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The Lake Whatcom Railway ~ August 4th, 2007

by Elizabeth Guenzler

The first Monday of August is a statutory holiday in five provinces of Canada, including British Columbia. In 2007, this coincided very nicely with a trip that Chris Guenzler made to northwest Washington to ride the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train in its new location, as well as the Lake Whatcom Railway in Wickersham, among others.

The Lake Whatcom Railway travels on the former Bellingham Branch of the Northern Pacific Railway and operates authentic Northern Pacific Railway heritage equipment on this branch line. Started in 1970, it is a dedicated living preservation of America's grand railway heritage. Rides begin at Wickersham, a small town on Highway 9 between Sedro Woolley and Deming. Northern Pacific 0-6-0 1070 was the last steam engine to be retired from the railway in 1956 and this began a chain of events that resulted in the formation of the Lake Whatcom Railway. 1070 has the distinction of operating in every decade of the 20th century, a record of durability that is a testimonial associated with this steam locomotive that is virtually unmatched anywhere. Carol Cornish and friends recognized what was happening and began fifteen years of Casey Jones Excursions on the Northern Pacific Railway. These popular trains would travel branch lines and mainlines all over western Washington, and people would sign up just to go for a train ride. The destination did not matter. The authentic passenger local of the Northern Pacific Railway is the proud tradition of the Lake Whatcom Railway. All of our coaches were used on the Casey Jones Excursions.

I had taken the MV Coho from Victoria to Port Angeles, then drove to Lynnwood to spend the weekend. On Saturday morning, Chris drove up to Lynnwood and he, Bob and I drove north to Burlington which led to Sedro-Woolley.

Puget Sound and Baker River 4-6-0 2, built 1913, on display at the tourist information park along Highway 20.

The log car behind the steam engine.

Great Northern caboose X-87. We continued on to Wickersham, arriving at 11:00 but found the gate closed. However, it did not take long for someone to arrive.

Passengers, including Bob, getting tickets for today's ride.

My ticket for our first trip on this unique excursion train.

Upon our arrival, NP S-1 30 (ex. Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, exx. Port of Tacoma 5703, exxx. Port of Tacoma 703, exxxx. Yreka Western 603, nee Portland Terminal 30) was to be the motive power today.

Reversing to the car shop to bring out the passenger cars.

About to couple up to two of the coaches.

Great Northern wooden boxar 25478 houses the railway's gift shop.

Turning on the wye to be in position to pull our train.

On the wye track getting ready to switch onto the mainline.

Getting ready to couple on to our train.

Northern Pacific coach 1681 (nee NP 1280) being switched by the S-1.

While this was being done, we looked inside the shop and saw Northern Pacific 0-6-0 1070.

The steam engine last ran in 1998. Three of us were then offered a cab ride for the final wying movement. We eagerly accepted and climbed aboard.

Views from the cab of Northern Pacific Terminal 30. The last three photos taken by Chris Guenzler. We then boarded Northern Pacific coach 1681 and departed at 12:15.

The turn-around track at MP 3 of the railway as seen from the rear of the train. Our destination was the Blue Canyon picnic area.

Northern Pacific coach 634 "Lake Whatcom" with marker lights.

Northern Pacific Terminal Company S-1 30 and Northern Pacific coach 634 during the layover.

Northern Pacific coach 634 (nee Pennsylvania Railroad parlour car "Clearview") and 1681 (nee Northern Pacific 1280).

Northern Pacific coach 1681 partially hidden by the bushes at the picnic area.

One of the volunteers gave passenger handcar rides during the layover; I was one of those.

The waterfall at the picnic area which was not as impressive as it had been made out to be.

Myself on board S-1 30. Everyone re-boarded the train for the return trip.

Going through the forest.

Ballast car at Mirror Lake siding.

Mirror Lake.

Rounding a curve on the way back to Wickersham.

A speeder ride was offered for any passengers who wanted to ride, and the three of us immediately decided to do it. We drove the short distance to Park and looked around the area while the first group of passengers took their ride. This is where freight cars, parts and supplies are kept, across the road from the speeder rides. The rides go past the actual Lake Whatcom; the middle part of the line was lost in a land dispute a number of years ago.

Chris and I on the speeder.

Our speeder ride started along the right-of-way with Lake Whatcom to the left.

Travelling along the speeder route (0.6 miles one way).

Approaching the curved trestle bridge over Lake Whatcom.

A view of the lake.

The lake through the trees on a glorious summer's day.

Crossing the trestle bridge over Lake Whatcom, and the view looking behind.

The speeder at the turn-around point, taken by Chris.

The view on the return trip to Park. The three of us enjoyed our speeder ride and we then drove the route to find out the mileage before leaving Wickersham. On the way back to Lynnwood, we stopped at Mukilteo where the tracks are close to Puget Sound.

Southbound BNSF freight at Lighthouse Park.

The eastbound Empire Builder passed next.

The rear of the Builder heading to Everett and points east. After an excellent day of train-riding, we went to the Black Angus in Lynnwood for dinner and returned to the house for the night. Chris drove to the airport the next morning and flew back to California.

Riding the Lake Whatcom Railway had been a lot of fun and I hope to be able to visit there again. It would be wonderful if NP 1070 could be restored to operating condition for current and future generations to learn about the Northern Pacific Railway's history in this area of Washington.