Winter Wonderland


This time of year, once the sun heads south, temperatures drop and moisture-laden storms start stacking up in the mountains, the Evergreen State becomes anything but. After the first big snowfall arrived a week before Thanksgiving, I set out into the wilderness with my camera, a case of water and four-wheel drive.

In a narrow valley on the east side of Stevens Pass, I found an empty grain train cruising downgrade along Nason Creek through a Cascade Range conifer forest covered in a clean coating of fresh white snow. Welcome back, winter; we have missed you.

Earlier in the day, that same train approached the west portal of Cascade Tunnel, partially obscured in this view from high above by fog and flying snow.

Shooting on Stevens Pass can be hazardous even when sitting still; while waiting for the train to depart Scenic, I nearly got plowed in by a WSDOT snow crew.

(here lies snow plow image)

The ground around downtown Skykomish has long been known to be heavily polluted after decades of unfortunate dumping by the railroad. However, over the last few years, significant effort and expense has been applied to excavate all the contaminated soil and clean up the town, with this work finally concluding in late 2011. I stumbled into the end of a celebration behind held for officials involved with the project and captured this photo of a 7 1/2″ scale live steam engine, an NP 0-4-0, being packed up at the end of the day as a westbound passes by.

The next day, Amtrak’s westbound Empire Builder crossed Nason Creek and entered the narrow confines of the Slot on the 2.2% climb to Cascade Tunnel. Although their train was running nearly two hours late this day, passengers on No. 7 benefited by experiencing a daylight ride through the spectacular snow-covered scenery of Stevens Pass. Visible in the windshield is the engineer’s hand as he waved a greeting to the photographer.

An overnight slide fence problem had basically shut down the line until the tracks could be inspected in daylight, and as a result no additional trains were called out of Wenatchee or Seattle until it was confirmed that the line was open. With a long morning lull looming, I retreated to Skykomish for an excellent breakfast at the Cascadia Inn, Cafe and Lounge. Afterward, it was a simple matter to walk down the street, cross the tracks and wait for the daily Z-SSECHC to show up.

I meandered back to the east side of the pass, stumbling across a westbound stack train at Winton that conveniently stopped to wait for the Z to pass amidst a sudden burst of flurries.

(Post to be updated later.)

One Response to “Winter Wonderland”

  1. I just love your train photos. Keep taking pictures your so good.


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