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Puget Sound Steam Special - Friday Shipper's Special Chase ~ May 18th, 2007

by Elizabeth Guenzler

The Union Pacific Steam Program announced that 4-8-4 844 would be travelling through the Northwest in May 2007. I had never ridden behind, or seen, this steam engine before and was therefore very interested. When it was announced that the steam engine would be double-heading with Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449, this was an opportunity that I knew was very rare. In fact, it was the first time they had double-headed on a public excursion and would be doing so on a round trip from Tacoma to Everett, Washington. This event was being operated by the Union Pacific Railroad, Burlington Northern Santa Fe on behalf of the Barriger Library of the University of Missouri at St. Louis, and the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation.

The two engines were on public display for five days beforehand and on May 18th, a shipper's special was operated from Tacoma to Everett. I took the Clipper catamaran ferry from Victoria to Seattle the day before and drove to the Ballard Locks on Friday morning.

The bascule bridge at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks over the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Ballard, Seattle was in the up position when we arrived.

A westbound BNSF stack train crossed the bridge first.

Next, the westbound Empire Builder, Amtrak Train 7 passed through the bridge.

That was followed by Amtrak Cascades 513 on its way to Portland. Then came the object of our trip here.

About 11:30, Southern Pacific 4449 and Union Pacific 844 led the shipper's special across the bascule bridge over Lake Washington. We then drove to Everett to catch it on its southbound trip.

The tight curve at PA Junction necessitated the addition of BNSF C44-9W 4916 for this portion of the trip only. Bob used a special lens for this unique effect.

The two steam engines round the curve at PA Junction.

Union Pacific 4-8-4 844 at Everett - the northernmost point on its month-long journey from Cheyenne to the Pacific Northwest.

Union Pacific 844 and Southern Pacific 4449 entering Everett station for the southbound trip to Tacoma.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 844 at Everett. We took off for Edmonds and arrived there just in time.

Union Pacific 844 and Southern Pacific 4449 lead the shipper's special at MP 18 of the BNSF Scenic Sub.

The train stops at Edmonds to pick up a passenger.

A railfan helicopter chasing the excursion.

Union Pacific 4-8-4 844 at Edmonds.

The front of the never-retired steam engine.

Steve Lee, the then-head of the Union Pacific steam program, in a Viking helmet. History does not relate the reason for this.

Union Pacific observation car "St. Louis" sporting a drumhead for the Barriger National Library fundraising excursion. Our chase ended here.

This had been fun and was just the beginning of an unforgettable weekend. Not only would I be riding behind two famous steam engines tomorrow (Puget Sound Steam Special - Tacoma to Everett Round Trip), but the Mount Rainier Scenic Railway put on an event just for the railfans in town for the weekend. More adventures were eagerly looked forward to.