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The Funnel Railfan Guide
By Funnelfan
This Guide features a interactive map. Click on the "Map Link" to go to a map of that particular area. Use the arrows to follow the tracks. The route mentioned in the guide is highlighted in yellow.

 I strongly suggest that you print out this guide to read it. It is detailed and long, It would be a good idea to bring it along on your next trip up here as well. There are also lots of photos that may take a while to download, but it's well worth the wait.

    So you've decide that maybe you should visit one of the hottest railfan spots in North America. By far, the "Funnel" is one of the most scenic and heavily traveled rail lines in the world. All of BNSF's (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) trains traveling between the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest and beyond comes across this single line. MRL (Montana Rail Link) also adds to the action and variety with trackage rights from Sandpoint to Spokane. Each and every day this line hums to the song of thousands of tons gliding across steel rails. Freight trains roll right on each others blocks and have high speed rolling meets on the many sections of double track installed over the last few years. The extra track has greatly excelled operations on this line, and trains rarely wait for long.

    This is the former Northern Pacific (NP) mainline originally built in the late 1800's. Since then several line changes have occurred to make a fairly straight and flat rail line. At the time of construction, Henry Villard controlled the NP and other rail lines in the Pacific Northwest. This route was being pushed eastward from the Columbia River near Pasco to meet the westward railhead near Garrison, Montana. Unfortunately Villard's chief construction engineer was not the best person suited for the job, and furthermore his attention was divided among several projects in the region. So the resulting alignment was poor by most measures. Later Villard lost control of the NP and fell under the control of Jim Hill's Northern Securities. There after, the NP became known as one of the "Hill Lines", along with the Great Northern (GN), Spokane Portland & Seattle Railway (SP&S), and the Chicago Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q, also known as the "Burlington Route"). NP and it's successors have realigned much of the route, as many as three times in one location! Old grades abound along the current route. Where once NP's big mallets used to pull and shove trains around sharp curves, over steel trestles and through the line's only tunnel, today modern GE and EMD products glide gracefully through massive cuts and over tall fills.

    Never could Jim Hill, the legendary Empire Builder, imagine today where his famous "Hill Lines" would merge with the equally famous "Santa Fe" to become the powerhouse of today where the most modern power lugs the orient's riches east and this nation's resources west. Then again, maybe he could. Those "Silk Trains" of long ago that transported the orient's riches to the east have been replaced by mile long "Z" and international double stack trains.

    The face of the Funnel could change even more in the coming years if the "Bridging the Valley" project come to fruition. The project entails moving all the UP trains between Athol and Spokane onto a triple track BNSF mainline with no at-grade crossings. Several overpasses would be added, but the UP's Spokane sub would be pulled up between those locations. A new UP yard will be constructed between Otis Orchards and Velox. This rail corridor may be expanded to Sandpoint one day.

Spokane, Washington Map Link

    We'll start our journey in Spokane, Washington at a location known as Latah Junction. At the west end of town is the Latah Creek Canyon (formerly known as Hangman Creek, guess how it got it's name  :o). The most prominent structure in the canyon is BNSF's Latah Creek Bridge (can't miss it, as it casts it's shadow on the neighboring I-90 bridge). The bridge splits on it's west end at Latah Jct. where the Columbia River Sub (north and west to Seattle and Tacoma) and the track that will become the Lakeside sub (south to Pasco and Portland) diverge. For a more in-depth review of operations on this end of town and to the south, please visit the Marshall Canyon Railfan Guide. The structure was built in the 1970's to replace two huge steel trestles bridges that were to the north across the Spokane River. The Spokane's World Fair in 1974 caused the mass removal of many yards, bridges, and stations from the downtown waterfront, permanently rerouting traffic onto NP's elevated line through downtown. As part of this reworking of the track in Spokane, the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) was given trackage rights on the Burlington Northern (now BNSF) from UP Junction near Cheney to Napa Street Junction in Spokane. UP contributes a healthy 8-15 trains a day on those lines, way up from the last several years were just 3-4 trains was the norm. The many intermodal and stack trains that go to Seattle (Columbia River Sub.) use the bridge in both directions, but the trains running to Pasco (Lakeside Sub.) use the bridge going westbound nearly every time, unless trackwork or a mishap cause a rerouting away from the low-line along the east wall of the Canyon. 

Above, this is your first view of Spokane heading east on I-90. A loaded grain train is climbing out of downtown Spokane as it turns toward Marshall Canyon. Below left shows a eastbound train coming off the line from Seattle with a train parked ahead. Latah Junction is on the west end of the high bridge over Latah Creek (formerly known as Hangman Creek). At right is a westbound Z train on the Latah Creek bridge with the old Sunset Hwy bridge in the foreground.

  At the east end of the Latah Creek Bridge is Sunset Junction where the original NP line exits the canyon and enters Spokane proper. This junction and it's eastward signals are visible to eastbound travelers on the adjacent I-90 as they descend Sunset Hill and cross Latah Creek. Sunset Junction is also the east end of Empire siding (a long siding along the NP route), and the west end of the passenger lead into the station. This also the beginning of double track heading east, with the north track being main one, and the south track main two.

  A westbound BNSF train climbs out over Latah Creek while a northbound UP grain empty enters Spokane on the former NP route. The UP train will be handed off to the CP at Eastport, Idaho.

In downtown Spokane the tracks run along an elevated right-of-way. There are numerous and varied overpass throughout downtown which presents several urban photo opportunities, but in general photography downtown can be difficult and limited. The NP elevated the right-of-way due to the city's experience with frequent congestion, and this was in the late 1800's. The old NP station downtown has been renovated to serve intercity buses and trains. Next to where the tracks cross the intersection of Sprague and Division streets, the old Western Soap building stands. Eastbound UP trains heading toward Sandpoint and Eastport, Idaho will either change crews here or at Empire siding mentioned earlier. Behind here is a set of crossovers that lead into the NP depot. Just east of Western Soap. is the Sunset Jct. Hobby Shop (southside of Sprague, half-mile east of Division), a good place to pickup Altamont Press's Pacific Northwest timetable. The timetable is a very useful tool for this neck of the woods. At this point I would also like to stress the importance of Delorme's Washington and Idaho state atlases. A must for chasing trains in unfamiliar areas. 

Above left, a really late running Amtrak #7 (Empire Builder) enters the station tracks at Spokane. The usual "train time" is in the wee hours of the early morning. Above right, a westbound UP train crosses Sprague Ave. Below left, a eastbound runs on the elevated trackage through downtown. And below right, another eastbound passes the old steam plant.

    The tracks continue east  and border the Spokane River as they pass under the Hamilton Street Bridge. This marks the west end of the Erie Street Yard, a place for locals to shuffle cars, and lately for certain manifest trains to pick up blocks of cars. At the east end of the Erie St. yard is the Napa St. Jct. hiding behind a grain tower. Several tracks diverge at this point. The line heading to the southeast is UP's route to their Spokane Yard, a  facility made up of parts of the former UP and MILW yards. The double track that goes east through a cut are BNSF's main tracks to Yardley and the Funnel. The line to the northeast diverges again, with the line continuing northeast being UP's former Spokane International line to Eastport, Idaho at the Canadian border where they interchange with the Canadian Pacific RR. The other route is the former NP "Old Main" that crests a hill into Yardley. And finally the line that runs northwest is BNSF's Kettle Falls Sub which connects with a couple branchlines at Kettle Falls in the northeast part of Washington. 

Below, two views of UP trains coming off the ex-Spokane International at Napa Street Junction onto the BNSF.

    Just east of the Napa St. Jct. is an interesting old wooden bridge that used to be so common. A article in Railfan & Railroad magazine a few years ago portrayed the old bridge as a railfan "Hotspot". The old main crosses at grade at he foot of the north end of the bridge while to two "new" mains pass beneath it. Unfortunately, this bridge has been closed recently with large cement blocks barricading the roadway and no trespassing signs have been erected. But don't despair, the Freya St. Bridge is just a bit further west and can be used for photography (although there is no real sidewalk on the west side of the bridge).

The trench between Napa Street and Yardley is crossed by two bridges, a now-closed wooden bridge, and the concrete Freya Street Bridge. The left pic is from Freya Street looking west, and the other is from the wooden bridge looking east.


Yardley in Spokane Map Link

 Where the tracks cross Havana St. is a location known as Yardley (wonder why?  :o)  This is ex-NP facility is BNSF's main yard in the Spokane area, it is also a great spot to hang out and watch the action. A group of railfans can be found there most Saturday nights. Sitting either in the gravel lot on the southeast corner of the intersection or, the paved ramp in the northwest corner will keep you out of trouble with the BNSF's special agents, and with the aid of a scanner, allow you to get a feel for how the trains are moving. Railfans were at one time allowed to sit in the gravel lot in the northeast corner, but no longer. Most trains will call out their symbol and direction when asking for a inbound track from the Yardley Yardmaster, many also give fuel tank readings. Make sure that your scanner is tuned for the Boyer West dispatcher on Ch: 160.250 mhz. The engine service area in the middle of the yard is aptly named Parkwater, as is the whole east end of the yard. A name that rings of the era of steam locomotives. Fancher Road bridges the middle of the yard just east of the old engine house and provides a good view of what's behind the engine house or in the servicing area that is being readied for a outbound train.

Above, a eastbound approaching  Havana Street and the west end of Yardley.  Below left and right are two views of the Yard Office just off of Havana St. Bottom left is the east end of Parkwater where inbounds will often wait to enter the yard (distant train), while westbounds are notching out (near train). Bottom right shows a switcher working near the intermodal ramp at Parkwater.

   Continuing east on Trent Ave., the roads swings back against the tracks and stays by them all the way to Rathdrum, ID. You soon come up on Park Rd. which is a holding point for westbound trains when the yard is getting full. Often eastbound intermodal trains will pick up cuts of intermodal cars loaded at the Spokane intermodal track (mostly UPS stuff) on this end of the yard. For the next three miles to Irvin there are two tracks that are often a couple hundred feet apart. Access in this area is restricted by "No Trespassing" signs, and the street was recently rebuilt, eliminating some old pull-off points. But the area is relatively obstruction free and photos can easily be taken from the road crossings in this area, and from adjacent streets and parking lots. Just east of the Argonne Road underpass, both Trent Avenue and the BNSF tracks go over the UP's ex-Spokane International line to Eastport, ID. This is the first of four crossings the UP and BNSF lines make between here and Bonners Ferry. Not far beyond, University Road crosses both tracks at a "whistle free" crossing. A center barrier prevents vehicles from weaving around the gates, a simple and cost effective model that should be employed across the nation. Next up is Irving at Pine St.  Irvin is where the two main tracks from Yardley come together into a single track. A spur track swings across Trent, Ave. to access a cement plant at this point too. A few hundred yards past Irving is where the BNSF crosses the Spokane River on a huge steel deck truss bridge that stands about 75-100' above the river. There are a couple of dirt access roads on either side of the tracks but again access is restricted by signs. The bridge is hard to shoot because of power lines, trees, shrubs, light angles. As good as the bridge looks, you might get frustrated looking for a decent photo angle. The best one is from the southwest side of the bridge, but late in the day as the sun swings around a good photo can be had from the northwest side as well.

A westbound stack train crosses the Spokane River between Irvin and Trentwood late one summer afternoon.

   Past the bridge the tracks pass in front of Kaiser's Spokane Aluminum Plant and duck under Sullivan Rd. This facility has been largely idled by labor strife, skyrocketing electrical prices, and a saturated market for aluminum. On the other side of Sullivan Rd. is a point named Velox. A track swings from here into the yard in a business park (a former navy depot). There is also a detector near Velox at mp. 60.1   About a mile past Velox is the beginning of the new double track at Otis Orchards. Westbounds often hold here until room is found for them at Yardley. Also trains approaching this point will call Yardley for a "head in" (which track they will park their train on at the yard) and relay that info the dispatcher.  The old fruit sheds still exist on the south side of the tracks, although one has burned about half it's length a while ago. Past "Otis", as crews sometimes refer to it is a long fill that leads up the bridges at Newman Lake (Map Link). They added a second main in this area a few years ago.


State line / Hauser Jct. / Hauser Yard, Idaho Map Link

Below, a westbound manifest kicks up snow in the fact of a track inspector on main two while crossing the Idaho-Washington Stateline. At right, a westbound coming across a long fill near Otis Orchards.

    A couple miles beyond Newman Lake is the Idaho-Washington State line (notice the immediate change in road surface). At the state line there used to be a string of telephone poles between the road and the tracks, but they were cut down few years ago. Now this area is great for shots during most of the day, but especially late in the day as the sun will shine on the north side of the tracks. Just pass the state line the tracks crest a hill and descend upon Hauser Jct, this is where BNSF's Coeur D' Alene branch leaves the main. A crossover and wye are at this site which sits in front of Hauser Lumber. Excellent shots can be had from a rock pile at the crest. Also just across the highway from Hauser Junction, is Curly's. a biker bar resembling a train station to some degree, even with a old wooden heavyweight coach.

The Coeur d'Alene local leaving the branch and returning to Spokane at Hauser Junction (photo to the right).

    Beyond Hauser Jct. (the town here is simply called Hauser) a couple of miles is the west end of Hauser Yard and the recently added crossover and double tracks. The highway and the yard sit on opposite sides of the main with the yard being on the south side. A lot of trackwork has recently been completed on the west end of the yard. Hauser Yard is currently used to swap blocks of cars between intermodal and vehicle trains, plus a little bit of car storage. The Rat turn (short for Rathdrum turn) and Highball turns are regular visitors to Hauser yard, often making several trips per day. But BNSF has been building a run-through fueling facility in the rear of the yard that is supposed to open in the first part of 2004. There are several local groups and landowners opposed to the plan, and they have posted  few signs around showing a fuel tank with a circle and bar across it, which means "No fuel facility". But it's the usually NIMBY thing. The Rat and Highball turns pickup and drop off cars here during both shifts and takes them west to Yardley, Marshall and Cheney for the short line and grain towers at those locations. A new signal bridge now graces the west end of the yard, with a second one to be added for the fueling facility.  A new underpass between the east end of the yard and Rathdrum proper has replaced the old Greensferry road crossing. One of the road crossings in downtown Rathdrum has been closed, and the other crossing will likely be closed in another year (unless downtown Rathdrum businesses succeed in preventing the closure, but this doubtful). BTW, westbounds can only access Hauser Yard from main two.


Top Left, a westbound between Hauser Yard and Hauser Junction. Top Right a loaded grain train at West Hauser Yard. Left, the four track signal bridge at the west end of the yard, one more like it will be added for the fueling shed tracks. Above, the new fueling facility is virtually complete save for the tracks and signals, which will come in 2004.

Rathdrum Map Link

A loaded grain train growls down the long cut east of town. This was part of a major line change between Rathdrum and Ramsey done in the early 1900's.

    The town of Rathdrum is just shy of a mile beyond the east end of Hauser Yard. There used to be two streets that crossed the tracks in downtown Rathdrum, but one was closed in 2002. They are only guarded by lights (no gates) and is a place were a lot of vehicles have been hit by trains, mostly because of people trying to beat the train, or ice causing people to slide into trains (or into the way of trains). The town of Rathdrum is also where the tracks peel away from the highway. Head through town on Hwy. 53 until you get to the light. Make a right and cross the bridge over the tracks. Make a left at the next light and you should be still heading east on Hwy. 53 (trust me, this will make sense when you see a highway map or actually get there). I live down a back road in the area just east of Rathdrum off Hwy. 53 (but will be moving by spring 2003 to near Otis Orchards). Along the tracks a few miles east of Rathdrum is a detector at MP. 41.2  Unfortunately, if you do hear it go off, you will be away from the tracks for a bit.

At right, a westbound stack train leaves Ramsey Siding.

A few miles east of Rathdrum is Ramsey Rd. Here you have a choice of direction ( Map Link):
1. You could make a left on Ramsey Rd. and follow it to the tracks and the make a immediate right just after crossing the tracks and follow the tracks and Ramsey siding northeast towards Athol. When you hit paved road again, make a right and cross the tracks and make a left at the first stop sign.
2. Other wise you can continue to go straight ahead until you cross over the UP tracks. Make a left at the light on Hwy. 95 and follow the UP tracks north until you see the giant wooden roller coaster at the Silverwood amusement park (you won't miss it). Make a left just before you get to the roller coaster. You'll notice set of tracks with a 3' gauge off to your right, Silverwood has a excursion train powered by an original, 1800's built, Eureka & Palisades 2-6-0. The park is a good place to take the kids if you have them along. The excursion train runs through a cut and over a trestle in the woods next to the UP tracks (I'm thinking about sneaking back in there to get some shots of the classic steamer going over the 14' tall trestle). Anyways, continue down the road and over the UP tracks and make a right at the stop sign (Map Link).

Top Left, the signal bridge at the west end of the siding. Top Right, a eastbound glows in golden light of the setting sun at Ramsey. Left, a eastbound splits the short set of searchlights at the east end of the siding.

Athol Map Link

Both shots are of westbounds near West Athol.

    OK, no matter which way you went, you are now heading north on the "Old Highway" into Athol. Where the road swings in next to the tracks is a great photo area for westbounds. This location known as "west Athol" where double track ends is often a holding point for westbounds, and there is sweeping curve that can be photographed from many angles. The tracks here are at the end of a long, straight climb for westbounds.  Just a little bit further is a narrow highway bridge where the UP goes under the BNSF and the road. The bridge is a good photo spot for northbound UP trains later in the day or BNSF trains in the morning.

    Continue north following the tracks on in to Athol. Make a right at the stop sign in Athol and go to the light at Hwy. 95 and make a left. Hwy. 95 soon widens out into 4 lanes, but when it goes back to two lanes and goes over a crest, turn your left turn signal on. As you go over the crest and start to descend, you'll see the tracks and road make a sweeping curve to the right, but you want to take the gravel road that takes off to the left just as the highway makes it's curve to the right. Making this turn is somewhat dangerous, so be prepared for it. Just as soon as you leave the highway you are faced with a stop sign protecting a pair of busy tracks. Due to the limited sight distance, use caution when crossing the tracks.

Below a heavy manifest struggles up the steepest part of the Funnel into Athol. At right is the UP/BNSF crossing between West Athol and Athol proper.

    You have now enter what is perhaps the most photogenic area on the Funnel (Map Link). Take the first road to your left and go all the way to the top of the cut for one outstanding photo spot. From here you can see westbounds take the sweeping curve into the cut from above, or watch as eastbounds descend a long grade through this deep cut. A set of signals stands in the bottom of the cut. A nearby detector gives you great warning of westbounds, and the signals well tell you when a eastbound approaches. 

    After you taken a few shots from here head back down to the road that crosses the tracks and make a left and take the next road to the right and drive till you see the plugged tunnel. From here there should be a road that heads up to the tracks and if you walk up there you'll see the recently expanded cut. The tunnel was part of a pre 1965 route that gave way to a series of fills and cuts. Both cuts were expanded again a few years ago to make room for the second main track. On top of the south side of the cut is a good photo spot for westbounds as is the northside for eastbounds.

Below Left and at Right are westbounds entering the big cut at Granite. Below, a loaded grain train between the two cuts.

    After you get done playing here you can go back to the highway and make a left. Go down the hill and as the road starts to climb and turn to the left, turn on your left turn signal and take the road just before the guardrail. Follow the road until you get to the tracks. Again, cross the tracks with caution and then park in the area to the right. This is another great spot to take photos from, and eastbounds on the fill make excellent subject matter. An old farmhouse/barn/windmill can also be used in conjunction with westbounds. Off to your right in the valley and out of sight sat a large steel bridge that spanned the valley. In 1962 the westbound North Coast Limited derailed just before the bridge and careened off the side and into the lake below. The crash destroyed a trainset and killed a few people. This was the final straw for NP management, and plans were soon enacted to remove this operational bottleneck from the NP system, and pave the way for this route to become the "Funnel" after the BN merger in 1970. Huge cuts and fills replaced a twisty route that span the aforementioned tunnel and bridge.

A trio of shots showing the rock cut at Granite and the big fill east of there.

    OK, we've had enough fun here. Take the road that follows the tracks going north. this road comes back to Hwy. 95 after a little bit and right here is a detector at MP. 22.2. The is detector is a good sentry for westbounds if you where in the areas around the cuts and fills. For the next several miles the highway and tracks closely follow each other. You can get several good shots by chasing a train through this area between Granite and Cocolalla. A crossover at MP 23 exists, but doesn't see much use. There is a nice reverse curve and a classic red barn that are quite photogenic.

Below are two scenes just off Hwy 95 below Lake Cocolalla.

Cocolalla Map Link

Two scenes along the shores of Lake Cocolalla.

    Morning light is best for this area. The double track ends at Cocolalla, were the highway climbs up and away from the tracks and lake for a few miles. in this area there is a clearing between the highway and the tracks that proves quite useful for getting photos of trains and the lake. As you descend near the north end of the lake, you will see the sharpest curve on the funnel. The curve is very photogenic with a heavy super elevation, and Lake Cocolalla fills the inside of the turn. A hillside on the outside of the curve is useful for elevated shots.

Algoma Map Link

    Again the tracks curve away from the highway but you soon cross over them on a classic highway truss bridge. Unfortunately this bridge (along with a similar bridge over the UP at Dover, Idaho, west of Sandpoint) is slated for removal in the coming year.  The double track starts about a mile before passing under the bridge and extends through Algoma to the west end of the Lake Pend Oreille Bridge. The highway and tracks run side by side for a short bit into Algoma where they divide for the rest of the way into Sandpoint, but luckily there are good back roads that follow the tracks.

At Left is a highway bridge just north of Lake Cocolalla that is in the process of being replaced. At Right is the view looking east from Algoma Road.

  As the highway pulls away from the tracks look for a side road named Sagle Rd (Map Link). follow it down until you cross the tracks. make a immediate left on Lignite Rd. and once again you are following the tracks. While driving along you'll notice a staircase that leads to the tracks, this was the end of double track until recently. It also leads to a good photo spot. Trees on both sides of the tracks overhang quite a bit giving a tunnel effect, The best shots are from the staircase where you can get cab level and from above shots. A little bit further is a clearing where you can get a good photo of westbounds coming around a reverse curve.

Below, brand new GEVO units work a loaded AGP train uphill at Sagle Road.

    When you reach the end of the road you can go right and then north for several great shots of the long bridge across Lake Pend Oreille (Pon-der-ray) from the east side which is better suited for the morning but does all right  most of the day (Map Link). Although there are a couple pull outs that can give you a view of the west side of the bridge that are good through the later part of the day. When they added the second track they dug out the hillside between the track and the road and dumped the excavated soil and rock between the track and the lake to create the sub roadbed. This has opened up one photo spot in particular where a new access road to the track has a landing that juts out over the track. As you can see in some photos, westbounds are shown crossing the bridge and then disappearing behind the hillside only to reappear a little bit latter. There are a couple more spots just up the road that show the bridge from more of a side angle. After fooling around here turn around and head back to the tracks and continue on to hwy. 95 and then on into Sandpoint

The first three images are from a point just south of Lake Pend Oreille Bridge, the final is a broadside shot from the Hwy 95 bridge.

Sandpoint, Idaho Map Link

   As you enter downtown Sandpoint, look for a street to the right. It crosses the Sand Creek slough and then ducks under the tracks. If you go under the tracks, you'll end up at a park that has a good view of the bridge on it's north-east side. A road that heads north just before you pass under the tracks goes past the Sandpoint station to Sandpoint Jct. where the MRL joins the BNSF to create the Funnel. Signs restrict you from getting close to the junction itself, but you can park right next to the tracks near the station. Me and friends have hung out here eating Second Avenue Pizza (rated the best in the northwest by many a railfan, they pile the topping on. But it does take a while to cook, so order early). Going back downtown and following the road signs to Highway 95 north. after passing a Safeway you will soon see a railroad bridge that comes in from the right across Sand Creek Slough and crosses overhead. This is BNSF' Hi-line to Bonners Ferry and across Northern Montana to Chicago. You can park in the wide area just south of this bridge and climb up the hillside to a great shot of a eastbound later in the day.

Above, a westbound passes the former NP depot in Sandpoint, while at right, another westbound passes the Sandpoint Junction sign just north of the depot. Both spots are easily accessed from downtown Sandpoint.

    Next you'll see a steel and concrete trestle off to the left, that is UP's line to Bonners Ferry and Canada. Both lines cross each other right at the end of the BNSF bridge, but I'll explain how to get there shortly. Continue straight  through the next light and straight ahead is UP's Sandpoint yard. The Highway soon crosses two legs of a wye that connects UP's Sandpoint yard to the UP main (the Spokane sub). UP's Sandpoint siding is also laid next to the mainline in this area, and is a popular meeting point. A train waiting here likely means that a meet will happen in the next hour. Now find a safe place to turn around and head back into town. Go back under the BNSF bridge and make a right at the first light. Go down to the stop sign and make another right. The first set of tracks you cross will be the UP's line. Make a right just before the next set of tracks which should be BNSF's line. Find a convent place to park off to the side of the gravel road and you can walk up to the BNSF/UP crossing. This is a great photo spot from almost any angle for either line.

    Just to the west of you on the other side of the road is Boyer siding where the Boyer West and Boyer East dispatching territories meet. Now if you take the road that heads west from Boyer Avenue just south of the BNSF crossing, it will take you back to BNSF Boyer Yard. once you reach the first railroad crossing, this is the northeast quadrant of the why where UP trains enter the former GN mainline for a quick trip to Dover. Also, the Pend Oreille Valley RR interchanges with the BNSF at this yard. Taking the road north along the east side of the yard will take you to where Boyer Yard connects with the BNSF mainline. That's about all for the text portion of the guide, To continue following the BNSF and UP to Bonners Ferry, consult the North Idaho Guide. Below is reference guides and the disclaimer.

Above, the semi-famous Microsoft Train Simulator locomotive, BNSF 4723 leads a eastbound across the Sand Creek Slough. At right, a westbound leaves Boyer Siding, From here all the way into Montana, control of the track is in charge of the Boyer East Dispatcher.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this guide or anywhere on this website, expressed or implied, gives you the right to trespass or tamper with private property. You are simply liable for your own actions!!!

Reference Area

Scanner Frequencies

   The whole division:
            Boyer West Dispatcher        : 161.250mhz

   Spokane area:
            Pasco East Dispatcher         : 161.160mhz
            Seattle East Dispatcher        : 161.100mhz
            Pasco East link  (Fish Lake) : 160.320mhz
            Seattle East link (Latah Jct.) : 160.260mhz
            UP Washy Dispatcher          : 160.740mhz

   Sandpoint area:
            Boyer East Dispatcher         : 160.920mhz
            MRL West Dispatcher         : 160.950mhz
            UP Washy Dispatcher          : 160.740mhz

Railfan Notes

  Light generally favors westbounds through most of the day, but certain areas will be good for eastbounds early in the day, and one spot late in the day (namely the Sand Creek Slough Bridge in Sandpoint).  The important thing to remember is that the Funnel continually curves northward as it heads east from Spokane. This is one curve in particular were you can say the track goes from predominantly running east-west to running more north-south. That spot lies between Rathdrum and Ramsey. So between Spokane and Rathdrum you'll want to shoot eastbounds earlier in the day while later in the day is good for westbounds. Earlier in the day you'll want  to shoot from the south side of the tracks east of Rathdrum. Late in the day it's better to shoot from the north side of the tracks, especially during the summer months.
    It is a different story between Rathdrum and Sandpoint where the tracks turn north. Westbounds will be the thing to shoot for all day long with only the which side of the tracks being the only concern. The twists and turns around Granite will provide exceptions to this of course. Eastbounds can be shot broadside in many areas or you can try some glint shots as well.
    A good way to get into the action is to head east from Spokane keeping a good ear out for detectors.  Often, the Funnel now sees between 35-45 though trains, the Sandpoint local, The Coeur d'Alene local, several runs of the Rat and Highball turns between Yardley and Hauser. in spokane you will also see the Erie Street switcher, more of the Highball working various jobs over the area, The Kettle Falls to Pasco train (both coming into Yardley, then leaving Yardley as a completely different train with the same symbol), various trains originating and terminating in Spokane, and 8-15 UP trains and UP switchers.
    Hauser yard can also cause confusion for a person exploring the area. If a non "Z" intermodal train or mixed back vehicle train is heading west on the Funnel, more often than not it will be routed into Hauser yard for a round of block swapping that may last hours. So you might see a train up around Sandpoint in the morning, and again near Spokane in the afternoon. Occasionally coal and grain trains are held at Hauser, but most of the grain train holding is now done at Pasco. The eastbound H-EVEGAL does some heavy switching at Yardley in Spokane, and the M-NTWPAS has been picking up at Erie Street Yard in Spokane as of late.
    The closest thing to a guaranteed good day is to get up here on a Friday morning. That is when fleets of eastbounds leave for the midwest. Discounting a derailment or a absolute work window, train chasing should be good throughout the day into early Saturday before the crew supply is exhausted. Fridays are also when the Funnel can see in excess of 70 movements in a 24 hr period. The weekends are trickier with sporadic movements of trains. The thing to do is get out early as possible and stay out to about 10am. Most days the afternoon can be dull, but still keep your ear to the scanner. Because it can be the complete opposite of that on some occasions. Latter in the day things start to heat up again after 4 or 5pm and will continue to be heavy until the amtrak trains hit the radar near midnight. Don't expect to see a lot of trains on a holiday. This last Labor Day saw maybe 25 trains all day long. This maybe hopping on some of the lines your used to, but the dispatchers are used to a lot more up here and any trains you do see will move fast and won't sit around for much.
    This touches on another point I would like to bring up. The character of the Funnel has changed greatly over the past several years. Before the double track, the line was a scene of continual congestion that brought many railfans to the area. There was never a dull period of the day because trains were always backed up waiting in a siding somewhere. But with the addition of a second main track, what used to take hours to traverse, now only takes a little more than a hour for the most part. This leads to some dull periods that usually end with fleets of trains. The most congested part of the Funnel now is between Rathdrum and Athol, the longest remaining stretch of single track. The busiest part of the day is in the morning and then again in the late afternoon, the same time that the high priority "Z" train pass through the area.
     From time to time things can get quiet, so if the scanner starts to stay silent for periods of time, drive north to Bonners Ferry or to some other division. Chances are that even if the Funnel is quiet for the time being, trains are moving toward it at all times, and it's only a matter of time before they converge on the Funnel. Lately UP has been putting on a great show that comes and goes throughout the day, and it's easy to follow on a scanner.
    I wish you a good trip.
                                                        Funnelfan (Ted Curphey)

NEW> Click on a station name to go to a interactive map of that area
Track Configuration
Boyer Siding
CTC Siding
UP Crossing
CTC Crossing (controlled by BNSF)
1403.3 / 2.9
Sandpoint Jct. (MRL Conn.)
CTC controlled Jct.
Sandpoint Station
CTC Single Track
East Algoma
End of CTC Double Track
CTC Double Track
CTC Double Track
CTC Double Track
West Algoma
End of CTC Double Track
End of CTC Double Track
CP223 (AKA "Granite")
CTC Crossover
CTC Double Track
28.2 / 31.5
Athol (line change in 64')
CTC Double Track
West Athol
End of CTC Double Track
Ramsey Siding
CTC Siding
CTC Single Track
End of CTC Double Track
East Hauser Yard 
CTC Double Track / Yard Lead
West Hauser Yard
CTC Crossover / Yard Lead
Hauser Jct. (Coeur d 'Alene Branch)
CTC Controlled Jct. / CTC Crossover
Otis Orchard's 
End of CTC Double Track
CTC Single Track
Velox (connection to industrial park)
CTC Single Track / Siding and spur
Trentwood (Kaiser Alumn. plant)
CTC Single Track / siding and spur
End of CTC Double Track
CTC Double Track / Yard
Yardley (the center of activity at the yard)
CTC Double Track / Yard / Crossover
Napa St. Jct. (2 UP connections, Old Main, Kettle Falls Branch, Hillyard Main)
CTC Double Track / Jct / Crossover
Erie St. Yard
CTC Double Track / Yard
71.5 / 0.0
Spokane Station
CTC Double Track / Sidings and spur
1.1 / 1480.8
Sunset Jct. (connection of the former NP  "Low-Line") (Note: east end of the Latah Creek Bridge)
End of CTC Double Track / Jct. / Crossover
1481.6 / 374.8
Latah Jct. (connection between the former SP&S "High-Line" and the Seattle Line)
CTC Controlled Jct.

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 This page produced and edited by Funnelfan (Ted Curphey) :  10-6-98.  Last updated 12-6-03