Monday, February 4, 2008
The Total Mounts
The snow pole at Scenic tells the story: 8 1/2' on the level ground. By Sierra standards that is a good average, but at a mere 2400' above sea level, that is a lot of snow....and the traditonal heavy snowfall month of February is just beginning.
Heavy stroms have whipped in off the Pacific and stalled over the Washington Cascades. Rather than moving thourgh quickly as is often the case, the snow ladden clouds linger for days, dumping a water heavy white blanket on the mountains known as Cascade Cement. It sticks to every surface and has a bad tendency to slide.
Clearing the Line
Initially, a ballast regulator equipped with an oversized nose plow can handle the snow removal chores. Flying down the tracks the little machine sends snow flying from between the rails well off the right-of-way.
But when the banks get too close to the rail and too tall, when the storms are to strong and the snowfall too rapid, the big gun is brought to the front. The snow dozer, powered by two big locomotives and with its large wings can move tons of snow in a matter of minutes. Having been out all night pushing the snow away from the tracks, the dozer is seen here making a final clean-up run west.
Even as the dozer works the mainline, commerce contintues to roll. A empty grain train works up the siding having just passed the plow working around the bend.
While the plow train waits in the distance, an eastbound container train arrives, close on the heels of the grain train.
Clear to procede, the crew carefully guides the large wing around the West Scenic signal mast. Once past, they duscuss plowing over the switch machine located just beyond the plow.
Free of all obsticles, the plow train begins pushing the piles of snow over the bank....
...and is soon nearly swallowed up by the mass of snow.
Keeping "Em Rolling
The line clean, the plow's work done until the next storms blow in, the trains begin to roll in earnest. A wind whip cloud of snow engulfs a container train. Later, under a brightening sky, an eastbound trailer train makes an easy passage over the hill.
Already late, and getting later, the westbound Empire Builder, already nearly 8 hours behind schedule waits at Scenic for a slow to arrive eastbound container train struggling up the grade. Bored, one of the crew members takes a stroll through the winter landscape.
"You're going in for two", the dispatcher tells the crew of the eastbound as it takes the siding. Not wishing to waste a moment, as soon as the last car of the freight is clear, the Builder resumes it's trip to the west.
The mini-drama ends nearly an hour later when the second train, a westbound vehicle train slips downgrade.
....a Petitbone loader works to clear maintenance of way access roads at Scenic.
Even down at Skykomish the snow is piling up around the old depot.
Out in the yard, anythingl that doesn't move on a regular basis, is soon snowed in until the spring thaw.
Digging out the Scenic Sub.....the way this winter has been progressing, the worst might be yet to come.