigned.

As camping goes this spot is not for just anyone.  While the camp spots are far enough from the tracks it is hard to miss the cacophony of sound generated by a train climbing the pass.  Even the trains descending make plenty of noise as they are in full dynamic. To top it off the occasional engineer will offer a middle of the night warning of his arrival by horn.  If you don’t like trains don’t go.

I focused most of my photographic effort on things after dark.  I’ve photographed plenty of trains there during the day so I wanted to take advantage of the full moon and headlights.  On Saturday a westbound stack train arrived around 11:30 PM and was having some trouble so I fired off a bunch of frames to capture its passage.  Take a look at this video…

I’m looking forward to next year’s camp out with more exciting times on the pass.