Thanksgiving Trains


Racing Along the Sound

Amtrak Cascades train 507 races along Puget Sound passing under the  Tacoma Narrows bridge near Titlow.

Thanksgiving isn’t always the best time to head track side to see trains.  Many times the crews are enjoying the holiday with their own families so the railroad tends to move slower.  I decided to chance it anyway and head to Tacoma for some railfanning time with my Dad and daughter on Saturday.  It was nice to do a bit of exploring around town and find a few places I’d never visited before.

We hit D Street in downtown after exploring the new overpass being installed over Pacific Avenue for the Sound Transit Lakewood extension.  We drove the Schuster Parkway and Ruston Way out to Ruston.  We visited Titlow Beach and the adjacent park.  In the end we saw 3 Amtrak trains including one of the special holiday trains, 2 UPs, and a BNSF vehicle train.  Not bad for 4 hours of railfanning!


Frazier Slide

On a dark, cold January night in 2008 a northbound train at Pryor, Or. received a call from UP dispatcher 68.  The dispatcher was inquiring as to what might cause an occupancy to come in behind them between Wicopee and Heather.  The crew noted no issues but the dispatcher still had issues between Heather and South Frazier.  A maintainer was called and as he high railed south from Heather he found mud across the tracks just north of Wicopee.  The decision was made at that point to evaluate the situation further in the morning.

Smart move.

What they found the next morning was that the hill side above north Frazier had slid taking the mainline and a significant portion of Coyote mountain down toward Salt Creek at the bottom.  Trees, mud, rocks, and anything else that was there was spread over nearly 3/4 of a mile from top to bottom.  It was estimated that the mainline would be out for weeks.

Looking down toward the lower track

On my visit in 2009 all the gates to Frazier and Wicopee were closed and locked.  This year they were not so I took the opportunity to explore the slide a bit.  One interesting view point is to take FR 5448-401 north from 5448 (road to Cruzatte).  This road crosses the path of the slide about 3/4 of the way down from the top and about 1/4 of a mile above the lower track.  It is fascinating to see just how much material was deposited here.  Trees, mud, rocks and whatever else litters the opening in the trees above the track.

Looking up toward the upper track

There were three paths down the side of the mountain, each in a stream bed.  The Coyote Creek path was the most interesting as it was quite narrow and deep.  I can only imagine what the the slurry of debris looked like squirting through this gap.  Awesome I’m sure. Being anywhere near this spot that dark, wet night in January would have been more than daunting.

**In March and April 2008, while the UP was recovering from the slide, I made few trips to the Oregon Trunk to see the detours.  Here are the posts from those trips:  Detouring on the Trunk Detouring on the Trunk – Madras Bound


One of the interesting things that occurred daily while I was in the Oregon Cascades was the movement of various cars to Portland in preparation for the NRHS Cascade Rails 2011 convention and its excursions.  These cars moved north on the end of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight and the number of cars each day varied from 2 to 6.  Seeing nice cars like this on the back made photographing the rear of the train fun again!

On Saturday 6/18 the Starlight had the Chapel Hill bringing up the markers.  Take a look at the car’s website and you’ll quickly see this is no run of the mill car.  I believe luxurious would describe this car and its amenities.  What a better way to travel though?  Leisurely pace, your every need cared for, and beautiful scenery.  Wow.  I think DeWitt Chapple has done a great job with this car.

In this photo the Chapel Hill and fellow PV are exiting tunnel 13 just south of Frazier.  I’m betting the folks on the rear platform were shocked to see a person standing track side after passing through the rough terrain between Cruzatte and Frazier.  In fact it took them a minute to realize I was there and wave back.


Oregon Cascades

Last weekend I traveled to UP’s Cascade crossing at Pengra Pass.  I love this mountain pass because it has such a variety of things to see.  Rugged terrain, tunnels, trestles, and a variety of  flora.  It is hard to beat if you like the see and hear trains working their hardest to get the freight up and over the mountains.  Done correctly you can easily photograph the same train in multiple locations on the hill.  If you stop at the right spot you can hear a train for an hour as it passes through the switchbacks.  Paradise for a mountain loving railfan.

This trip I wanted to focus on a few areas I hadn’t visited before and to revisit others.  Unfortunately some of my plans were thwarted by snow.  A snow drift block the road to tunnel 6 so visiting there was out unless I wanted to do some shoveling or walking.  Still I was able to accomplish many of my goals and see the things I wanted to see.  With items left undone I have an excuse to return again in the future!

For tonight’s post I’ll give some bullets of the things I accomplished and I’ll cover more in upcoming posts.

  • Visit the bridge at Westfir
  • Visit tunnel 15
  • Re-visit the south portal of tunnel 5 now that the repairs are complete
  • Visit the second gravel pit on the road to Cruzatte.
  • Visit N. Fields
  • Visit the Frazier slide
  • Night photos at various locations

My wish list still has about the same number of items on it which will have to wait for less snow and high streams.

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.