Railfanning the Gorge, Part #1

HISTORY

 The Columbia River carves a huge chasm out of the Cascades Mountains as it breaks out of the interior Pacific Northwest. But this river gorge is not without it’s perils. The one time tromping grounds of natives who hunted the bountiful fish and game, this water level route has been recognized as a primary transportation route long before men of European decent laid foot upon it’s rocky shores. But it was the white man who sought to tame and commercialize its possibilities. The first pioneers to come down the Oregon Trail were faced with a dilemma when they reached The Dalles. The could either pack their belongings up a grueling and mountainous trail around the backside of Mount Hood into the fertile Willamette Valley, or participate in a hair-raising river raft ride down the as of yet untamed Columbia River, where all could be lost in a split second of error. But out of a growing population in the Oregon Territory and the continuing difficulties of moving through the Cascades, did the first rails in the Pacific Northwest appear. Steamboats plied the lower end of the mighty Columbia from the coastal port of Astoria to the Cascades of the Columbia River near the present location of Cascade Locks. During times of high water, daring captains would urge their steamboats beyond the Cascades of the Columbia to The Dalles, but for much of the year passage of goods ran at just a trickle. Celio Falls beyond The Dalles at present day Wishram represented an impassable barrier to water borne movement, even in times of high water.

A view of the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge from the Cape Horn overlook (Above).

    The first successful answer to the problem came in the form of a portage railroad around the Cascades. While the first was a flimsy affair with wooden rail and packhorses, the booming trade spurred the need for more portages with higher capacities. This meant future ones would feature steam locomotives and iron rails. With multiple portages around the Cascades and another around Celio Falls, a booming river boat trade ensued from Astoria through the Willamette Valley gateway at Portland and as far upriver as Wallua, the gateway to Walla Walla and the Inland Empire.
    Captain John C. Ainsworth arrived in Oregon and in a relatively short period of time monopolized transportation in the Pacific Northwest by gaining control of the portages through his Oregon Steam Navigation Company. This monopoly held from 1860 until 1879 when the looming threat of the Northern Pacific Railroad forced Ainsworth’s hand. The NP acquired a charter from Congress to build from the Great Lakes across the northern tier of the country to the Puget Sound. Part of the decree stated that the tracks could be laid down on the bank of the mighty Columbia. John recognized that while he could successfully fend off rival steamboat lines, he would have a far more difficult time against a congressionally supported railroad that didn’t have to transload cargo every time the river dropped a few feet.
    Meanwhile, a local merchant from the important inland outpost of Walla Walla completed the Walla Walla & Columbia River Railroad in 1875. This line connected the steamboats at Wallua with the community and fort of Walla Walla. From here goods could be transported by teamsters to the booming mining regions of the Silver Valley in the Bitterroots and the Coville Mountains.
    In 1879 the OSN became the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company under the control of German born Henry Villard. The OR&N wasted no time if fulfilling the Railway part of the name, and in early 1880 with an interchange agreement with NP in hand, work began on a line between Celio and Wallua. By October of 1882, a complete line had been established between Portland and Walla Walla! During this period, Villard also acquired control of the NP with his infamous “Blind Pool”. And in 1883 the railheads of the NP joined near Garrison, Montana to complete the first transcontinental railroad in the northern United States. With a short stretch of NP track between Portland and Tacoma and the OR&N/NP interchange at Wallua, the congressional charter was fulfilled.
    During this period the Union Pacific controlled Oregon Shortline was building west from Wyoming to Oregon. Wanting to maintain a hold on the Oregon transportation scene, the OR&N reached an agreement with the UP/OSL and built a branch east from Umatilla to Huntington to meet the oncoming OSL. This new transcontinental link was completed in 1884, but too late for Henry. His railroads (the OR&N and NP) were a financial house of cards that came tumbling down, and he was forced to resign that winter. UP quickly sought control and leased the OR&N. The NP without a friendly connection to the coast, scrambled to build a line over Stampede Pass which was completed in 1887.
    During the Panic of 1893, UP lost control of the OR&N and OSL which had become neglected under UP control (as had UP itself). Enter Henry Harriman, a wonder on Wall Street, the Union Pacific would become his lasting legacy. Harriman acquired control of the UP in the mid 1890’s, and helped UP to regain control of the OR&N and OSL by 1899. A series of name changes began for the OR&N before Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company was settled on in 1910. By this time, the reach of the OWR&N had been extended to Spokane, Wallace, Yakima, Seattle, Grays Harbor, and even Bend after a fierce battle with bitter rival Jim Hill. Under Harriman’s control, several major improvements were made to the alignment of the old OR&N. One of the most notable was bringing the line down off the hillside west of The Dalles were old US 30 is today.
    At a Lewis and Clark Centennial in Portland in 1905, Jim Hill gave a speech where he promised to help the development of Oregon by building a railroad down the north bank of the Columbia River. And so began the exciting epic of railroad wars in the Pacific Northwest between Harriman and Hill. Harriman had virtual control of Oregon with his UP/SP Empire that encircled the state, so such words were a direct assault on his empire. Jim Hill, popularly known as the “Empire Builder” had completed the Great Northern from Minnesota and Seattle, and also acquired control of the NP and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy “Burlington Route” through his Northern Securities company. Collectively the GN, NP and CB&Q were known as the “Hill Lines”.  Hill and Harriman had fought previously on Wall Street for control of the NP and CB&Q, but the new era of railroad wars would spill out into the courts, newspapers, and even on the desolate frontier.
    Between 1905 and 1906, while the lawyers battled in court, rival construction crews battled with picks, rocks and dynamite. Hill finally obtained the legal right to build his road, despite Harriman’s every attempt to stop him in cases that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. With the legal right in hand, work on what would become the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway took on a serious tone in 1907. And on March 11th, 1908, the final spike in the SP&S mainline between Pasco and Vancouver was driven at Sheridans Point (between Bonneville Dam and the Bridge of the Gods). The route was now complete, save for a few bridges and a cut that were shooflied with temporary trestles. Built with modern machinery, the route featured a modern alignment that allowed for high speed running.
    In 1902 local citizens incorporated the Columbia River & Northern at Lyle, and by 1903 had constructed 43 miles of line to Goldendale, WA. NP acquired this operation in 1905 and transferred it to the SP&S in 1908. This became the SP&S’s and later Burlington Northern’s Goldendale Branch until pulled up in the late 1980’s.
    By 1910 the situation stabilized. Teddy Roosevelt in a presidential manhunt for “Robber Barons”, caused both Hill and Harriman to lose their empires. Harriman passed away shortly before his UP/SP conglomerate crumbled before government might, while Hill finished up some loose ends on his system. In the meantime the railroads had pushed the steamboats on the Columbia into oblivion. But the riverboat trade was not totally out of the picture. Tugs and barges persisted. Locks were installed at both the Cascades and Celio Falls on the government tab in the name of competition, although they never really help to spur any real growth in the barge lines. It wasn’t until the big depression era projects of the 1930’s did the face of transportation in the Columbia River Gorge forever change. The first dam on the Columbia, Bonneville was a harbinger of things to come. The various Dam projects were a mixed blessing for the railroads. While they would mean a new straighter and faster right-of-way, it would also bring the onslaught of increased barge and highway competition. Those modes would eventually suck the Columbia Basin branchlines dry of traffic. Any good map shows many dotted lines within 100 miles of the inland ports along the Columbia and Snake rivers.
    Initially the railroads vigorously fought the dam projects, but to no avail. Later with the realization they could not stop the projects, they sought to maximize their benefits from the works. This very clearly evident on the John Day and McNary dam projects, where the virtually entire railroads of the UP and the SP&S were built new from Biggs/Mary Hill clear to Pasco. The coming of Interstate 84 also allowed UP to straighten many miles of track below The Dalles that had not been righted with the dam projects. Even still, with the initial poor alignment of the OWRN, UP’s track still is much slower in areas than the SP&S across the river, which was built for speed.

THE GUIDE OVERVIEW
    With this guide, I will take the reader on a circle trip from Vancouver east on Hwy 14 along the BNSF. Then we will cross the Columbia River at Mary Hill to Biggs, and use both US 30 and Interstate 84 to return to Portland along the UP. I’ve traveled up and down the gorge since 1983, and have been railfanning there since the early 1990’s. While I will do my best to point out the best railfanning and sites of interest that I know of, it must be clearly understood that the Gorge is so wonderfully varied and complex, that every twist and turn of the rail opens a multitude of new photographic opportunities. While many will hold up Tehachapi, Cajon, the Rockies, or Appalachia as scenic railfanning wonders, I will strongly contend that they pale in comparison to what the Columbia River Gorge can offer. And so on with the guide!
    I also strongly urge that you acquire the following items that will greatly help you on your trip. First, Altamont Press’s Northwest Region Timetable is one of a series of Railfan Timetables that is a must for Western Railfans. Inside is a sub by sub timetable that details all kinds of useful info like mileposts, speeds, detectors, signal systems, sidings, radio frequencies, ect. The timetable can be found in most well stock model railroad shops. The other useful item is Delomre’s Washington State Atlas & Gazetteer, and can be found in most truck stops, book stores and roadside convenience stores.  This very detailed atlas covers both sides of the Gorge very well on Pages 22 to 29. Both items run in the $15-$20 range.


Railfans are perched high above the OT Bridge on the Oregon side of the Columbia River (Above).

         All photos not credited are my own (Ted Curphey). Thanks to all who shared photos for this project, including Robert Scott, Drew Mitchem, Steve Eshom, Aaron Hockley, Ken Storey, Kristopher Johnson, Harley Kuehl and Mike Smith.

VANCOUVER, WA.
    Simply the busiest railroad spot in the entire Pacific Northwest, Vancouver has long been a railfan hangout. Day or night, fans can be found observing a ceaseless parade of trains. It therefore may surprise many that this spot was a latecomer to the PNW railroad map. Only with the completion of the SP&S and shortly linking up of a new NP line between Kalama and Vancouver in 1906, could one board a train here. But Vancouver’s glory only became assured when Harriman and Hill inked a deal that turned the NP Vancouver-Tacoma main into the joint Arterial that NP, GN, UP and later, briefly the Milwaukee Road would use.  The bridge across the Columbia River here has long been the key to why the wye has remained so busy. As the only railroad crossing of the Columbia west of the Cascades, all UP trains coming south out of Western Washington, and all Amtrak and BNSF trains coming north and east out of Western Oregon must use this structure.
    What makes the Wye such a joy is that the Amtrak deport and plenty of parking is available inside the three legs.  In fact, you can park right along the busy north-south line and still enjoy 360 degrees of railfanning action. The Columbia River Swing Bridge is immediately south of the depot and can be easily used as a photographic prop. The north-east leg of the wye also doubles as a yard lead, and switchers often will be working here in between through trains. The BNSF employee terminal building is also inside the wye, just north of the train depot. BNSF trains will park at many locations in the general area in order to change crews. The Fallbridge sub is controlled by the Pasco West dispatcher (ARR 87, 161.415). The Seattle Sub is controlled by the Centralia South dispatcher (ARR 66, 161.100). The Vancouver Terminal dispatcher can be heard on ARR 76, 161.250.

A Seattle bound UP Z train skirts past the Vancouver Depot and some BNSF light power ( Right). A westbound BNSF train waits for a new crew at Eavan (Above Right).




    The depot can be somewhat tricky to find the first time. So here is how you get there if you are coming from Portland. Take I-5 north into Washington. After you cross the Columbia River drawspan, you need to take the second off ramp to the right (exit 1B). This is a hairpin turn that sends you in a 360 degree loop, so be careful. As you come out of the hairpin an additional lane comes in from the left. You will need to get in that lane ASAP, as you need to take the first left (6th street) when you come to it. If you happen to miss the 6th street turnoff, go on up to 8th street and make a left and head straight until you cross the tracks. If you did get on 6th Street, head straight and pass under the low railroad overpass. More often or not you will pass under the power of some westbound train holding for a signal. As you come up to grade level there will be a restaurant off to the right with an obvious railroad theme. You can park on the backside of the restaurant in order to get pics of the trains holding there. This location is known 8th street. A couple miles east of 8th street is a set of crossovers known as Eavan (pronounced “E-Van”), short for East Vancouver. I wouldn’t venture onto the tracks because of the railroad police that frequent this part of town.
    Continuing on to the depot, make a right onto Jefferson and head up one block to 8th, and make a left. Head down 8th until you cross an industrial track and make a right onto Hill street just beyond. This will take you directly to the depot, provided a train isn’t blocking the way (at times the depot is completely blocked in by trains). Park along the west leg of the wye somewhere north of the depot. To give you an idea of the area, to the south is the Columbia River Drawbridge. Both the Columbia River Draw and the Willamette River Drawbridge each have their own operators due to the number of trains and ships in this area. All UP, BNSF, and Amtrak trains have to talk to the Columbia River Draw operator, but the Willamette River Draw only gets to converse with the BNSF and Amtrak train. This all happens on the main BNSF channel.


The Z-CHCPTL prepares to enter the Columbia River Draw from the Fallbridge sub (Above Left). A southbound UP stack train ducks under a new road bridge and the classic signal bridge just north of the Vancouver depot (Left).


     Directly west is the huge North Pacific Grain Terminal (ex-Northern Pacific property) that exports trainloads of grain. Both BNSF and UP grain trains terminate here. A track just to the north of the BNSF terminal building comes off the Fallbridge sub and crosses the mainlines to Seattle before is descends to the grain terminal. This was a recent addition, only having been installed in the past eight years. Another track, which lies opposite the depot, connects to this downhill track. Often switch engines are parked on the aforementioned track. Just to the north is a cantilevered signal bridge and number of diamonds and crossovers that connect various lines. A highway bridge over the tracks was added in the past few years. The small yard to the west of the mainlines is the destination of UP grain trains bound for the grain terminal west of the depot. Those trains are taken down to the terminal in small cuts by BNSF switchers. To the right is BNSF’s Vancouver Yard. While this is just one of three important yards in the Portland/Vancouver metro area on the BNSF, it still originates and terminates trains to a variety of points. This yard at one time was the main classification point of the former SP&S, and even today, switchers are busy around the clock.  Another interesting fact is the northeast leg of the wye you are in the midst of doubles as a yard lead for the south end of the Vancouver Yard, and often a switcher is busier here, working in between through trains. Through trains heading between the Seattle and Fallbridge subs also stop on this lead to change crews at the crew office located here.

   Passengers prepare to board a Pacific Northwest Corridor Talgo train at Vancouver (Above Right).Vancouver is an important stop for Amtrak. A freight train from Pasco enters the Seattle line ahead of a Amtrak train stopped at the depot (Right).










The Columbia River Drawbridge is a well used structure, important to both the railroads and ships.  A BN local heads south toward Portland across the swing span (Left).  Amtrak's Coast Starlight enters Vancouver, as seen from the end of the station platform (Right).

   While one could easily spend all day watching trains at the Vancouver wye, it might be a good idea to begin your journey into the Columbia River Gorge. If you’re lucky, you might have an eastbound parked at the crew office changing crews. At any rate, the trick is to get on Hwy 14 eastbound, The best way is to backtrack to 6th street and after you pass under the tracks, make a right at the first light onto Columbia Street. Go just one block and make a left. From here you got your choices, but read the highway signs to get directed onto Hwy 14 eastbound. Hwy 14 follows the BNSF mainline to Pasco, which is on a tall fill just to the south of the road. The track east from Portland to Wishram is part of the Fallbridge sub. Fallbridge is the former name for Wishram, and relates to Celio Falls that passed beneath the Oregon Trunk Bridge at that location. Some two miles out of Eavan is the end of Double Track at McLoughlin.



    Steam locomotive SP 4449 at various locations in Vancouver. Racing railfans and motorists alongside Hwy 14 on the fill at Fort Vancouver - Aaron Hockley (Above Left). Gaining speed through a park-like East Vancouver neighborhood (Above). Just out from under the I-205 bridge along the old Evergreen Hwy - Ken Storey (Left).

     It would be a good idea to not waste much time in the area before Washougal for first timers to the Gorge, but for those looking for a little side trip in the eastern part of Vancouver, try this. Jump off at exit #5 and make right. Shortly you will reach the old Evergreen Highway, make a left onto this road and go about a block. Be on the look out for narrow lanes off to the right that lead down to the tracks. There are about three of these lanes before you pass under the I-205 bridge high overhead. Down next to the tracks is a little known park like setting in amongst some houses. A gravel road along the tracks also connects the lanes together. Once done here, jump onto the old Evergreen Highway again and continue east. Just past the I-205 bridge the tracks come close to the road. There are some possibilities in this area, although trees on the south side of the tracks limit what can be done. Follow the Evergreen Hwy for another mile and a half to 164th Ave where you can access Hwy 14 again. Detector mp 19.8 also lies in this area.

CAMAS / WASHOUGAL, WA.
     Once you return to Hwy 14 eastbound, a mile out of Camas you come to a interchange. From here you can drive right into downtown Camas and visit the tracks in both Camas and Washougal. But I would suggest that we keep moving on Hwy 14 and bypass the two cities. Just beyond the interchange where Hwy 14 passes over the mainline is a well know photo spot. The photo spot here is hard to use because there is no walkway on the bridge over the tracks, but you can capture westbound trains passing the James River Paper mill. A old joke about Camas goes “To know Camas is to smell Camas”, as the paper mill has a long history here. Beyond Camas is Washougal, and the two are separated by the Washougal River. BNSF crosses the river on a well rusted through truss bridge that is easily accessed by a parallel road. The first CTC siding out of Vancouver is also in Washougal, and is a popular meeting spot for trains. Trains are also held here when Vancouver gets backed up. Hwy 14 crosses over the BNSF mainline two miles east of Washougal, and this spot is fairly wide open and easily photographed in either direction. Hwy 14 is a fairly busy two lane road in this area, and some care must be taken when entering or exiting the roadway.
 

    A empty grain train exits the Washougal River Bridge - Steve Eshom (Above). A eastbound V-PTLBLU is about to pass under the Hwy 14 bridge east of Washougal - Aaron Hockley (Far Left). A westbound stack train passes the paper mill in Camas as viewed from the Hwy 14 bridge (Left).
 
CAPE HORN, WA.
A eastbound empty grain train exits the Cape Horn Tunnel in the afternoon light - Steve Eshom (Left). A westbound is seen far below the Cape Horn overlook with Beacon Rock in the distance (Right).  




 



    From here the highway begins to climb into the hills up away from the tracks. It briefly drops to track level at Mt Pleasant, but shortly begins a steep twisting climb to the top of Cape Horn. Four miles from where you last saw the tracks is a beautiful overlook looking directly into the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge. A stop here is strongly suggested to not only enjoy the view, but a good telephoto can bring in the tracks far below, or even those of the Union Pacific across the river. The afternoon light favors this location. At the base of the cliff upon which you are perched is BNSF’s Cape Horn Tunnel. The first road to the right (Cape Horn Road) about a mile down Hwy 14 would take you down to the tunnel, but agate erected by homeowners on the river blocks your access trackside in the last ¼ mile. This is unfortunate as there was a great view of the tunnel that favored eastbounds in the morning light. Cape Horn Tunnel is also known as tunnel #1, and curves 2382’ through solid basalt.
    Continuing on Hwy 14, the first real trackside access is at Prindle. But the woods here are dense, and shadows are difficult to work with. Five more miles will take you to the next CTC Siding at Skamania. Skamania offers more possibilities, particularly the reverse curves just to the west of the siding along the highway. But the trees still encroaching upon the tracks. Just beyond Skamania is Beacon Rock, a local icon in the Gorge. Some have said the view from the top offers some railfanning possibilities, but I haven’t verified it myself. The BNSF mainline passes by the base of the rock, and the highway climbs a small summit behind the rock.




 



    The first real chance for photography is at North Bonneville. The mainline here is part of a more recent line change when a new powerhouse was added to the Bonneville Dam. The line change included two new bridges, a tunnel, and a long fill. You will encounter a highway underpass and a rusty through truss bridge over Moffet Creek before you reach the dam itself. There is also a detector near this location at mp 48.4. The area is still fairly open and most of the trees are rather small, but that is rapidly changing. Trains on the fill can be photographed from the highway, and there is a parking area opposite the dam that is right next to the west portal of the tunnel. Some snooping in this area can lead to great photos, particularly of eastbounds about to enter the tunnel. The North Bonneville Tunnel became # 1.5, and is 1503’ long. Depending upon weather or not the fish viewing center and/or the power house is open, both are worthwhile. A few years ago I went on the self guided tour of both, and now greatly wish to do the tour again with a digital camera in hand. Nothing like standing above Plexiglas panels on top of one of the monster generators, and watching the power being generated for hundreds of thousands of homes.

A westbound "Earthworm" at Skamania-Steve Eshom (Top Left). A eastbound crossing Moffet Creek at North Bonneville - Steve Eshom ( Left). A westbound at Prindle - Steve Eshom (Right). This view can be had by taking a road next to the Prindle School down to the tracks.
    Continuing on Hwy 14 around the point, the highway leaps over the mainline at the east portal of the tunnel. A Historical marker just east of the bridge talks about the completion of the SP&S mainline at this point. This is also the west end of a long non-CTC siding that is often used to store surplus intermodal equipment. This location is narrowest point on the Columbia River inside the United States, and Union Pacific trains can easily be seen on the opposite shore. Just to the east is the majestic Bridge of the Gods, a cantilevered structure that stands high above the river linking shore to shore. It’s also a terrific photo prop for westbounds. Hwy 14 climbs up the east end of the bridge. The bridge has no walkways, and even though it allows some nice photo angles, dodging traffic on the steel grate deck is not fun. The Bridge of the Gods is also a toll bridge, with a 75 cent fare for passenger vehicles.

A eastbound Stack train is about to enter Tunnel # 1.5 at North Bonneville - Steve Eshom (Above Right). The Bonneville Dam was the first to tame the mighty Columbia, but far from the last (Right). A eastbound garbage train exits the east portal of Tunnel # 1.5 and is about to pass under the Hwy 14 underpass - Mike Smith (Left).


 



A eastbound V-PTLBLU west of Stevenson late one afternoon-Robert Scott (Above Left) Two of the SP&S painted pieces of Equipment at the Columbia Gorge Museum (Above Center and Right).  A westbound storms through downtown Stevenson (Below).

STEVENSON, WA.

The highway soon drops down to track level. Where the road and track come back together is a photo spot great for westbounds virtually all day long, as the rail is going south and even a bit to the east at the end of broad sweeping curve. The road and tracks parallel each other the rest of the way into Stevenson. About a half mile before you enter Stevenson, you will find the Columbia River Gorge Museum just off to the left. In front of the Museum is SP&S painted F7 and wood side caboose. It’s unfortunate they erected wood ramp walkways on both sides of the F7, and didn’t leave the south side of the unit unobstructed for photography purposes.   Leaving the museum you will encounter a sign containing text about the Columbia River Gorge Commission. This is a very real problem for businesses in the area. Both the BNSF and UP would like to make some changes to their track in the gorge to accommodate more traffic, but the Commission wants to charge what amounts to corporate blackmail for any changes.
   Stevenson is a scenic little town, and a CTC siding extends from here to the east. Both ends of the siding can be accessed for photography. Beyond the east end of the siding the highway climbs into the hills. There is one particular photo spot that I’ve yet to take advantage of on the inside of a curve on the highway, but it is a difficult angle.

HOME VALLEY, WA.
I would suggest you continue until come across the Wind River Bridge at Home Valley. Both ends of the rusty through truss bridge are great photography spots. A little further to the east you will fine Home Valley Park Road that bridges the tracks. The road crosses the tracks on a classic wooden road bridge so common in earlier times, but now a relic in it's own right. The tracks run through a hollow of trees on either side of the bridge. Just beyond the bridge is location that has long been a favored photography spot. Where the highway draws close to the tracks is a great view of a reverse curve at the base of Wind Mountain with photogenic Shellrock Mountain plainly visible across the river.
    Home Valley is the start of very scenic section of track that quite literally offers dozens upon dozens of photo angles per mile. One could quite literally spend all day here shooting trains, and feel that he would need another solid week to do the area justice. This section extends past Lyle to nearly the CTC siding at North Dalles. I will try to carefully detail the possibilities here, almost on a foot by foot basis. The tracks and highway are right side by side for a mile from the east side of Home Valley to the detector at mp 61.0.







A westbound Garbage train highballs under the wooden overpass in Home Valley - Mike Smith (Above Top). A eastbound on the Wind River Bridge (Above). Two views of the scenic reverse curves at the east end of Home Valley. A tight shot of the Z-STPPTL in the mid-afternoon - Robert Scott (Left). A wide angle showing the M-PASPTL with the barren Shellrock mountain in the background (Below Left).


  There also a number of curves allowing almost unlimited photo angles. You will need to find a place to park on the mountain side of the road, as the highway pavement is almost touching the ends of the ties on the river side. Since the highway is on the north side of the tracks, getting sunny side of the train shots does require a bit of planning. There are places where small spots of land jut out into the river beyond the tracks that provide a place to stand, the many curves are also very useful for positioning the train where you need it. Just past the detector, the track move away from the highway at Collins. Bergen road will take you down to the tracks where it is away from the highway at this location. Bergen road also runs up the east side of Wind Mountain. The mountain is well named, as one time while driving west along it’s base, high winds that were causing 6’ waves on the river picked up a 4” piece of railroad ballast. The piece of ballast hit my car roof just above the windshield. Wind and/or adverse weather can be common in the western end of the gorge, and your best bet is to move east where it will usually, but not always, break up.


The Z-CHCPTL westbound near Collis (Above Left). A manifest snakes through the reverse curves at the west end of Cooks Siding (Above Right). A westbound highballs through the great Horseshoe at Cooks (Below Right). At the Cooks station sign we see a empty grain train (Below).

COOKS, WA.
Beyond Collins the railroad once again comes back against the highway at Grant Lake and stays there for the next several miles. In the area around the Dog Mountain trailhead, which offers plenty of parking, there are several rocks to the south of the tracks that offer a elevated place to stand. There are also numerous curves that provide countless possibilities. For the next mile to Cooks, the tracks hug the road shoulder, and all you have to do is keep you eyes open for photo spots and places to park. Near the west end of Cooks siding is one particularly nice reverse curve with a great background. Cooks siding itself is great natural horseshoe that in itself, worth spending all day on. It’s also a spot that one can shoot any train, in any direction, during any time of the day. Rocks and land that extend into the river on either side of the horseshoe allow one get enough angle to photograph a westbound in the morning or a eastbound in the afternoon. But remember that Cooks is a CTC siding, and the siding is on the river side. So a train in the siding blocks your view of one on the mainline, if you’re on the river side of the tracks. The Cooks station sign is one place in particular that is great for eastbounds well into the afternoon. There is a road crossing near the east end of the siding, as well as a large rock cut. I strongly suggest rock climbing as a useful railfan skill to get some truly original photos in this area. A little effort can really go far here. Also near the east end of the siding, a road climbs up the mountain side. Just up the road a little bit is a view of westbounds along Drano Lake. Even further up is a more broadside view of trains on the fill along Drano Lake, but the light is only good in the early morning or late afternoon. 

  A westbound exits the short Drano Tunnel onto the Causeway that seperates Drano Lake from the Columbia River (Left). Another westbound manifest exits Tunnel #4 and is about to enter tunnel #3 (Below Left). It's quite possible for long trains to be in three or four tunnels at a time in this area.

Just beyond Cooks is Drano Lake, where the tracks and highway divide the lake from the Columbia River via a long causeway. The railroad crosses the lake outlet with another through truss bridge. Just before you cross the outlet, there is a road off to the left that follows the backside of the lake. You can use this road to get a photo of the trains on the fill out in the river. Sunlight only works from this spot north of the tracks early in the morning or late in the afternoon during the warmer months. Back on the highway just east of the outlet is a boat launch. There is parking available here, and allows one to get a photo of a eastbound in the morning light passing through the truss bridge, or a westbound coming out of the tunnel at the east end of the lake in the afternoon light. Drano Tunnel is #2, and is a short 122’, and is often used for look-through shots of eastbounds.
    As good as the Columbia River Gorge has been up to this point, the scenery and photographic possibilities reach a level unknown elsewhere from here to Hood. For the next two miles, the tracks and highway punch through 5 rock outcroppings with side-by-side tunnels. Halfway through the road jumps the tracks on a classic highway bridge that serves as a excellent photo prop. The next tunnel beyond Drano tunnel is Blum Tunnel (#3) and runs just 416’. Between the two, there is only one small area to park just outside the east portal of the first tunnel between the highway and the tracks. You can climb around on the rocks here for many different angles of both tunnels.
 




  Just outside the east portal of the second tunnel is a gravel drive into a campground on the north side of the road. If you park here, there is a trail that leads back over the tracks and out along the point out into the river. Tunnel #3 is almost on a north-south alignment, but the tracks begin a broad curve to the east north of the tunnel. If you look up on the hillside between the third and fourth tunnels, you will see the remains of an old flume still clinging to the hillside. The flume runs from the old Broughton Lumber mill in Willard to the old planning mill at Hood, and was in operation until 1987. It was used to carry rough cut lumber from above to the finishing mill below where it was loaded into boxcars. It had a length of nine miles  and dropped 1000’ from end to end.  A couple episodes of Lassie also featured the flume as did the 1967 Disney movie, “Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar”.



    In the first image above, you can just make out the old flume half way up the hillside. The other two views above and at left show the flume at a point above Drano Lake. At this point where the flume enters the Columbia River Gorge, there are the remains of some sort of station along the flume. Below, two different angles of the spot between Tunnel #4 and the highway overpass. Only in the last part of the day does the sun swing around to light up the highway side of the train (Both at Below).




    At Tunnel #4, Severson Tunnel (#267’) the highway begins to climb above track level. Around the curve beyond the fourth tunnel is a paved parking area on the north side of the highway. You can park here and walk across the highway for a excellent view of westbounds coming out from under the old highway bridge and into a broad sweeping curve. There is one small tree that needs to be eliminated that would really open up this view. Once you cross the old highway bridge, you can pull off into the gravel lot on the south side of the road. You can shoot a westbound exiting the fifth tunnel from next to the highway, or you can walk on the old highway grade around the point to the west for a great view of a eastbound coming along the river. Tunnel #5, Owl Rock Tunnel is 394’ in length. Just beyond #5 the highway comes alongside the tracks again. The tracks are about 6’ higher than the roadway in this area. Half a mile further is Tunnel #6, Alligator Rock Tunnel at 657’, the longest of the five in this area. Parking is rather limited in the area east of Tunnel #5 through #6 to the west end of the Hood siding (non-CTC). In this area a guardrail separates the highway from the river, and the railroad embankment does not allow parking on that side of the road. A staircase leads from the highway up to the detector at mp70.7, near the west end of Hood Siding.



  From the gravel lot at the southeast end of the overpass, you can find the old highway grade around the outside (river side) of the small knob. From the backside of the knob is a great view of eastbounds coming along the river (Top Left). A similar view can also be had from the highway bridge itself, but Hwy 14 can be a busy road at times, and standing on the roadway isn't the safest place. But at least that angle includes the signal located there - Mike Smith (Top Right). A bit further east near Hood, the highway is just below the tracks, though parking is near impossible (Left).


HOOD / UNDERWOOD, WA.
    Within half a mile the highway jumps the tracks again in the midst of an old mill complex that lies at the end of the old flume. Hood siding located here is only used to store MOW or surplus equipment. Just before the highway bridges the tracks, is a park favored among windsurfers. In the warmer months, this intersection can be a scene of congestion, so be careful here. Soon the tracks come alongside the highway again, for the next three miles into Underwood. At Underwood, the tracks bridge the Salmon River in yet another rusty through-truss bridge (BNSF really needs to start a bridge painting project on this line). This bridge is easily photographed from either side. Westbounds in particular are nice to photograph in this area since trains can be see snaking along the river east of the bridge.

A eastbound empty grain shuttle passes through the bridge over the White Salmon River (Above Right). A westbound train from Kansas City snakes along the river on a Gloomy day at Underwood (Right).




BINGEN / WHITE SALMON, WA.
      Beyond Underwood the highway climbs up onto the mountainside while the tracks snake along down by the river. Shortly you will come across the north end of the highway bridge that comes across the Columbia River from Hood River, Oregon. The very north end of the bridge crosses the tracks, and there is a great view in either direction. There is also a parking area just to the west of the end of the bridge, providing easy access. Beyond this point you are entering Bingen proper, and the speed limit will decrease in increments down to 25 mph. Beware of the local cops in this area, as they keep a keen eye on speeders. There are still active lineside industries in Bingen that keep a local out of Wishram coming this way. A 11,115’ CTC siding is located east of town where the highway comes alongside the tracks again.A bit beyond the east end of the two mile long siding is a great place to photograph eastbounds coming around a rock face. Westbounds can easily be photographed here, but I prefer some spots just to the east for westbound trains. The highway separates from the tracks briefly at Look Lake just before both the tracks and highway make a curve to the north around a rock point.

 
A eastbound empty trailer train passing Locke Lake-Robert Scott (Left). SP 4449 is about to pass under the north end of the Hood River Bridge across the Columbia River (Above Right). The area just beyond the east switch to Bingen Siding has always been a great spot to railfan. A couple examples are a westbound coal load bound for Centralia, WA about to enter the siding (Right). And a eastbound garbage train just rolling past the east switch of Bingen Siding (Below Right).






    Within half a mile is Rowland Lake. At Rowland Lake the tracks begin a long sweeping curve on a causeway away from the highway. The west end of this fill is a great spot to capture westbounds. At the far end of the fill the tracks exit an unusual rock cut that consist of a series of basaltic pillars that separate the rail line from the waters of the Columbia River. Another option is to follow the old highway around the backside of Rowland Lake and up onto the mountainside.  Where the road cuts through a rock ledge above the lake, is a great spot to photograph an eastbound on the long fill. Light is tricky here, but early morning or late afternoon will provide two different looks to the same scene. I would strongly suggest backtracking to Hwy 14 from the ledge, as the old highway provides no more ready overlooks to the mainline below. As seen below, a little rock climbing will open up many angles.






Several views of the broad sweeping curved causeway at Rowland Lake. The top two pics are both from the west end of the fill. Kristopher Johnson climbed the bluffs at the west end of the causeway for a spetacular view of a detouring UP westbound grain train (Middle Left). Robert Scott did likewise on the other side of the tracks for a westbound manifest (Middle Right). A eastbound empty grain train from a overlook near the Old Hwy along side the back of Rowland Lake (Above Left). Amtrak #28 skirts along the waters of the Columbia River east of Rowland Lake in the failing sunlight (Above Right).

    The tracks and highway remain separated for the next two miles.  About halfway through this two mile section is the detector at mp 81.7. Your next ready trackside access is at the east end of yet another causeway, and just before Tunnel #7 (966’). Hewitt’s Tunnel is the first in a series of four tunnels that fit within one mile of track. The next three tunnels in order west to east are, Anderson’s Tunnel (#8 - 755’), Woldson’s Tunnel (#9 - 392’), Jackson’s Tunnel (#10 - 575’). Hwy 14 climbs on the bluffs above the bores, and enters no tunnel of it’s own. A rest area just off Hwy 14 is situated above Tunnel #8, and is a great place to view the short sections of track on either side of the bore.

From the rest area along Hwy 14 on the bluffs above the river, The eastbound AFT 4449 is cruising along toward it's destination of Bend, OR (Above Right). The Z-CHCPTL cruises along Chamberlain Lake just west of Lyle - Ken Storey (Right).




LYLE, WA.
   The tracks exit the last bore on a long causeway that divides Chamberlain Lake from the Columbia River. Westbounds can be photographed from the high bluffs at the west end of the lake in the afternoon, while eastbounds can be photographed from the smaller bluffs at the east end of the lake in the morning. The bluffs at the east end of the lake also provide a excellent view of westbounds passing through the reverse curves at Lyle and across the concrete arch bridge over the Klickitat River. This is an excellent view late in the afternoon. The first road the right (Depot Rd) after Hwy 14 crosses the river will take you down to the tracks in the middle of the reverse curves, but lineside poles somewhat obstruct the possibilities here. This road will take you around the backside of the small yard here to a bridge over the tracks. The 7th street bridge provides some excellent vantage points, particularly of westbounds exiting unnamed Tunnel #11 (269’). Lyle was also the start of the former branchline to Goldendale, until it was pulled up by the BN in the late 1980’s.






  Beyond Lyle, Hwy 14 passes through two tunnels. After the tunnels, the tracks are right at roadside for the next mile. Near the end of this mile the river and tracks begin a broad turn to the south in the direction of The Dalles, Oregon. On either side of this turn the highway is on some small bluffs above the tracks that provide some excellent vantage points. From here the highway cuts overland while the tracks follow a large bend in the river. If you happen to be just behind an eastbound at this point, you can easily beat it to overlooks above Horsethief Lake and Avery.

An eastbound grain empty with two warbonnet SD75M's is strung out across the long Lake Chamberlain causeway as it enters Lyle - Robert Scott (Above Top). Another eastbound is shown crossing the concrete arch over the Klickitat River-Robert Scott (Above). The old H-EVEBAR "Heavy Bar" glints in the late day sun as it enters Lyle (Above Left). A eastbound grain train east of Lyle where Hwy 14 and the tracks part company going east. (Left).


NORTH DALLES, WA.
    If you are not worried about catching up to a train, there are some areas around the North Dalles that are worth working at. In two miles you come to the intersection of Hwy 14 and Hwy 197. Turn south on 197 and drive two and a half miles to the Bridge over the Columbia River. Stop in the gravel lot just before the bridge and walk out onto the bridge above the tracks. There is a walkway along the east side of the bridge but none on the west side. A signal just to the east of the bridge warns if a train is in the blocks between the CTC siding of the North Dalles and Avery. The best view here is of an eastbound exiting the rock cut above the river with Mount Hood in the background. Since you need to stand on the side of the bridge with just a curb, wait until the signal pops on before waiting on the curb. For a westbound shot, or a different view of a eastbound head north to the first road that heads to the right (east), and this will take you to a bridge over the tracks just before a gate to the Dalles Dam. From here you can shoot westbounds passing through the rock cuts, or a eastbound ducking under the end of the Hwy 197 bridge over the Columbia River. From here backtrack just a little bit south on Hwy 197 and make a right onto the road to Dallesport. The road will bend to the left and then to the right, and just a bit further it will go up a rise. As you crest the rise, slow down and look for a small spot to pull off the road to the left. You can walk out to the edge and have an excellent view of a westbound coming out of a rock cut in the distance and down a straight. Backtrack to Hwy 197 and start heading north. This is just one more little detour work looking at. At Dock Road, make a right and follow it back to a overpass over the tracks (through the Dallesport industrial park). From the overpass there is a great view in either direction. That covers all the angles on the Washington side in this area, so backtrack all the way to Hwy 14.
Continuing east, in a mile and a half is the entrance to the park at Horsethief Lake. This used to be a favorite railfan spot at the west end of the long causeway, but now it requires a $5 Park Pass to enter. But the overlooks just a mile further along Hwy 14 are still free. During most of the day the tracks are in silhouette, but in the later afternoon this area is nicely lit. The appealing aspect of this view is the causeway appears to be in the middle of the river, far from shore. It is quite possible to get trains and barges side by side. The detector at mp 100.0 is just below as well. Three miles further is Avery Road that leads down to Avery. Near the top of this road is an overlook from where eastbounds can be caught passing along the base of a rock face.

A westbound stack train cruising through the rock cuts opposite the river from The Dalles on a gloomy rainy day-(Top Left). A westbound grain train is about to hit the east switch to the North Dalles siding-Aaron Hockley (Top Right). A westbound stack train from Tacoma exits the rock cut just before passing under the Hwy 197 bridge over the Columbia River, while Mount Hood looks on (2nd Down on Right). Amtrak #27 has just passed under the entrance road to The Dalles Dam, and will shortly pass under the Hwy 197 bridge. Either Bridge offers great vantage points (3rd Down on Right). A empty grain train passes under the end of the Hwy 197 bridge (Bottom at Right).









 The two photos at left depict a eastbound Z-PTLCHC passing under the Dallesport Industrial Park bridge. The spur track in the first view leads to a substation and the industrial park-Drew Mitchem (Both at Left). The four views below are taken around Horsetheif Lake. A westbound V-KCMPTL crosses the long causeway late in the afternoon, with the competition also prsent in the form of a barge and a truck. The overlooks along Hwy 14 along the backside of Horsetheif Lake offer a great vantage point late in the day (Below Left). A eastbound Garbage train starts onto the Horsetheif Lake causeway in the morning hours -Kristopher Johnson (Below Right). A westbound vehicle train is just out of Avery and passing along the rock cliffs just before the lake-Kristopher Johnson (Bottom Left). A empty garbage train out of Roosevelt is returning to the west side of the Cascades for more trash-Kristopher Johnson (Bottom Right).









   A eastbound garbage train is on the approach to Avery while windsurfers make use of the windy day (Far Left). A northbound train from Klamath Falls makes a turn toward Pasco in the 1980's-Harley Kuehl (Left).








WISHRAM, WA.



A overview of the Wishram area in the Columbia River Gorge, looking west from a Hwy 14 overlook east of Wishram - Aaron Hockley(Above).

    Within a couple miles you come upon the small community of Wishram Heights. Boulder Road leads down to Wishram from here, but I will urge you on to the second road down to Wishram (Wishram Rd). In another mile along Hwy 14 you will come to first of several overlooks above Wishram. These overlooks offer a fantastic view of this area, although they look into the sun during most of the day. Across the river are the tracks of the Union Pacific and BNSF’s Oregon Trunk line climbing up to the siding of Moody. Dawn would be a good time to visit these overlooks. Just a half a mile further, a road leads down to Wishram proper. On the way down is yet more overlooks of the Wishram vicinity, including a nice one of the east end of the yard and tunnel #12 (385’). As you continue down into town you will get a nice view of the mainline in front of the station with the Oregon Trunk Bridge in the background. The road takes you to the far side of town and right down near the station. Just behind the station is a recent addition, a GN 4-8-2 protected by a shed. This locomotive has a unusual history tied to the area. After the steam era on the SP&S had passed, the town of Maryhill and Klickitat County asked to have a steam locomotive to be put on display. The SP&S had already succeeded in scrapping their roster of such machines, and pleaded to it’s parent roads for a retired locomotive. The GN supplied one of it’s much acclaimed 4-8-2’s, which was painted in a SP&S scheme and put on display next to the Columbia River at Maryhill. In the late 1980’s a group from Pasco that desired to return the locomotive to operating condition, struck a contract to lease the steamer from Klickitat County. The locomotive was barged up river to Pasco, but languished at the old navel supply depot there until 2003. With grant money, it was cosmetically restored and pulled back to Wishram on the BNSF mainline in September of 2003. It was then placed in a park behind the depot and protected from the elements with an open shed. This establishes Wishram as a railroad town first and foremost, a fact that they have started to advertise. The classic depot and beanery at Wishram have long since been replaced by a more modern steel structure, as have many of the former depots in the gorge. The track closest to the depot is the mainline. The next track is also CTC controlled, but sees limited use due to speed restrictions. The rest of the tracks are part of the yard. The OT Bridge is just down river.
    At one time Wishram was the crew change point between Portland/Vancouver and Pasco, but was bypassed in 1989. Wishram still remains a crew change point for trains to and from Bend, Oregon on the Oregon Trunk. Often, trains to and from the OT are parked in either Wishram or Avery yard. West of the depot, a road crosses the track and follows the shoreline back toward Tunnel #12, and toward the OT Bridge. The BNSF mainline east of Wishram is part of the Wishram sub, still controlled by the Pasco West Dispatcher. After you are done here, backtrack to Hwy 14.

Wishram is truly a town off the beaten track, and is quite happy to advertise itself as such (Top Right). The old and new at Wishram (Second Down). While Wishram as a crew change point between Vancouver and Pasco was "run through" in the 1990's, trains to and from the Oregon Trunk still change crews here - Robert Scott (Third Down). A eastbound empty grain train passes the west end of Wishram yard, where strings of new doublestack cars from Gunderson occupy a couple tracks (Fourth Down). At the east end of the yard, a M-PASRRB threads into a yard track while a baretable train waits (Fifth Down). Looking across the river from Wishram, a northbound train on the Oregon Trunk decends from Moody to the Ceilo Bridge (Bottom Right).









MARYHILL, WA.






Once you are finished here, backtrack to Hwy 97. Turn left onto the highway, but only go a short distance to a gravel lot on the right just before the road turns up onto the bridge over the Columbia River. Start down the gravel road that heads off to the west (this is the old SP&S grade again), but take the first road to the right, and it will take you up to the west switch to the Maryhill Siding. Being the first siding east of Wishram, it is a popular meeting point. This is also good spot to photograph westbounds coming under the Hwy 97 overpass.
Return to the old grade and continue west into the rock cuts to see the area Maryhill is best known for. First, a note: The road is somewhat rough, but passable in most cars if you take it easy. Also the rocks on the road are somewhat rough on tires, bring along a spare or two. Follow this road down until it curves to the right. As you exit the last rock cut at this curve, you can park off the side of the road and climb the rocks between the road (former SP&S grade) and the river. Here you will find a great view of eastbounds coming through the reverse curve here in the first half of the day.  This area is known as Henderson’s Canyon. Continuing through the curves, as the track straightens out, there is a great view of Mount Hood in the distance on clear days. After the straight section, where the track again curves to the right, can be found a great view for westbounds. You can continue to follow the road, and it will take you to the west end of a long rock cut, which you can stand on top of for great views in both directions. Where the road ends at the west end of the cut is known as Hells Gate Point.  Again like many areas, a little hiking around will reveal a number of great views.
While in this area you may be approached by Indian Tribal Police who are interested in protecting and preserving indian artifacts common at this location. It would be in your interest not to pickup any arrowheads or pieces of pottery that you comes across. The tribal police are not interested in railfans, but are on the lookout of people who purposely come here to collect those artifacts. After you are done here, return to Hwy 97 and cross the river to Biggs. This finishes our tour of the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. Consult part 2 for the Oregon side trip from Biggs to Portland.

Four miles further down Hwy 14 is the Maryhill Museum. The Maryhill mansion has a nice overlook of the gorge below. Two miles further is the intersection with Hwy 97. Make a right on 97 and head down the hill. As you near the bottom there will be an unofficial overlook on the left side of the road. This is a great spot to capture westbounds going through the reverse curves below in the afternoon. Continuing down the hill and over the tracks, take the first road to the left. This road (Maryhill Hwy) will take you back through the orchards of Maryhill. Continue down the road until you come to a intersection with Stonehenge Drive that leads up and over the tracks. Take this road over the tracks and up to the Stonehenge Memorial. From here is a nice overlook of eastbounds in the morning. You also may be able to catch the next detector to the east from here, which is quite some distance away at mp 128.0 beyond Towal (there are no detectors between Wishram and Maryhill). Return to the intersection again, and continue east on the Maryhill Hwy. You will pass through a sharp right and then left turn and then through a jog over the original SP&S grade. The road continues toward the far end of the orchards. Just before the road makes another hard right, there is a gravel road that takes off straight ahead. This is the old grade again, and it can be followed all the way to the John Day Dam beyond Cliffs. We really do not need to follow it that far, but there is a nice little-known area just around the corner. As you exit the orchards, you will notice the tracks above you at left. This is neat looking-up view of eastbounds during most of the day. But continuing along the old grade around a point, you come to a area where the tracks follow the base of the cliffs away from the river at first, and then back toward the river under a large escarpment. You can climb up on one of the many rocks and cliffs in this area for a variety of views of both westbounds and eastbounds. The John Day Dam in the distance also makes a great photo prop.

    From a overlook along Hwy 97, a Centralia bound coal train snakes along the Orchards at Maryhill (Top Left). A eastbound in the hole at Maryhill with Mount Hood in the background. This view was taken from the grade crossing seen in the photo above it - Drew Mitchem (Second Down at Left). Another eastbound climbing toward Cliffs above the Maryhill Orchards (Third Down at Left). Between Maryhill and Cliffs is a neat little area where the tracks run along the base of some rock cliffs, as shown with this westbound - Drew Mitchem (Fourth Down at Left). A empty garbage train rounds a point just downstream from the John Day Dam (Bottom Left).

   A westbound S-BPATAC west of Maryhill rounding a series of curves popular with area railfans (Below). A eastbound through the same curves - Drew Mitchem (Second Down). A going-away shot of a westbound from the same rock that stands between the ex-SP&S grade and the Columbia River (Third Down).







Reference Area


BNSF Scanner Frequencies

            Pasco West Dispatcher               : 161.415mhz
            Vancouver Terminal Dispatcher : 161.250mhz
            Centralia South Dispatcher         : 161.100mhz
            Portland PBX                               : 161.130mhz
          Stevenson PBX                            : 160.620mhz
          Bingen-Wishram PBX                 : 160.665mhz


Railfan Notes

   Luckily, BNSF tends to be busy when UP goes dead in the late-morning/ early afternoon hours. Some of the first trains to be seen in the Gorge during the morning hours are the westbound Amtrak #27 (Portland Section of the Empire Builder) and the eastbound Z-PTLCHC. Afternoons in the Gorge will find a fleet of westbounds heading toward Portland running against empty grain trains returning from the Ports.
    The Vancouver Terminal DS dispatches everything from Portland through Vancouver Jct. north to Vancouver Center, and east to Washougal. You will also hear trains talking to the Columbia River and Willamette River drawbridges. A scanner will be helpful pretty much everywhere along the river. The mostly line of sight distances in the Columbia River gorge really help to carry detector transmissions far along the river. Even still, as you travel the roads in the Gorge, keep your eyes on distant sections of track far up or down river. Often you will see part of a train several miles away, long before a detector will sound.
                                                                          
Click on a station name to go to a interactive map of that area
TIMETABLE for the BNSF Fallbridge Sub
Milepost
Name
Track Configuration
Speed
0.0 Portland Union Station
CTC Controlled 2 Main Track
10-10
2.0
Lake Yard
CTC Controlled 2 Main Track
50-35
4.3
Willbridge
CTC Controlled 2 Main Track/ Jct.
35-35
5.1
Willamette Drawbridge
CTC Controlled 2 Main Track 30-30
7.0
East St. Johns
CTC Controlled 2 Main Track
79-50
8.1
North Portland Jct.
CTC Controlled 2 Main Track/ Jct.
79-50
8.9
Oregon Slough Drawbridge
CTC Controlled 2 Main Track 40-30
9.6
Columbia River Drawbridge
CTC Controlled 2 Main Track 30-30
9.9
Vancouver
CTC Controlled 2 Main Track
Junction with Seattle Sub
10-10
12.1
Eavan
CTC Controlled Crossover
2 Main Track
50-50
14.5
Mcloughlin
End of CTC Controlled 2 Main Track 70-60
19.8
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
70-60
24.5
Camas
CTC Single Track
40-40
28.9
Washougal
CTC Controlled Siding 9910'
65-55
32.1
Mt. Pleasant
CTC Single Track / Non-CTC Siding
70-60
37.6
Prindle
CTC Single Track / Spur
55-50
37.6
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
55-50
42.8
Skamania
CTC Controlled Siding 9958'
70-60
48.4
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
60-55
50.3
North Bonneville
CTC Single Track / Non-CTC Siding
60-55
53.9
Stevenson
CTC Controlled Siding 11085'
60-55
59.3
Home Valley
CTC Single Track / Non-CTC Siding
60-55
61.0
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
60-55
65.4
Cooks
CTC Controlled Siding 9888'
60-55
70.7
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
60-55
70.9
Hood
CTC Single Track / Non-CTC Siding
60-55
75.0
Underwood
CTC Single Track / Spur
60-55
75.5
Bingen
CTC Controlled Siding 11115'
60-55
81.7
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
60-55
85.3
Lyle
CTC Single Track
60-55
93.3
North Dalles
CTC Controlled Siding 9935'
70-60
97.0
Dallesport
CTC Single Track / Spurs
70-60
100.0
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
70-60
103.4
Avery
CTC Controlled 2 Main Track / Yard
60-50
106.1
Wishram
CTC Controlled 2 Main Track  / Yard
Junction with Oregon Trunk
60-50
113.8
Maryhill
CTC Controlled Siding 7092'
79-60
118.6
Cliffs
CTC Single Track / Spur
70-60
125.0
Towal
CTC Controlled Siding 9136'
79-60
128.0
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
79-60
135.9
Bates
CTC Controlled Siding 7099'
79-60
147.8
Roosevelt
CTC Controlled Siding 8459'
70-60
152.2
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
79-60
157.7
McCredie
CTC Controlled Siding 7103'
70-60
170.4
Whitcomb
CTC Controlled Siding 9128'
70-60
177.2
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
79-60
179.8
Paterson
CTC Controlled Siding 7052'
79-60
190.8
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
79-60
192.0
Plymouth
CTC Controlled Siding 9351'
79-60
203.3
Berrian
CTC Controlled Siding 7015'
79-60
207.8
"Detector"
CTC Single Track
79-60
215.8
Yellepit
CTC Controlled Siding 9352'
60-50
223.9
Finley
CTC Single Track
79-60
228.5
Hover
CTC Controlled Siding 7932'
79-60
229.7
SP&S Jct.
CTC Controlled Jct.
35-25


This page produced and edited by Funnelfan (Ted Curphey) :  3-29-04 , Last Updated: 5-12-2004