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Timbers to Tidelands Steam Special Tacoma Rail and Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroads 6/8/2006

by Chris Guenzler

Jim and I arose and checked out of the Tacoma Dome Motel, then drove over to the Best Western for breakfast with Bob and Chris. After breakfast, Jim dropped me off at Freighthouse Square while he parked the car in one of the two large parking structures.

A Sounder Train was in the station.

This train had the Homerun Service locomotive on it. Jim and I waited out in front of Freighthouse Square, talking with Bart and Sarah plus Bart's parents, who were making the trip with us today. Chris and Bob showed up a few minutes later and at 7:34 AM, we all boarded the first chartered bus to Morton. On the way there, as we neared Elbe, it started to rain. Once at the train, I stowed my bags in the covered open car before I went outside to have a look.

A Brief History

The Mt. Rainier Scenic runs over the tracks built by the Tacoma Eastern Railroad Company between the years of 1902 and 1910. The railroad was incorporated on July 14, 1890. On December 31, 1918, while under the control of the United States Railroad Administration, the Milwaukee Road absorbed all of its subsidiary roads, including the Tacoma Eastern, into the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad system. It was the only profitable branch on the entire Milwaukee Road Pacific Extension. The CM&SP railroad was closed down in 1980, and many of the lines in Washington were abandoned, including this one. The Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad is based out of Elbe, Washington started running excursions in the summer of 1981. They ran Dinner Trains for a few years before the line to Morton was not used as and was essentially abandoned for about 10 years. In 2003, two trestles had to be rebuilt in order to return the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad trains to the historic Morton Depot in 2003.

The Trip 6/8/2006

Our train to Tacoma today had Mt. Rainier Scenic Heisler 91, Open Car 541 and Tacoma Rail Coaches 40010, 40020 and 40030.

Heisler 91. Dave and I walked to find the relocated Morton Depot. A major television program was done about the moving of this building.

We then set up for a start up Photo Runby but had to wait for Bus 3 to arrive from Tacoma.

We got a practice Photo Runby with a forklift before a quick rain shower passed through Morton. Bus 3 finally arrived and we for the first Photo Runby of the day.

Heisler 91 starts moving forward.

Photo Runby 1 was our train steaming by us. What a great way to start a trip! We all boarded before the train was backed up toward the end of the track by the Morton depot.

Our train backed across Highway 7 to the end of track. With that done, we started the trek to Tacoma.

Now our train would be starting the climb to Divide.

A few minutes later we crossed the East Fork of the Tilton River on a 9 degree left hand curve.

Shortly afterward, we crossed Nineteen Creek on the other high curved bridge. We continued our trek to Divide with the Heisler 91 working very hard. We stopped at the Tilton River trestle at MP 58.4. Here we would do our next Photo Runby.

The photo runby line below my location.

The back up move.

Photo Runby 2 was the train crossing the Tilton River trestle.

The Heisler put on a fantastic show starting on the grade then slipping before going into the "I think I can! I think I can!" mode. The train made it over Divide then descended to Mineral.

We passed the loop track that the regular Mt. Rainier Scenic trains use on their Elbe to Mineral excursions.

This is where the loop returns to their mainline.

We passed the switch with the line to the shops which I rode over in July 2005 on the NRHS convention trip.

We proceeded to the Nisqually River to perform Photo Runby 3.

The back up move.

Photo Runby 3 was our train crossing the Nisqually River. Back aboard we next headed to Elbe by crossing Highway 706.

Park Junction.

We curved through Park Junction before we pulled into Elbe, our water stop of the day.

Heisler 91 at Elbe.

The Mt. Rainier Scenic switcher which was about to run ahead of us to Fredrickson with a lone coach.

I walked over to the edge of Alder Lake.

We did a Photo Runby with the switcher as it left Elbe.

The Photo Runby 4 was the train running through the yard at Elbe. We all reboarded and the train headed towards Tacoma, starting my new mileage for this trip. When Alder Lake was made, the tracks had to be relocated on a new 1% grade to New Reliance, so I knew the Heisler 91 would be working hard again.

Our train crossed Washington Highway 706 to start the run up the grade.

The Heisler was working hard on the grade towards Alder Lake and New Reliance.

Alder Lake. We climbed the grade to New Reliance.

View of the countryside.

The Scotch Broom was in bloom here as well.

A farm along our route.

Our always present rear hi-rail vehicle protection was now running ahead of us to turn on the crossing signals as we headed toward Tacoma.

We crossed the Big Marshal River,

The train rolled toward Eatonville.

Our train approached Concrete Bridge at MP 36.0. Because of low clearance problems with the undercarriage of the passenger cars, we were slowly walked over this bridge.

After creeping across the Concrete Bridge over the Marshal River under many watchful eyes.

Crossing the bridge.

Marshal River.

The train crossed safely across the Concrete Bridge. The train headed to Eatonville where we were allowed off the train while the Heisler 91 was serviced.

Our train at Eatonville.

Another view of the Heisler 91.

After servicing, our train was on the way to Fredrickson.

The train ran west down the valley.

The train ran by Lake Kapowsin.

Our train curved through Tanwax.

Leaving Tanwax as we approached civilization.

We saw several horses enjoying our passage.

The train curved through Thrift.

Our group on the train.

Our train was nearing Fredrickson.

When we arrived at Fredrickson, Tacoma Rail SD45 3001 was ready to assist us down Tacoma Hill. We stopped to add the SD45 to the head of our train. At the back of the train, we added the coach that the switcher had brought from Elbe to Fredrickson.

After departing, our train came to the junction with the Tacoma Rail line that heads west out of Fredrickson.

Our train was now heading to Tacoma Hill.

Our train passed through Hillsdale.

The train was passing through several Tacoma neighborhoods.

Next we started down the 4% grade of Tacoma Hill which was interesting with the large SD45 dwarfing the Heisler 91.

The trip down this steep Tacoma Hill.

We reached the CTC signal at the bottom of Tacoma Hill and curved to our unloading location.

The train arrived and we all detrained, ending our last rare mileage trip sponsored by the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum. A special thank you to Bart and Sarah Jennings for all their hard work that made our trips so fantastic this year. I said my goodbyes to my fellow rare mileage travelers before getting the last pictures of this trip.

The view of our train after we had arrived.

Tacoma Rail SD-45 3001.

Ex Milwaukee Road Grade Crossing Signal.

Jim drove up with the car and we all drove to the Harbor Light Restaurant. Here we enjoyed a fantastic dinner with a Tacoma Harbor and BNSF mainline view to keep it interesting. We drove Chris and Bob back to the Best Western before Jim and I returned to the Tacoma Dome Motel for the night.

The Seattle Turn Sounder and Cascade Talgo 501 6/09/2006

Jim and I got up at 5:00 AM on June 9th and drove to the parking structure and parked the car. Across the street at Freighthouse Square, we bought one-way Sounder tickets to Seattle, then boarded the cab car on this train. At 5:45 AM, the train left Tacoma and through the train came Bob and Chris.

The inside of a Sounder Car.

The two of them stood looking out the front door of the cab car while Jim and I sat at a table. Everyone was amazed how Sounder passengers line up and there is no pushing. The train took us to Seattle where we arrived on time. In Seattle, Sounder commuter trains do not have direct access to King Street Station. So we had to walk around the south side of the building to get into the station. I was surprised at how little work had been done on the building's restoration.

Cascade Talgo 501 6/9/2006

Before boarding, we checked in, where the conductor of train 501 took our tickets and assigned us to Car 8. We found our seats and I decided to take a few pictures.

The coach section on the Talgo.

Chris in the Cafe Section of the Talgo.

Chris really liked riding the Talgo and enjoyed the tilting feature this train uses. It was a quick trip back to Tacoma and then we walked over to the parking structure and drove to the Best Western for breakfast. After a fine morning meal, Jim and I returned the key while Bob and Chris packed. Once all back in the car, we drove to Point Defiance Park then found Camp 6, our next train ride of the trip.

Part 4 Camp 6 Logging Museum