Rail Grinder by Brian Bundridge
Rail Grinder by Brian Bundridge

Starting Monday, June 29, 2009, BNSF will be starting on a bridge maintenance project between Vancouver, WA and Portland, Oregon. Amtrak Cascades trains will terminate and originate from Vancouver Station with bus transportation to Portland Union Station to connect to trains bound for Eugene, Oregon. There will be a small detour in place that will add about 30 to 60 minutes to the Coast Starlight (Trains #11/14) and the Portland section of the Empire Builder (Trains #27/28)

Shifting Track by Mark Gillings
Shifting Track by Mark Gillings

Work continues at Interbay Yard to add a second main track. This was one of the many bottlenecks on the BNSF main line between Seattle and Everett that will soon be congestion free thanks to the work being put here. BNSF has been working to shift 2 leads over in order to move the main line (above picture) over. Once this work is completed, BNSF will begin laying down concrete ties 1 mile near Dravus Street to Milepost 5.4 (around the curve in the above photo) where the old main was located at. This work will cause minimal delays to Amtrak and Sounder with a 10mph slow order through the work zone. Last year, another single track section near Golden Gardens was double tracked to reduce delays for Amtrak.

22 Replies to “Amtrak Cascades – More Track work”

  1. Brian,
    When will the work in Vancouver be done? I’ve got a trip on the Coast Starlight at the end of July.

  2. Kaleci,
    It should be done the first week of July. There will be another big maintenance blitz however in July on the BNSF but exact information hasn’t been updated yet. I’ll be sure to post a follow up on this week and the upcoming July project(s)

  3. Does anyone have any insight on the future of Interbay Yard? In the past, BNSF has produced rumblings about possible “consolidation”.

    1. The yard as it stands now, is staying. There were thoughts at one point to sell off the yard and land for development but the yard itself is too valuable. The railroad itself sees Interbay as the regional hub for manifest traffic. Stacy Yard for example is the regional hub for international intermodal facility and South Seattle yard is the domestic intermodal facility. There isn’t any location in Washington that could support one large yard that could handle the amount of traffic that all of these yards would require.

      1. We’ve got to get out of the trend toward decreasing freight rail and start pushing the economy of rail. I know IT and health care are driving the current economy but there’s a fundamental flaw in abandoning the infrastructure that actually creates new goods in place of new services.

  4. Hi , i know this question may seem strange, and is not exactly on-subject but you guys might be able to give me the answer and it is slightly linked to ‘freight’.
    When i visited Seattle i found myself standing on a beach alongside the railtracks heading north and a very long, very slow freight train passed by.
    I was seized by an impulse -partly Hollywood induced, partly because i was on vacation in an unknown part of the world – to hop on and see where i would end up.
    What would have happened?

    1. Chris, there’s a good chance you would have slipped, fallen under the train, and been sliced in half.

    2. Arrest by the BNSF or local police is always a distinct possibility, exposure and/or hypothermia in the mountains (very few “boxcars” left as in the 20th century when hoboes rode the rails), accidental maiming or death, hearing loss – the list goes on. Never take risks on or near the tracks as the train always wins. Always.

    3. Actually, in this part of the country, Customs and the FBI would hold you in a tiny room for hours on end and your rights would be suspended.

      Not a good idea.

      1. Not to mention the 147 waterboardings administered by the BNSF to find out out WTF were you thinking.

    4. The folks above are right; hopping trains is a really dumb thing to do.

      I won’t do it again, but I don’t regret doing it in the past; it’s a really amazing way to travel.

      Maybe I would have more regrets if I’d gotten my legs chopped off.

    5. There was a great scene in the film “Into the Wild” which demonstrated how the Union Pacific Police department handles those who would ride their trains.

  5. I’m glad that BNSF has double tracked part of the line near Golden Gardens. A long time ago I had heard that a shoreline permit was needed to double track the whole section to Mulketeo. But I never heard that the permit was granted. (Involved rip-rap and eel grass destruction both of which are bad for sea life.)

    Did that permit finally get the go-ahead? Or did BNSF dig out the hillside?

    Long term, this is a pretty lousy place to have a high speed rail line. That hillside above Shilshole and points North is coming down one day and the tracks are right below it. And of course we’ve filled the land inland of these tracks so the alternative is very expensive land purchases.

    1. Gary, I’ll past this along but 90% of the track is already double tracked. The prior locations where it is now single track are locations where severe land slides have occurred (at least that is what I have been told)

      For Golden Gardens, they shifted the track over slightly and installed the second main next to that. For pictures of the work, check out this link;

      As for Edmonds, the design keeps changing so it is hard to say what will exactly will happen. The City of Edmonds themselves are pushing Sound Transit to move forward with a new station without WSDOT portion of the project. With the State of Washington continuing to take funds from the ferry projects, it would be nearly 20 years for the full project to even start construction.

      At Mukilteo, I would have to say that some sort of fill work will be needed there. How this will happen or if the permits have been issued is up in the air right now I believe. I’ll again, ask a few sources and get back to you.

  6. Brian!!

    You forgot to tell us what trackage the small detours will be on!

    Will there be any “new mileage” opportunities??

    Enquiring Foamers want to know!

    1. Erik,

      It is expected that both trains will back through Albina Yard via N PDX Jct. As far as I am aware, no passenger trains have gone that way in several years except for the SP&S 700 and SP 4449 steam locomotives…and of course the UP 844 passenger special a few years back.

  7. Thanks Brian

    I take it that the Vancouver construction is part of the switching yard changes down there?

    I noticed today that King Street Station is sporting some holes in its brick work on the two sides I was able to see.
    Here by the way is SDOT’s June report on King Street:

    The first phase is definitely taking longer than anyone expected it to. I think March was the first completion estimate. Now early June has come and gone, but it looks like all they need to do is add some windows to the tower.

    This is only tangentially related to the subject at hand, but it is train related!


  8. Tim

    Actually it isn’t. I should have been a little more clear, this is for bridge replacement over the Union Pacific tracks. This will ensure a safe crossing in the event of an earthquake.

    Thank you for reminding me about the Vancouver Yard work though, quite a bit of progress has been made on that project.

  9. Hi, thanks for a great local transit site! I’m planning to take a train to Eugene shortly and have been researching the options of the Starlight vs Cascades runs. I was excited to read about wifi access on the Cascades, but it was a little unclear whether or not the service is currently being offered. With references to individual trains (e.g., “Mt. Olympus set”)—would I need to call Amtrak to see if/when the Mt.Olympus train set is running tomorrow and if wifi will be available?

  10. OK, this is the life. Cascades 507, Seattle to Eugene, sitting in the dining car with IPA and wifi. The wifi network is currently listed simply as “Private” with no password required. What’s the best way to let know Amtrak know that this is a terrific development?

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