Thursday, January 10, 2008
Lest We Forget
A heavy snow was falling from a dark, gray sky. Cascade cement is what the old heads on the Great Northern called it. The over sized flakes stick to everything and have a bad tendency to slide. A person gets far wetter out in this snow than they will in the rain so well known on the western slopes of the Cascades.
Off of US 2, at Scenic, Washington, on Stevens Pass, sits a refurbished Great Northern caboose. In the summer, it dominates a parking lot that marks the beginnings of the Iron Goat Trail. This trail is built on the old Great Northern rail line over the pass. A line that passes through a town once named Wellington.
During the summer the parking lot is clear, full of cars. In the winter it is buried under the white cement that falls from the sky. In the winter, the caboose is no longer a dominate fixture. In the winter, it sits alone, nearly buried, forlorn and forgotten.
Well, maybe forlorn, but not completely forgotten.
Last Saturday I headed up to the pass. As much as I wanted to photograph the trains of the BNSF working their way through the storm, what I really came to capture was a visible artifact of the Great Northern in the deep snow of winter. For it was winter and the Great Northern's efforts to conquer it that ultimately defined Stevens Pass. An 8 mile tunnel was constructed as a result of the snow that was now falling on that old crummy.
So there, proud as ever, was Rocky the Mountain Goat. Like Moses parting the Red Sea, it seemed even the drifts of snow parted to make sure the mascot and spirit of the Great Northern would not be covered, not be forgotten.
A short distance away, out on the mainline the trains ran not in the least bit inhibited by the elements. The Empire Builder emerged from the safe confines of the Cascade Tunnel and had but a half hour of running before reaching the more temperate lower levels of the pass. Even the heavy freight trains crossed the pass as if it were a warm summer day.
Do they know? Have they forgotten how this all came about?
Rocky stands guard at Scenic, near the old line up Windy Mountain. He stands there, lest we forget.