Trains in Washington – May 12, 2014

Last month when we went for a hike on the Rowena Crest Trail on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge, I looked longingly across at all the BNSF trains rolling by on the northern, or Washington, side. With the weather looking very nice I decided to do one of the things I had planned as a regular activity in my semi-retirement. I went out train spotting. After scoping the trip on Google maps to find spots where the sun would be right.


Leaving Vancouver I saw two eastbound freights but to my dismay I also saw a lot of maintenance-of-way gear which made me think the rails might be shut down for the day while they worked on the tracks. As I drove the 33 miles out to the St. Cloud trail I didn’t see many trains. After a 20 minute wait at the trail, a westbound train came roaring by; trains move a lot faster out here than in Portland where I’m usually watching trains. As a result, my first picture was nothing but a big orange blur.

I waited another 15 minutes with not trains in site. Since this is usually a very active line I figured maintenance was the work of the day, so I stopped at Bonneville dam for a look see. The lighting was all wrong for this picture; I was looking almost directly into the sun at midday. But you can get a sense of the power in the river.

Bonneville dam looking south across the Columbia River
I pulled into another area marked on my map and my suspicions were confirmed; lots of MOW vehicles.
Maintenance of Way workers
I decided to go for a drive farther east, then cut over on a bridge over to Hood River and then come back home. I saw a train in a side waiting for work to clear ahead; I thought I could at least get a shot at long distance from a turnout. I snapped a couple of pictures, then loaded camera and tripod in the car and as I started to drive on, I noticed the driving lights come on and heard a couple of short horn blasts indicating the train was preparing to move. I jumped back up and quickly set up in time to catch it passing by. Lighting again went against me, I was hoping to be on the south side of the tracks so I could have the sun behind me, but at this point, I’d take what I could get.
West bound grain train

I then found a little turnout just next to a tunnel; light would be in my favor! Hoping that trains might be getting free I set up hoping for  another westbound coming through the tunnel. I was rewarded!

It was gaining speed and I had my shutter speed set fast.
Moving west.

I found some places to catch trains; if weather breaks, I’ll head back to a few of the spots next week when I have a Thursday, my designated play day, off.

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