Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Winter Stroll

A few weeks back I made what has become an annual winter trip to Stevens Pass. If you look back in the posts on this fine blog you will see the results of last year's treks through the snows of Stevens. This year the pass had a very different look. Not near the snowfall, I traveled over to the east side and hiked from the East Portal of the Cascade Tunnel down to the old station of Gaynor..about a 7 mile round trip. Coming and going I photographed the trains running across the pass that day and a few other sites, like this avalanche run on Rocky Ridge. It brings home why the Great Northern ended up drilling an 8-mile tunnel.

The first train that I saw was actually a westbound container train. When it arrived at the East Portal, I was still enjoying my last cup of coffee before embarking in the 16 degree F fog, so I just let her go on by. The first train I photographed was the westbound Empire Builder, stopped by a red light thanks to the fore mentioned stack train still occupying the tunnel.

My favorite spot along the siding at Berne is this little knoll that overlooks a set of "S-curves". A westbound trailer train works up the siding for a meet with an eastbound. I lucked out. The westbound stopped just far enough up the siding to give this view of the eastbound dropping downgrade. What looks like snow on the trees is actually a thick layer of frost generated by a week of freezing fog.

A long walk, and even longer wait in the cold produced this image of eastbound double stacked containers slipping through the "hole in the wall" near the old station of Gaynor.

As usual, as soon as I shot the train down at Gaynor, it was time to turn around and start the uphill hike to the car up at the tunnel. On the way I stopped off near the East Berne signal bridge to shoot as eastbound grain empty. The conductor was an old friend, Andy VanWagnen. Seconds after the first shot was taken, Andy was out on the locomotive's side catwalk waving.

Thanks to bits and pieces of scanner chatter that I picked up as well as a hunch on my part, I decided to hang tough at East Berne and set up for a possible westbound. For once I was actually right! A westbound freight came up the hill with a helper set assisting mid-train.

A good way to end a long day. Not the spectacular snow shots produced by last year's efforts, but far from a waste of time. Besides, nothing is better for the mind and soul than a little winter stroll down the tracks.

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