Stampede Pass

Stampede Subdivision

Stampede Subdivision Map        Milepost 0 begins at the Eastern Washington town of Ellensburg. Once part of Northern Pacifics main line to the west coast this scenic route heads west through towns such as Thorp, Cle Elum and Easton before crossing the Cascade Mountains at Stampede Pass. Past the very remote location of Lester, WA the line then enters the non-accessable Tacoma Watershed to Palmer Jct/Kanaskat and then past the town of Ravensdale and Covington before reaching Auburn (MP 102.9) the western end of the former NP route. Westbound BNSF trains can either turn north towards Seattle or south towards Tacoma on the Stampede Wye. There are four places where trains can meet between Auburn and Ellensburg. Active sidings are at Bristol, Easton, Lester and Kanaskat.

       As this is being written only two trains can be called regulars on this Subdivision. Westbound BNSF H-PASBRV (Pasco-Brownsville, BC) leaves Ellensburg around noon most days getting to Auburn roughly four hours later. Eastbound H-EVEPAS (Everett-Pasco) usually leaves Auburn late in the evening crossing Stampede Pass after the sun has set. Empty grain and baretable trains run at times as well.

       The line was dormant after the BN embargoed it in 1983 not needing three routes across Washington State. Projected growth of west coast ports prompted the newly formed BNSF to rebuild and reopen the line in late 1996. Traffic never met expectations but BNSF appears to be obligated to keep the Stampede Sub open, for now.

       This photo gallery attempts to show many of the scenic highlights and former NP landmarks that can still be found, bridges being the most common. But it is the scenery itself that makes this subdivision one of my favorites. Numerous crossings of the Yakima River west of Ellensburg and a beautiful canyon between Thorp and Bristol are worth viewing. The eastern base of the 2.2% grade is Easton, a quaint town with a lot of character. Very little of the NP/BN is left but the mountain scenery and Lake Easton remains to remind of how peaceful life here seemed to be just off of busy Interstate 90.

       Continuing west the line climbs to Martin and the east portal of the two mile Stampede Tunnel. The 2.2% grade peaks one mile into the tunnel. Finally on the west side of the Cascades the downhill grade is still 2.2% and the short Tunnel 4 is passed thru just west of Stampede. Then the Borup Loops are negotiated as the line continues down to Lester. An impressive 1121' long "viaduct" is then crossed just before Lester. The bridge was once double tracked as were both approaches from Easton and Lester but one of the tracks was removed while under BN ownership. Access to this portion of the line is via the dirt road across Stampede Pass itelf.

       West of Lester the grade eases to 1% and enters the "off limits" section of the Tacoma watershed.

       At Palmer Jct (original line to Tacoma before the Palmer Cut off was constructed) the Green River is crossed on a very large and scenic bridge. Another ex-NP bridge this reminds me of is on the MRL just west of Trout Creek, MT over the Clark Fork River. Very similar in shape and size. The line then curves into Kanaskat and continues west the quick 20 miles to Auburn.

       Train traffic on the line may be very poor but the history felt of "railroading past" while railfanning here makes it worth going back to time after time.

Stampede Sub - West Stampede Sub - East
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