Stampede Pass

Scenic Subdivision

       BNSF's Scenic Sub in Northwest Washington State from Seattle to Wenatchee, WA was part of the Great Northern's main line from Seattle to Minneapolis/St Paul until the BN merger in 1970 when it became BN's primary route out of Seattle for traffic headed towards Spokane and points east as the ex-NP line over Stampede Pass was downgraded and eventually mothballed. It retained that role into the BNSF era even though Stampede Pass was reopened in 1996 to relieve proposed congestion out of Seattle and Tacoma's ports. While that never happened most intermodal traffic is still routed over Stevens Pass while less priority traffic heads for Stampede or the Columbia Gorge routing in Southern Washington.

       Starting in Seattle at MP 0.0 the Scenic Sub begins at King St Station and enters the double tracked tunnel under Seattle exiting at North Portal coming alongside Seattles waterfront trolley line. After passing the Louis-Dryfuss grain terminal the line passes thru the Balmer Yd/Interbay area. Bridge 4 is crossed at MP 6 near Ballard. At times all types of boats can be seen here waiting to enter the Ballard Locks headed for Lake Union or Lake Washington.

       Continuing north the double tracked line (though single tracked in a few short locations) follows Puget Sound fairly close in places all the way to Everett passing through towns such as Edmonds (which is an Amtrak stop) and Mukilteo where a spur heads off up a steep grade to serve Everett's large Boeing plant. At Everett Jct (MP 32) the old Great Northern depot is passed and the line curves to the right entering a short single tracked tunnel under Everett.

       After exiting the tunnel the new Everett Transportation Center at MP 1783 (now using former GN mileposts) serves as an Amtrak stop as well as the starting point for the newly started Sounder commuter service to Seattle. PA Jct is just a short distance further where the line to Everett's Delta Yard and Vancouver, BC branches off. From PA Jct to Lowell there is a passing siding used for meets.

       Now truely headed east the Scenic Sub takes off crossing numerous bridges across an area well known for flooding. At Snohomish Jct the connection to the ex-NP Woodinville Sub branches off. The former NP bridge that carried the line north to Sumas crosses the Scenic Sub here. After Monroe the line enters the foothills and heavily forested areas of the Cascades passing thru towns such as Sultan, Startup, and Goldbar. Next is Index where a sweeping horseshoe curve thru town is worth checking out. One last passing siding is located at Baring before the tracks reach the old railroad town of Skykomish. It is here that the 2.2% grade up Stevens Pass begins.

       Well into the climb the line crosses numerous bridges such as Foss River and Deception Creek before reaching the siding at Scenic where meets are common. After leaving Scenic eastbounds enter the 7.8 mile long Cascade Tunnel and continue to climb until exiting at the east portal.

       The siding of Berne is just beyond of the east portal and is another common place for meets. Continuing down the 2.2% grade the Scenic Sub passes thru a short tunnel and crosses Gaynor Bridge as well as going thru an area known as "The Slot" before reaching the base of the Hill at Merritt. It is here that you notice how the scenery changes from forested fir trees to pine. Three short tunnels are encountered between Winton and the Bavarian town of Leavenworth. After passing thru the small towns of Peshastin and Dryden where orchards abound Cashmere is reached, famous for it's old "Aplets and Cotlets" factory. I remember riding GN specials to Cashmere in the late 60's where we train riders toured their facilites. BN continued the practice early in the 70's for a year or two.

       After Cashmere the trees start to thin out even more as the line continues east but the orchards still abound. Apples and pears are a big item in this part of the state. A sweeping curve just east of Monitor was the site used for many GN publicity shots. Olds Jct at MP 1652 is the start for double track into Wenatchee and is also the junction for the CSCD RR branch up to Oroville, WA. This shortline interchanges with the BNSF at Wenatchee weekdays.

        Train traffic on the Scenic Sub varies as to which part of the line you are on. Between Seattle and Everett numerous Amtrak and merchandise trains share the line with the intermodals headed for Stevens Pass so it is naturally busier than east of Everett. Besides the e/b and w/b Amtrak Empire Builder to Chicago there are two Talgo Cascade trains each way a day between Seattle and Everett that continue north, one to Bellingham and the other Vancouver, BC. There is also the Sounder commuter train out of Everett to Seattle early in the morning and the arriving train late in the evening on weekdays. Good days will yield you 25-30 freights in a 24 hour period between Seattle and Everett however it should be noted that the line is not as accessable as no roads parallel that closely. Best bet is to head north out of Seattle in I-5 and take exits to the larger towns with access such as Edmonds and Mukilteo. But Highway 2 follows the line east of of Everett closely all the way to Wenatchee. Besides the Amtrak Empire Builder 10-15 freights daily, mostly intermodal can be expected.

        This Subdivision has some of the most varied scenery I have ever seen beginning with a Seattle city backdrop to running along the shores of Puget Sound as well a mountain crossing with lush forests giving way to the arid landscapes of Eastern Washington.

        Just a note about the weather. Wintertime in the Cascades usually means snow and this winter (2003-2004) has seen a lot of it. Rain and fog is common in the lowlands most of the time while it is snowing up on the pass. But fall and spring can be quite pleasant on those rare sunny days. Summertime is the best time to visit for the long days and a better chance for sunshine even if it can get quite warm in the Wenatchee area. I have been railfanning the Stevens Pass line since the 1960's and still never tire of planning another trip to this Subdivision. I hope this photo gallery will show you why.

ALL photos, if not otherwise specified, are copyright by BrianA and cannot be used without his permission.
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