Friday, December 16, 2011
Silent Night, Quiet Morning
It is the morning after Christmas. Overnight a light snow has silently fallen, covering the town of Skykomish in a pristine blanket of white. Devious in their beauty, the wet, heavy flakes stick to every surface, including the boughs of the community tree. However, when banded together this snow, long referred to as “Cascade Cement” represents a formable enemy to the railroad crossing Stevens Pass. Piling up quickly as Pacific storms slam into the Cascades, this is the snow that has a bad tendency to slide and is responsible for the deaths of nearly 100 people century ago at a town named Wellington, a mere 20 miles further up the pass.
Thankfully, no such dangers linger on this peaceful morning. Sans the passage of the Amtrak Empire Builder a quiet day and silent night have passed. Only the occasional hiss of escaping compressed air from a distant locomotive disturbs the dawn. For now, it is the only evidence that a mainline railroad even exists.
The solitude of the Christmas furlough continues, but not for long. To the west, a distant signal suddenly comes to life, its green light burning a hole in the darkness. Something is coming down the hill. Commerce can be denied only so long.
The railroad is waking up from a short winter nap. The silent night and quiet morning of another Christmas is about to end.