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2011 NRHS Convention -- Stampede Pass Trip ~ June 25th, 2011

by Elizabeth Guenzler

I was really anticipating today's rare mileage excursion from Tacoma to Easton over Stampede Pass which, for me, was the highlight of the National Railway Historical Society convention.

Stampede Pass

Stampede Pass (elevation 3,672 feet) goes through the Cascade Range in Washington. Southeast of Seattle and east of Tacoma, its importance to transportation lies almost entirely with railroading, as no paved roads cross it. The pass, and its accompanying 1.86 mile Stampede Tunnel, was built by the Northern Pacific Railway and opened for service in May 1888 and is currently operated by the BNSF Railway. It was so named because of the labourers who were pushing the railroad grade over the pass left their jobs when they became dis-satisfieid with the working conditions. When word passed that meals would only be served to those who were still working, the workmen headed down the track so fast that it amounted to a stampede. The pass was originally crossed using a series of switchbacks while the tunnel was being constructed.

The Trip

Chris and I left Lynnwood and I drove us to Tacoma.

My ticket for this journey; Car F was Amfleet coach 82660. While waiting to board, we talked with Bart and Sarah Jennings and NRHS president Greg Molloy. The train's consist was Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449, Auxiliary Tender DLMX 4219, Amtrak F40PH 202, baggage/concession DLMX 5659, Amfleet coaches 82540, 82720 and 82510, cafe/ business class 58107, Amfleet coaches 82560 and 82620, Full Dome "Nenana" SLRG 511 PPCX 800124, Santa Fe short dome "Plaza Santa Fe" 503 PPCX 800392, California Zephyr "Silver Lariat" PPCX 800190 and California Zephr dome/observation CZ10 "Silver Solarium" PPCX 800038. The cars were running in reverse order since they were not able to be turned at Easton.

We departed Tacoma at 09:17 and headed south, passing Sounder's connection track to their Freighthouse Square station before going through Reservation where the Union Pacific enters the BNSF mainline to Portland.

Pierce County countryside as we passed through Puyallup, Meeker and Sumner before approaching Auburn.

A BNSF coal train in the former Northern Pacific yard here. This is where the Stampede Pass line leaves the north-south Seattle to Portland line and heads east.

Curving onto the BNSF Stampede Sub at MP 21.5 and new mileage.

The dense forest has only a few openings and we would climb the grade on our way to Easton.

View looking ahead as the train made its way around a curve.

The 65 mile long Green River, a tributary of the Duwamish River. The train's route crossed this a few times, on the western approach to Stampede Pass.

View of a former Milwaukee Road bridge over Green River.

The south of the wye at Palmer Junction, which opened in 1900 and shortened the distance from Pasco to Seattle by twenty-five miles, and gave Seattle direct service from the east for the first time.

A view of the Howard Hanson Dam which was completed in 1961 and provides Tacoma with flood control and water supply.

This part of the Green River was very calm.

We crossed the Green River at Bridge 60 before arriving at Lester.

Departing Lester, MP 59.7, after a stop for some maintenance equipment to clear the tracks ahead. Lester became the base for helper operations over the Pass once the tunnel was opened, and marks the start of a 2.2% grade.

Scenery as the train continues on its way.

The rear of the train as we leave Lester.

Bridge 58.9 and another crossing of the Green River.

The train crossed "The Viaduct" or Bridge 56, the highest on this line at 1,121 feet.

Climbing the grade to Stampede Pass.

I had just one chance to get the Stampede sign and was successful.

Continuing to ascend the grade.

Entering Tunnel 4.

The end of Stampede siding.

Entering Stampede Pass Tunnel, 8,700' long.

Looking back.

Exiting the tunnel with a waterfall above.

Mountain views at the top of the pass on the way to Easton.

A pond was passed on this lovely summer's day.

A snow-covered mountain in the distance, east of Stampede Pass summit.

Making our way to Easton.

The former Milwaukee Road line, now a train, over Lake Easton.

Lake Easton as seen from the train. We arrived at Easton and had a two-hour layover.

The Milwaukee Road right-of-way.

Southern Pacific 4449 and the F40PH cut off the train and passed our location en route to the wye.

The unmistakeable silhouette of Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449.

DLMX baggage car 5659 "Gordon Zimmerman" (ex. Friends of 4449 "Better Idea", exx. UP 904227 1975, exxx. UP 24427 1969, nee UP 5659), where Chris and I spent most of the outbound trip.

The steam engine and diesel helper going down to the switch.

Reversing to the coaches for the return trip.

About ready to couple onto the train.

The photo runby.

After the runby, it reversed and switched tracks in preparation for boarding.

The steam train ready to accept passengers for the trip back to Tacoma.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449 and the Easton station sign.

The train departed at 15:18 and I caught our westbound entry into Tunnel 4.

Rounding a curve on the Stampede Sub.

Proceeding down the tracks.

The dense forest as seen from the crossing of one of the bridges.

The Green River from the bridge.

Another curve on this mountain pass.

Another view of the Green River. I spent most of the return trip in either the baggage car or one of the vestibules, enjoying the sights and sounds of the steam engine and taking in everything I was experiencing.

It was a beautiful day for a steam excursion.

Southern Pacific 4449 leading the train back west to Tacoma.

A peaceful Green River this afternoon.

The sun was in my favour as the train took another curve. I just relaxed and watched the scenery for the rest of the way back to Tacoma. Before I drove us back to Lynnwood, there was somewhere else we had to go.

Chehalis Western C415 684 (ex. Curtis, Milburne and Eastern 684), built 1968 on display at Dacca Park in Fife. It was moved here in June 2010 after being stored in Tacoma for years.

A view of the switcher and Dacca Barn.

The silhouette of a locomotive is part of the fence that surrounds the C415.

The gate in front of the display.

What a memorable and rare excursion this had been! I had had such an excellent time and although I enjoy travelling, it was very nice to have the convention so close to home. Thank you to the Pacific Northwest Chapter for putting on such a fantastic convention.